Understanding Process Flows through Flow Diagrams
Improving the efficiency of business processes requires a complete understanding of the process flows. Business productivity is directly proportional to the efficiency of business processes. Process flows or workflows refer to a series of sequential tasks that are performed to achieve a certain goal. Each task in the process flow is governed by input, transformation, and output. A process flow represents the order in which tasks need to be executed in order to achieve business goals.
Process Flows – Purpose and Benefits
What is a process flow? The definition of process flows is a series of sequential tasks that guide people to get work done. Process flow components include operations, timelines, resources, and people.
The main aim of process flows is to streamline and standardize business processes and provide a better understanding of business to the team. The tasks in process flows can either be executed in a sequential or parallel manner.
The main benefits of creating a process flow are:
- Standardizes business process flow:
Creating a process workflow standardizes the operations so that employees get to work on established, time-proven processes.
- Optimizes resource utilization:
Process flow creation helps identify the resource requirements of the process. Including resources in the process flow design helps plan their utilization efficiently.
- Updates and trains employees:
Having a process design in place helps employees understand the flow. Training employees on the process flow is easy when you have established the flow clearly. Internalizing the process and enabling future changes becomes easy when you have a standard flow.
- Improving processes:
Once you have a clear process flow, identifying redundant and repetitive tasks becomes easy. Detection of opportunity gaps and taking measures to improve them becomes easy when you have a standard process workflow.
- Mitigates risks:
Identification of risks associated with the process is easier when you have a clear process flow.
- Increases visibility and transparency:
Each team member gets clear insights into the status of tasks with an established workflow. The overall transparency of the process increases with a process workflow.
- Assigns roles:
Assigning tasks to appropriate stakeholders becomes easy with a process flow. Accountability of employees also improves as each employee is clear about the role, they play in the business process.
Well-defined process workflows help streamline and optimize business processes. Process flows define a set of steps that employees can follow to achieve desired business outcomes. The steps in the workflows visually guide and indicate which stage of the process people are in. Setting up the sales process, employee onboarding, Capex approvals are examples of process flows. Two main purposes of process workflows are explaining how the process works and improving process efficiency.
How to Document a Process Flow?
Documenting a process flow is the first step to understanding the process. Once the workflow is documented it becomes easy to understand the workflow and identify the redundancies in it.
Here are the steps in documenting a process workflow:
1) Name the process:
The process should be named to represent the essential aspects related to the process or the objective of the process. The naming conventions laid down by ISO must be followed while naming the process.
2) Define scope:
After naming the process, the next step is to define the scope of the process. The scope is decided based on the boundaries of the process and the elements that need to be included.
3) Defining the objectives:
The objective of the process can be defined by finding answers to the questions mentioned below.
- What is the aim of the process?
- Why does the process exist?
- What would be missing if the process did not exist?
4) Identifying the key process input variables (KPIV):
Identifying the key inputs required to begin and run the process is an important step in process workflows. Typical inputs for industrial process workflows are energy, water, and other raw materials. One key input variable is identified, statistical experiments can be designed to determine optimal values for each input in order to achieve desired output quality.
5) Identifying key process output variables (KPOV):
Key output variables are various factors that can cause an impact during the production process. Some examples of KPOVs are a number of sales, customer complaints, and profit. Based on KPOVs statistical experiments can be designed to optimize the process.
6) Structuring the key operations:
The structure of the process determines how the process should be designed with respect to resources. The structure of the process is defined over several business divisions and providers.
7) Assigning roles:
After defining the structure of the process, each task must be assigned a stakeholder for the execution and completion of the task. A transparent process workflow enables better coordination of work and team responsibilities. In public process flows, each team member is aware of what is expected out of them.
8) Adding control points:
In order to monitor and control the process flow, you need to include control points within the flow. Control points ensure that the next task in the sequence is executed only when certain conditions are met by the preceding task.
Elements of Process Flow Diagrams
What is a process flow diagram? A process flow diagram (PFD) is the visual representation of the steps in a workflow. The relationships between various tasks in a business process are illustrated by a process flow diagram. The use of process flow diagrams is prevalent in chemical and process engineering. PFDs are used to document a process for a better understanding of the flow and improving the process. Block Flow Diagram, Flow Sheet, Process Flow Chart, Top-down Flow chart, and Schematic Flow Diagram are some of the PFD types.
All process flow diagrams are designed using symbols and notations to represent various tasks and their relationship. The symbols and notations used in process flow diagrams adhere to standards set by ISO, American National Standards Institute, and German Institute for Standardization.
The various elements that are used in simple process flow diagrams are:
Major Equipment: The equipment used in the process needs to be listed by mentioning their names and ID numbers.
Process piping/channel: The path for moving products between equipment needs to be specified by the process piping channels or piping.
Process flow direction: The direction or sequence in which the tasks need to be executed needs to be documented in the flow diagram.
Major bypass and recirculation systems: Conditions under which sequences need to be rerouted or bypassed need to be specified in the flow diagram.
Connection with other systems: All processes are interlinked in a business. The output of one process will be the input of another process. This connection between systems needs to be specified in the flow diagram.
Notations and symbols used in flow diagrams are rectangles for representing equipment, ovals for start and endpoints, parallelogram for input or output, diamond-shaped symbols for decision-making tasks, circles for control points or links to another process, and lines or arrows to connect tasks and sequence of tasks.