Why you should also visualize break times in your process diagrams

Process maps are increasingly used in organisations for Lean studies or more generic quality handbooks. Standard VSM (Value Stream Mapping) methodologies focus primarily on visualizing activities in those process maps. But mapping and visualizing all break times is evenly important.

How should you do this? The answer is quiet obvious. When discussing and mapping a process with a group of people, you should not only ask “which activity comes next?” but you should also ask “when is this done?”.

The answer is often quite clear: next day, same afternoon, twice a week etc.

A clear break time
The answer to the question should be visualized as a Break Moment in the process diagram as well, clearly visible between the two process steps! Preferably you use an graphical icon for this, like a parking sign. It becomes clear in the process map that the customer request is parked for some time.

Adding up all break times
In many administrative organizations the sum of all break-times is greater than the sum of all processing times. At an insurance company, actual processing an insurance claim probably takes less than two hours for the staff. For the client, it can easily take several days or more than a week before she/he gets an answer. Likewise, receiving your building permit from the city can take more than a month after you submit your request; the time actually spent on your request is likely less than 4 hours.

Awareness
By visualizing the break times in the process, you create awareness for the probably the biggest improvement potential of this specific process. Often, a shorter lead time will lead to reduced costs, higher quality, a reduction in perceived work stress, and better team work.

Faster service to clients
Clients also profit from shorter lead times. A fast service is often appreciated, especially if done for the same price. Many organizations have been able to gain market share and improve profitability by offering quicker services.

Hide your break times when you don’t need them
Break times should be visible when studying and improving processes. But not always do you want to see them in quality handbooks. A smart process management tool will allow you to show and explore them when needed, and simply hide them when you use the same process map in instructions and handbooks.

Want to try it yourself? You can use our Process Modeler for free in the first 30 days.

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