6Sigma Tools: Process Mapping Levels


This week we will continue our discussion on process mapping, I promise it will not go on forever, but it does have a lot of intricacies. Many people think that process mapping is just putting some shapes on a diagram, but it means much more than that. There are 3 levels of process mapping that are commonly accepted among the 6Sigma crowd.

Level 1 –The Macro Process Map

This is typically how management views the processes of the organization; it’s a big picture, future strategy kind of view. It also creates the ability for management to see how to position the organization or resources in a way that complements the product/service being created. This is a high-level map which generally includes:

  • Activities that relate to one major process step
  • How the process fits into the big picture
  • Little specific detail
  • Visualizes only major process steps
  • Can be used with only a general understanding of the purpose of the process and its steps.

Level 2-Process Map

This is the worker bee process map, where the people who have specific knowledge of the process come in. This is the map that is used to identify all the major steps a worker takes to complete a process. Within Level 2, there are 4 types of process maps:

  • Linear Flow- A straight line from beginning to end.
  • Swim Lane-shows you who is responsible for what task.
  • SIPOC-a little more complicated. It takes five areas: your suppliers, your inputs, your process, your outputs and your customers.
  • Value Stream-a specific map that helps to visualize and understand the metrics for the performance of major steps.


Level 3-Process Flow Diagram

Level 3 is not a must because this is a micro process map. It is where you zero in on a specific area and focus on the steps in the process that are causing whatever challenge you are having. When beginning this level you need to ask the following questions:

  • Which steps contributed to the problem?
  • Where would the problem most likely have occurred?
  • Are there elements to the product/service that lend itself to the problem?

These questions help you find the focus that you decided in your problem statement. For this to work you will have to break each step in the process down, most easily using SIPOC. Remember a Level 3 map should include:

  • All process flows
  • Any set points
  • Any standard or automated procedures
  • Inputs and outputs (specify if the are controllable or non-controllable)
  • Defects per unit
  • Yield and rolled throughput yield
  • Value and non value added activities

It’s a lot of information, but mapping a process is a fundamental step in your improvement project. It is absolutely critical that you get it right. For more help or more information, give us a call and we will be happy to get you started.


About spcconsulting

Helping you get the most out of your business is what we’re here for. Every business is unique so we use a holistic approach to the growth and development of your company. Through our experience we’ll stabilize business situations and provide recommendations that will allow you to help your company reach its goals. Leona began SPC Business Consulting in 2007 to help businesses of all sizes get the most out of their performance. As a Six Sigma Black Belt, she brings a fresh and unique approach to business consulting drawing on her 10 years of combined experience in: • Law Enforcement • Government Contracting • Property Management • Customer Service • Non Profit Industry • Education
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