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Process Mapping in Six Sigma: Tools, Example, Steps, & Everything You Need to Know

process mapping six sigma

Imagine you are a project manager tasked with leading a new corporate project. You have all the resources, expertise, and team members to complete the project, but you’re not sure how to organize and manage the project most efficiently and effectively. This is where process mapping in Six Sigma comes in.

Process mapping is a critical tool in the Six Sigma methodology for identifying inefficiencies and waste in a project and streamlining it for maximum efficiency. It can be learned in the six sigma certification course by UMass. By mapping out each step in the project plan, Six Sigma practitioners can better understand how a project works and identify ways to optimize it.

Let’s explore the world of process mapping in Six Sigma and how it can help you optimize your business processes.

How Does Process Mapping Work With Six Sigma?

Process mapping is a visual representation that provides a detailed description of how we carry out a process. It allows individuals to view the process closely, aiding them in decision-making. The graphical representation helps identify the strengths and weaknesses of the process, including the contribution of each step. Furthermore, it helps reduce cycle times and defects while increasing productivity.

Process mapping is a crucial tool used in Six Sigma methodology to identify inefficiencies and waste in a process and streamline it for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. The process mapping exercise is designed to provide a clear picture of the process under examination, including inputs, outputs, controls, and the steps involved.

Also Read: What Is Lean Six Sigma? A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Methodology

The Benefits of Process Mapping in Six Sigma

Process mapping is a powerful tool that can help businesses improve their operations. Here is how process mapping in Six Sigma benefits your business:

Improved understanding of the process

Process mapping provides a clear and visual representation of the process, which helps the participants to understand the process better, including inputs, outputs, and the steps involved. It helps individuals identify areas that need improvement, making it easier to identify inefficiencies and waste.

Increased efficiency

Process mapping allows individuals to streamline the process, reducing cycle times and defects while improving productivity. The graphical representation helps identify bottlenecks, redundancies, and unnecessary steps, allowing individuals to identify the root causes of inefficiencies and develop strategies to eliminate them.

Enhanced customer satisfaction

Process mapping can help individuals develop strategies to improve product or service quality by identifying inefficiencies. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction, essential for building and maintaining a loyal customer base.

Cost reduction

Process mapping can help identify areas of waste, such as overproduction, waiting, and unnecessary processing. Eliminating these inefficiencies can help reduce costs associated with the process, improving the overall profitability of the organization.

Improved communication

Process mapping provides a common language and framework for discussing the process, improving communication and understanding among the participants. This can lead to improved collaboration and more effective decision-making.

Types of Process Maps in Six Sigma

There are several types of process maps in Six Sigma, each serving a specific purpose in analyzing and optimizing a process. Let’s dig into some of the tools experts use for process mapping in Six Sigma.


SIPOC (Supplier – Inputs – Process – Outputs – Customer) is a simple, high-level process map that establishes the basis for subsequent mapping. Although it may not be considered an actual process map, it identifies the key players and shows what the process accomplishes. The center of the SIPOC contains the high-level process steps, while the required inputs and their providers are listed to the left, and the critical process outputs and their recipients are listed to the right. The SIPOC defines the project’s scope and focuses on discussing the process. Creating a SIPOC for every project is recommended because they help discuss the process with others and are simple to make.


The SIPOC-R is a modified version of the SIPOC map, which lists the requirements or specifications for the inputs and outputs, typically under each item. This additional detail can provide insight into potential problems to solve. If a problem exists even after all input requirements are met, the issue is either in the process or a missing need. On the other hand, if a condition is not met, the cause should be investigated. The SIPOC-R helps ensure all relationships between inputs and outputs are visible and assists in examining the process and identifying essential connections.

Spaghetti Diagram Six Sigma

Spaghetti diagrams in Six Sigma track the movement of people in the work area while they are completing processes. It measures the distance between areas and the time it takes to move between them in manufacturing or other transnational processes to enable organizations to determine where improvements can be made to create more efficiency.

High-Level Process Maps

High-Level Process Maps provide a top-level view of the process and its major components, which makes them an excellent tool for quick insights. These maps help communicate the process to stakeholders not interested in the details. High-Level Maps expand the “process” from the SIPOC into five to ten more detailed boxes, showing where all the inputs go, and the outputs are created. They are usually constructed with the help of managers and don’t require deep knowledge of the process. High-Level Process Maps are a practical starting point for understanding a process and identifying areas for improvement.

Detailed Process Map

A Detailed Process Map provides a comprehensive overview of a particular process step. This map is necessary if there are any issues with that step. For example, if we are interested in exploring the Purchasing step, we can follow the input to that step and repeatedly ask, “what happens next?” until we produce the output. It’s important to selectively dive into detail, as it’s a lot of work to create a Detailed Process Map. Starting with a High-Level Map and letting the project’s needs dictate when to go into more detail is usually sufficient unless we plan to streamline the process radically.

