Process Improvement

by Rus Slater

Symbols and conventions

There is a lot of software available (including shareware and freeware and add-ons to MS packages such as Excel) that can make process mapping or flowcharting very simple. MS Visio has good flowcharting functionality and MS Project can produce flowchart or PERT charts as well.

Alternatively, you can use the good, old-fashioned ‘steam’ methods, which means you get straight into it without having to identify, assess, buy and learn new software applications.

It is not critical what symbols you choose to use, but it’s important to make sure that everyone understands which symbols you are using and what they mean.

The most common symbols are

You can use these easily if you are simply using pen and paper. If you want to use a PC, they will be included in a flowcharting package or you even just use the Draw functionality of MS Word.

Some process mappers (and software) use specialist symbols for more sophisticated mapping of particular industries: for example, transporting the product (where they differentiate between in-house transport and national/international transport), storage (or filing) the product and so on.

PS:  By the way, the symbols don’t have to be bright green!