Flowchart Explanation

Flowchart is the sixth tool of the seven basic quality control tools. A flowchart is a diagram that uses graphic symbols to depict the nature and flow of steps in a process. A flowchart is also known as a flow diagram, process map, or relationship map. This article describes, in brief, what is a flowchart, the uses of process map,  and the tools and techniques to create a flow diagram.

What is flowchart

A flowchart is a diagram that traces the flow of information, customers, equipment, or materials through the various steps of a process. A process map or flowchart displays the sequence of steps and the branching possibilities that exist for a process that transforms one or more inputs into one or more outputs. A flow diagram shows the activities, decision points, branching loops, parallel paths, and the overall order of processing.

Flowchart Uses

A process map may prove useful in understanding and estimating the cost of quality in a process. This is obtained by using the workflow branching logic and associated relative frequencies to estimate the expected monetary value for the conformance and non-conformance work required to deliver the expected conforming output

Additionally, process flow diagrams or process diagrams are flowcharts that represent steps in a process. Therefore, process flow diagrams can help to identify where quality defects can occur or where to incorporate quality checks.

Moreover, process diagrams also facilitate in identifying process improvement activities. Once you break down the process steps and diagram them, problem areas become more visible. It is easy to spot opportunities for simplifying and refining your process by analyzing decision points, redundant steps, and rework loops.

Promote understanding of a process by explaining the steps pictorially. People may have differing ideas about how a process works. A Flowchart can help you gain agreement about the sequence of steps. Flow diagrams promote understanding in a way that written procedures cannot do. One good Flowchart can replace pages of words.

Provide a tool for training employees. Because of the way they visually lay out the sequence of process steps, A process map can be very helpful in training employees to perform the process according to standardized procedures.

Depict customer-supplier relationships, helping the process workers to understand who their customers are, and how they may sometimes act as suppliers and sometimes as customers in relation to other people.

Flowchart Symbols

Generally, a flowchart flows from top to bottom and left to right. The following table enumerates the most commonly used symbols.

Flowchart SymbolFlowchart Symbol NameFlowchart Symbol Definition
TerminalIndicates the beginning and ending of a program or sub-process. An oval or rounded (fillet) rectangle represents the start/end of a process. It usually contains the word "Start" or "End", or another phrase signalling the start or end of a process, such as "submit inquiry" or "receive product".
Flowline (Arrowhead)An arrow shows the process's order of operation. It is a line coming from one symbol and pointing at another.
ProcessA rectangle represents a process.
Input Output
Input/OutputA rhomboid represents the process of inputting and outputting data, as in entering data or displaying results.
Predefined Process
Predefined ProcessAn open rectangle with a dashed or solid line connecting represents a predefined process.
DecisionA diamond (rhombus) represents a decision point in the process. Shows a conditional operation that determines which one of the two paths the program will take. The operation is commonly a yes/no question or true/false test.
DocumentSingle documents represented as a rectangle with a wavy base.
Multiple Document
Multiple documentsMultiple documents represented as a stack of rectangles with wavy bases.
Manual Input
Manual inputRepresented by a trapezoid with the longest parallel side at the top, to represent an operation or adjustment to process that can only be made manually.
Database Data represented by a cylinder symbolizing a disk drive.
Off page connector
Off-page ConnectorA labeled connector for use when the target is on another page. Represented as a home plate-shaped pentagon.
On Page Connector
On-page ConnectorPairs of labeled connectors replace long or confusing lines on a flowchart page. Represented by a small circle with a letter inside

Flowchart Tools

Some of the most popular productivity tools that can create a flow diagram are Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint .  Besides, these there a number of online options available. The following list includes the most popular online tools to create a process map.

  • Lucidchart
  • Canva
  • Draw.io
  • Microsoft Visio

Flow Diagram Examples

The figure below depicts one such flow diagram.

Example of Process map Source microsoft.com

Image Source

Further Reading

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