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Six Sigma & A Tale of Swim Lane Process Maps.
Processes are the bread and butter of a lean six sigma corporation. The quality of organizational outcomes and the efficiency in generating those outcomes depend highly on the quality of processes. We have, over the years, learned that there is no end to how much you can optimize lean six sigma processes. A 100% efficiency is a myth, but there is no stopping you from striving for it. One of the ways to maximize your efficiency is process mapping and the use of swimlanes in six sigma. Let us start with discovering what process mapping entails for a lean six sigma corporation.
Process mapping is an integral tool in any Operational Excellence endeavor such as Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, Kaizen, etc. Process mapping is further categorized into three primary levels, namely High, Mid and Low. A High-level process map, like Macro Maps, is used to visually represent a process in a highly simplified form. However, often, it is not enough, and a more detailed process map is needed to clarify the details. At this point, mid-level maps come into the picture.
Furthermore, a mid-level process map dives deep into the details of the process outlined by the high-level map. It also identifies waste and defects that can only be realized through intensive discussion-led documentation by the skilled teams who execute the tasks. The areas of work related to waste should not be taken for granted but dealt with promptly as a priority improvement target. In addition to these mid-level maps, there’s an even generated picture called the low-level maps. A low-level process map is an area of a high-level or mid-level process map that has been zoomed in for more details. The main difference between various levels of process maps is that of the scope of the map.
Swim Lanes, also called Functional Process Maps, furnish comprehensive information focused on implementation timelines as well as key personnel. Swim Lane maps include handoffs, relationships, and dependencies that occur between different functional departments. However, you must wonder, why call it Swim Lanes? The functional map derives its name from the horizontal rows, a lookalike of “lanes” similar to an Olympic pool, which are used to designate a group/person, function, or department performing the process steps.
In six sigma swim lanes, handoffs are shown by the flow lines crossing from one horizontal lane to another. This serves very well in illustrating roles and responsibilities in the desired timeframe, including decision-makers. Additionally, Six Sigma Swim Lane Process Maps make an incredible representation of sequential and parallel process steps.
The sheer process complexities that can be mapped out with Swim Lanes in six sigma are unparalleled to any other process flow mapping technique. Moreover, six sigma swim lane process maps can also help in identifying flaws. It can depict process hurdles, redundancies, or overly complex areas in function.
It is important to understand that the process timeline is a critical part of the swim lane in six sigma. It ranges from left to right across the swim lane process map providing a precise idea of what step is executed at what point. The map can also be further split into phases, signified by the vertical lanes, as per the needs of the project or the overall process.
Using swim lanes to map out processes can be a key to the success of a Lean Six Sigma project or organization. By mapping out the process from start to finish, the key stakeholders can generate a mutual understanding of the process in consideration, highlight areas of opportunity, and start the dialog of implementing a change to the process. The Benefits of using Swim Lanes are multiple, but a few of them relevant to lean six sigma include:
Useful in identifying redundancies, problem areas, and inefficiencies in a process.
Actively identifies all key personnel and timelines in a process.
It is great for training new employees on a process.
Here’s a case study on how Swim lanes were used during the pandemic: (Check out from the trusted source)
ARROWHEAD is a consulting services firm with emphasis on reducing all LEAN wastes and improving consistency through Six-Sigma concepts.
By reducing Lean waste, you can remove all non-value added activities thereby improving speed of reaching your customer at better margin and by improving consistency you are able to meet customer demand in terms of quality expected.
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