Understanding how excess movement can result in waste or ineffeciency is an important activity in leaning your business. A common tool used to help analyze movement is the Spaghetti diagram.

Commonly used in manufacturing environments, spaghetti diagrams can equally be applied to any environment, for example an office, where you want to track the movement of the workforce during any given process. Excess movement is defined in the seven wastes and in analyzing and capturing excess movement improvement actions can be launched that reduce this waste and improve efficiency.

A completed spaghetti diagram shows lines of movement annotated to a layout or plan diagram of the workplace or area being measured.

It’s a really simple tool to use and requires little equipment save for paper and pencil. This makes it a great tool to deploy around the workplace as it requires relatively little training, can be rapidly deployed whilst it produces valuable results.

Spaghetti Diagram process

Spaghetti diagrams aren’t overly complex to produce – grab yourself a paper and pencil – and follow these simple steps.

1/ On your paper draw a simple layout diagram of the workplace being studied

2/ Observe the process being monitored and trace/draw the movement of the operator working during the process.

3/ Continue this activity until the process is complete. Your document will now show operator movement that can be analyzed. Your lines may criss cross or look very messy – do not worry – the important thing is that you have captured all the movement during the process.

4/ Review your document, question all the movement on the diagram. Ideally review with the operators that you have monitored and illicit ideas for improvement. Consider why the movement occurred and consider if it can be improved or eradicated by moving any items around the workplace that were fetched or carried during the review. (consider for example the placement of tools, equipment or materials and documentation.)

5/ Carry out your improvement plan – once completed draw another spaghetti diagram and review alongside the first iteration.

Take into account how long you need to monitor the process for to get an accurate account of activity. For example do you need to monitor one complete cycle of the process or more? Make sure you analyze the process to get an accurate account as you will base your improvement actions around the results!

Summary

The key benefit of spaghetti diagrams is how the results are used. They can be a great indicator of waste within an organization and have the benefit of being simple to learn and rapid to deploy.

Remember, the spaghetti diagram process is not just completing a diagram but using it to fuel decision that will improve the workplace. Ensure that you involve the operators in the activity. In your results look for large distances or repetitive movements – consider why they are made and what could be done to improve. Remember that optimizing the workplace can only be carried out when we know its weak points.

For an example of a spaghetti diagram (this time produced in Excel) check out this video from valuestreamguru.com

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