Swimlane Map

A Swimlane Map is a process map that separates the steps into lanes based on who performs each activity. By aligning the steps of each participant in a horizontal row, the map makes it clear “who does what” in the process, including handoffs between participants. This map is handy for establishing work instructions and training since it clarifies each participant’s role. However, Swimlane Maps are not very space-efficient and can become cluttered when there are many handoffs. As a result, it is best to use high-level and detailed maps during the project work and reserve the Swimlane Map for the improved process.

Relationship Maps

Relationship Maps depict the flow of information, materials, or paper between participants without detailing the work done. Although not widely used, Relationship Maps help explore high-level processes to identify participants. They are instrumental when there are many participants. After creating a Relationship Map, it can be used to complete a process map by ensuring that the arrows originate from the steps creating the unit and end in the correct location. Creating a Relationship Map is unnecessary if there are only a few participants.

Value Stream Mapping in Six Sigma

Value Stream Maps display material flows, information flows, WIP, cycle time, and more. They are used in Lean applications to show the current state of the process, including improvement opportunities. They require more skill to build than simple and straightforward process maps but provide great information. The material moves from left to right, information from right to left, and work time and wait time are displayed on a line at the bottom. Improvement opportunities appear as starbursts. The diagram shows the process’s inefficiencies, making it useful for planning improvements.

Also Read: Demystifying the Theory of Constraints

What is a Sub Process?

In process mapping for Six Sigma, a sub-process is part of a larger process that can be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps. It is a step within the main process with specific inputs, outputs, and steps to complete.

Sub-processes can be depicted within a larger process map and are often used to provide more detail and clarity to the overall process. The goal of breaking down a larger process into sub-processes is to make it more efficient and easier to manage by breaking it down into more manageable parts.

How to Create a Process Map in Six Sigma?

To create a process map, define the process boundaries and the level of detail required.

  1. Identify the steps in the process, including major inputs, outputs, and decisions.
  2. Arrange the process steps in sequence by diagramming the current process.
  3. Use the appropriate symbols for each element, such as ovals for inputs/outputs and diamonds for decision points.
  4. Ensure the map is accurate and comprehensive by testing it with an external review.
  5. Analyze the process map to understand if the process is being run effectively, identify areas of complexity, and determine how it differs from an ideal process.

A detailed and accurate process map is critical to process improvement as it provides a clear understanding of the process and can lead to better solutions.

Choosing the Right Type of Process Mapping in Six Sigma

When choosing the right Lean Six Sigma process mapping to utilize, there are a few things to consider.

  • Understand the goals and objectives of the process improvement effort: Are you trying to streamline a complex process or identify bottlenecks and waste in a production line? Are you looking to optimize information flow or reduce cycle time?
  • Consider the level of detail needed for the map: High-level process maps provide an overview of the process, while detailed maps provide a more granular view.
  • Consider the audience for the map: Some maps, such as swimlane maps, are ideal for communicating process details to stakeholders, while others, such as relationship maps, are better suited for the initial exploration of the process.

Finding the right map may require some trial and error, but you can make an informed choice with a clear understanding of your goals, level of detail, and audience.

Where can you go wrong with Lean Six Sigma Process Mapping?

Choosing the wrong Six Sigma process map can lead to several issues in Six Sigma projects. Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

  • Using a process map that is too detailed or not detailed enough
  • Focusing on the wrong process
  • Not involving the right people
  • Not reviewing and testing the process map for accuracy and completeness
  • Not using the appropriate symbols leads to confusion and misinterpretation of the process.

Also Read: Value Stream Mapping in Six Sigma

Process Mapping in Six Sigma is a Critical Skill for a Rewarding Career

Process mapping in Six Sigma is a crucial tool for Lean Six Sigma experts, as it allows them to identify and improve processes, eliminate waste, and streamline operations. You can drive process improvements and achieve better results by mastering process mapping.

Whether you’re a professional looking to improve organizational efficiency or an aspiring Lean Six Sigma expert, gaining a Lean Six Sigma certification can be ideal for your career growth.

A Post Graduate Program in Lean Six Sigma, like the one from Simplilearn, in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts, can help you fast-track your career in quality management with hands-on industry projects and business mentoring from industry experts from KPMG. The program offers insights into Agile Management, Digital Transformation, Lean Management, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Minitab, and quality management.

Interested in becoming a Lean Six Sigma expert? Enrolling in this program can provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in this field. Get started now!

You might also like to read:

A Deep Dive Into the Five Phases of Lean Six Sigma

Six Sigma Methodologies for Process Improvement

Ultimate Guide to Six Sigma Control Charts

DMADV: Everything You Need to Know

Describing a SIPOC Diagram: Everything You Should Know About It

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