Improving supply chain processes and activity steps through Process Mapping

Dr Douglas Boateng.gifThis month, SmartProcurement editorial board member, Dr. Douglas Boateng (FIoD, FCILT, FCMI, FIBC, FIOM), CEO of PanAvest International, discusses the application of process mapping to improve the performance of supply chain processes.

“Often process improvements and fast responses to processes come from understanding what actually happens in practice. Process mapping is a technique that raises important questions about processes so that improvements can be made. It is a method for describing in detail the various steps involved in carrying out a function or activity, be it a business process or otherwise,” says Boateng.

“The primary aim of a process mapping exercise is to understand the steps associated with the particular process or activity, ascertain whether the lead time for each process step is as per the demonstrated lead time and to find ways of improving present lead times by reducing the delays within the processes.

“As an improvement tool, process mapping provides numerous benefits including:

1. Allowing for a better understanding of various processes.
2. Elimination of non value adding activities.
3. Reduction in process times.

“As an operational improvement technique, process mapping allows management and process custodians to understand:

1. The linkages between processes.
2. What triggers a process?
3. What the process is dependent on.
4. Which process is either dependent or independent?

“Any business process can be mapped out, starting at the most abstract and becoming more concrete as the process activities are understood. Inherent in each process step are three variables: theoretical, demonstrated and actual lead-times.

“The theoretical cycle time is the average cycle time achieved from process design. The lead-time achieved under a controlled environment contains virtually no delay. The theoretical cycle time for each core process is gathered in consultation with each process custodian and technical operations.

“The demonstrated lead-time is the best average lead time achieved from past effected steps. Unlike the theoretical cycle time, the demonstrated lead-time contains some delay as there are variables outside the control of the process custodian. For benchmarking purposes, the demonstrated lead-time for each core process changes over time and is replaced with the best average actual lead time.

“The actual lead-time is the current lead-time being achieved within each core process. For benchmarking purposes, the best average of the actual lead time becomes the demonstrated lead-time for the next measuring period.

Identifying a non-value adding activity

“This can be described as the delay within the processes. For improvement purposes it is compared with the demonstrated and theoretical lead times.
Velocity is the ratio of:

a) Actual lead time over Theoretical cycle time, and
b) Actual lead time over Demonstrated lead time

Mean is the average of the data set.
Median is the middle number in the data set.
Each data set has a minimum number.
Each data set has a maximum number.
Standard Deviation is the distribution of the number around the mean.
Sum is the total cycle time achieved for a particular set of process steps.

An example
“A multi-billion dollar company has various complaints from their global customers regarding service delivery and quality. A core team comprising the process custodians and independent subject matter experts is assembled to identify the bottlenecks within the various process steps. Following a two-week mapping exercise of the various core processes associated with the customer service function, the team observes a number of bottlenecks that result in lead time differences between the various process steps as indicated below.

Douglas October table.jpg“Referring to the figures in the table alonside, the actual lead times for the order cycle were well below the demonstrated lead time and failure to initiate the process would not have highlighted the problem. An order which should have taken on average twelve days was in practice taking thirty eight days.

“The project took 30 working days from project definition, through establishing a task team, defining guiding principles, analysing data and the subsequent commencing of full implementation.

“The process mapping technique is useful in that it provides a simple but useful protocol around which performance improvements can be initiated. In many cases, its simplicity allows for the process custodian to provide ideas to further refine processes.

Dr. Douglas Boateng will discuss ‘designing and operating Multiple Supply Networks and Managing Multiple Supply Chains’ at the 3rd annual Smart Sourcing Conference on November 10th and 11th at Leriba Lodge in Centurion. For more information and to register contact Erieka Santos on 0861 334 326 or email her at

SmartProcurement editorial board member Dr. Douglas Boateng is the founder of PanAvest International, a business advisory, education, training, coaching and mentoring company. He holds a Doctorate in Engineering Business Management from the University of Warwick – UK, focused on ‘Industrial Engineering, International Logistics and Supply Chain Management’. He is a FELLOW of the Institute of Directors – UK & Southern Africa, the Chartered Management Institute – UK, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport – UK, the Institute of Business Consulting UK, and the Institute of Operations Management – UK.

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