Process mapping is a technique which is used in the Six Sigma methodology. The tool allows the user to visualize the steps that are involved in any given process or activity. In simple terms, Six Sigma process mapping is a flowchart that illustrates all the inputs, steps, and outputs in a process.

It is important to understand the uses of each of the process map type and use it appropriately at the correct process phase. The process map has the ability to support several business goals, which are extremely important to meet. The maps can be used in all fields and sections of a business.

Types of Process Maps

Six Sigma projects use several different types of maps. The following is a listing of the most commonly used ones:

  •    SIPOC Map: This map charts the suppliers, process, inputs, outputs, and the customers for the process in question.
  •    Process Flow Map: This is a visual representation of the workflow which needs improvement and optimization.
  •    Swim Lane Map: This map allows the user to dive deeper into a process by mapping all responsible parties and handoffs.

When to Use Process Mapping

Process mapping is particularly used in the earliest Six Sigma process phases. The process map is created to acquire a detailed understanding of the process that needs improvement.

The technique also ensures all team members have a sufficient level of know-how pertinent to the steps involved. SIPOC maps are nearly always required during the Define phase of the process. This helps ensure the identification of all ins and outs of the process along with the suppliers and the end customers.

The Swim Lane Map needs to be made earlier, before the improve and control phases. Otherwise, there is a likelihood of missing unnecessary steps and handoffs. The “To Be” Process Map serves as a visualization of how the improved process will be implemented.

Making the Process Map

The maps should be made by the key people in the process. Process maps can be easily made using flowchart software that is highly specialized in nature. These software programs are particularly useful for the more complex mapping exercises. However, these maps can also be made using readily available office suite software. Furthermore, you can also draw them by hand. The accuracy of the process that is mapped assumes prime importance rather than the technique used to create the map.

It is imperative to have the process map reviewed by several different people to ensure all information presented is accurate.

Benefits for Process Mapping

There are several advantages of processing mapping. First, this is an efficient way of visualizing the problem, from both a bird’s eye view and a ground level view. The development of a process map is a collaborative effort and will train every member involved in the realities of the project.

The visualization of the process also helps identify areas that do not contribute significant value. The process map allows businesses to exactly see how the process unfolds so as to identify where in the cycle defects occur.  This ultimately helps fulfill customer expectations. The process map can be reused at a later stage as a useful training tool too.


Process mapping is an indispensable tool that details the process at the center of the project. Furthermore, it guides users to the specific focus areas and pain points.

The choice of the right process map is of critical importance. The wrong map will not only waste time but also complicate matters instead of simplifying the task at hand.

Ensure that the map is as detailed and comprehensive as possible. Team members should continuously review and update the information presented to keep the map up-to-date.

Process mapping is, without a doubt, a very potent visual tool that can be utilized during several different phases of the Six Sigma process.