Basic Business Cents
Process Flow Charting
by Lou Schultz, SCORE counselor
Original publish date 04/20/2009 (#6)
Would you like to take cost out of your operation while improving the quality of your product or service? Try flow-charting your work processes to remove waste and rework.
In a previous article, we stated all work, whether it is in manufacturing, service, non-profit, or at home is made up of a series of processes that we follow, with each process containing a series of repetitive steps. We tend to follow this routine blindly because it is what we were told or we are comfortable with. If we simply list on a piece of paper each step of a process that we wish to improve and then make a critical examination of each of these steps, we will almost always find a way to improve the process. Why is this important? Experience has taught us that 35-60% of our work goes into producing waste, rework, or redundancy. Think of the time that would free up, think of the savings that would go directly to the bottom line, think of the satisfaction of finding better ways to do our work!
Of course, there are more sophisticated ways of charting work processes than simply listing the items on-by-one, but we can discuss those later.
The credit for process flow-charting is given to Allan Mogensen. He was always the fancier of gadgets and technology. He flew his own airplane and during a business trip to Minneapolis, his wife said she was scared to death to fly with him but was more afraid to let him fly alone. He was well into his 80s at the time.
In the early days of the motion picture camera, Mogensen moonlighted from his teaching job at the University of Rochester to take movies of weddings and funerals. He later used this camera to help Eastman Kodak plan layout of equipment, machines and working spaces. He was also tasked to simplify the manufacturing process wherever he could. Thus began his lifelong quest for "work simplification."
Later, Mogensen began to realize the importance of work simplification in the white-collar world. He firmly believed, "We are saving pennies on the plant floor while frittering away big bucks in the office." He felt one of his most rewarding experiences in business was seeing the advances achieved in "paperwork simplification."
Key to Mogensen’s work was to get the person doing the work to analyze the process because they know what is really going on. It may be something quite different from what management thinks.
Dr. Williams Deming had a chain reaction theory which is relevant to Mogensen’s work: "Improve (process) quality→ Costs decrease because of less rework, fewer mistakes, fewer delays; better use of machines, time, and materials→ Productivity improves→ Capture the market with better quality and lower price→ Stay in business→ Provide jobs and more jobs."
Simple, so simple.