When I eat spaghetti my tools of choice are a fork and spoon, but the spaghetti itself can also be an excellent tool in its own right, a Lean Tool.
A Spaghetti Diagram is a good way to visualize the flow in your process. The "plate" for your spaghetti is a top view of your process, whether a layout of the shop floor or your office. The "spaghetti" in a spaghetti diagram is the route taken by the part or operator through the process. Perhaps it's a product being made in a manufacturing cell or the flow of a document through the accounting department.
The resulting flow forms a tangled mess of lines, that resembles a plate of spaghetti.
Any comprehensive lean tool box should include a spaghetti diagram. It's not hard to make your own. Just follow someone around and trace their path on a map of the process. In fact, it's generally preferable to use pencil and paper when drawing your lines. People don't walk in straight lines, so your spaghetti should look cooked, not raw. And don't lift the pencil!
Obviously, the more messy the spaghetti, the more messy and inefficient your process is. After drawing out the path, it's often surprising to discover how the flow deviates from what the team thought. What makes sense theoretically can fall apart in the real world.
The key is to reduce those carbohydrates!
Introduce your process to Dr. Atkins and get rid of that spaghetti. Once you see the mess, look at how you can improve it. By moving stations closer together, restructuring the workflow, balancing the work elements and reducing movement, you'll be left with only the proteins. No fatty waste, just the value-added steps, the Lean meat.
Occasionally you might want a cleaner look for a presentation or digital document. At workflowdiagnostics.com that document's been prepped for you. The image above is from a pre-made Powerpoint form that can help you transfer your work environment to the electronic page. You just have to move around the boxes to match your process. All the formatting's been completed for you.
I think physically dragging your pencil around a layout of the process is the best way to really understand the flow through the system. But for presentations, the above Powerpoint technique is a good way to present your improvements to top brass, who may be less than impressed with a pencil sketch.
There's a good summary of how to fill out or perform a spaghetti diagram here: http://www.six-sigma-material.com/Spaghetti-Diagram.html
Next time we'll talk about adding some fish to your diet!
The Powerpoint file can be found at workflowdiagnostics.com under the heading "Spaghetti Map/Value Analysis."
I've added this post to my Helpful Lean Tools and Downloads page.