Understanding your core processes is critical to managing the growth and development of your company. As you grow, you need to be able to understand how your company can take on additional sales (what’s your capacity, do you manage all aspects of production internally, how does the company interact with customers), develop new products (what does R&D and product development look like, who’s responsible at what point), and manage costs (where and how are you spending money inside the business).
Understanding all of these factors requires a good handle on your processes.
For many businesses, process mapping is something that isn’t done regularly (if at all) and is usually done at a high level. Many people see it as disruptive and non-productive. If done correctly, however, you can improve your spending, optimize processes, and better plan for your growth. Let’s review some techniques for businesses to get started on process mapping or visualization.
Why Start Process Mapping in the First Place?
The main purpose of process mapping is to help businesses improve efficiency and plan for growth. You cannot improve your operations if you don’t understand what they look like at the process level.
Many business owners can describe various functions, roles, departments and even systems, but would have trouble outlining processes in specific detail.
Process mapping and process visualization (i.e. drawing out processes in table, chart, or other visual format) helps businesses and process owners gain a better understanding of a given process. This allows businesses to make more informed decisions on how to improve a process and how the process operates within a broader system.
Start Simple and Increase Complexity
Process mapping can be a very complex task, depending on the level of detail and how incremental you break out each individual step in a process. The level of detail will vary from company to company, but in general, you should be able to make a clear distinction between each step of the process.
Begin by mapping out large processes and then go into sub-processes within there. Where you find related processes, you should make note of them and go back to them later. Some prefer to start with the last step of a process and work backwards to the start from there. This can allow a full understanding of what is happening at each point, and better identify gaps and opportunities for improvement.
Process Visualization Techniques
There are many ways to visualize your processes. For larger and more complex environments you should use a process mapping tool such as Visio or Lucidchart. In more simplified environments you can create simple flowcharts. Whatever method you adopt, ensure that you are consistent across different processes – use the same shapes and colours to denote different parts of a process so that others reading the map later will know what it means.
Process maps don’t need to be overly sophisticated; at their core they are detailed flow charts.
Depending on your company need, you can map out your processes by hand on a white board or document them for ongoing use and reference. Whatever technique you adopt, make sure you keep your original purpose in mind: improving your efficiency and supporting business growth.
Government Funding for Process Mapping and Business Growth
While you can map your processes at any point, businesses should be looking at process mapping when they’re engaging in large expansion projects. Acquiring and implementing new production equipment, launching new product lines, entering new export markets, etc. are all major business changes that warrant a mapping out of major processes.
Expansion projects are large endeavors that impact all areas of a business. It’s therefore important to know how other processes will be impacted by changes. This will help you optimize your expansion project and improve your business investment.
To learn how to improve profitability and customer satisfaction, please download Mentor Works’ Lean Manufacturing Guide white paper.