How Process Mapping Helps with “Brain Drain”

Are you worried about losing the knowledge of your retiring workforce? The Manufacturing Institute reported in 2019 that, “Manufacturing firms are particularly concerned about brain drain (i.e., the loss of institutional and technical knowledge) with 97 percent of firms expressing at least some concern about brain drain and almost half of firms indicating that they were “very concerned” about the issue.

One approach to combatting the real challenge of a retiring workforce is to create detailed process maps as a future reference to ensure continuity in your operations.

At APICS Milwaukee our mission is to serve supply chain professionals at all stages of their careers. We know that understanding the basics of process mapping is important for continuous improvement efforts and to ensure you don’t lose valuable knowledge when teammates retire.

Below we’ve shared five simple steps to get you started mapping your current state:

  1. Walk the process. Start closest to the customer and move upstream – using already created written notes or procedures is acceptable
  2. Use paper and pen to draw the process flow
  3. Post information at each process step
  4. Identify associated exhibits for additional detail
  5. Calculate lead and value added times

You can see a very simple example of a purchasing process map below.

Once you have documented your current state, you should feel less of a disruption when your team changes. But you don’t want to stop there! You’ll next want to leverage your current state process map to identify waste to be eliminated. Then you can create a more efficient and lean future state process map.  

Consider these seven forms of waste:

  1. Overproduction – making more than needed at this time
  2. Transportation – moving materials
  3. Inventory – excess stock of raw materials, in process materials, or finished goods
  4. Motion – that does not add value
  5. Correction – rework or scrap
  6. Over processing – redundant activities
  7. Waiting Time – idle time, waiting for materials, people, tools, machine  repairs

Once you’ve identified waste and outlined how you want to improve your processes, you should develop a work plan to keep you on track with achieving your goals, typically resulting in reduced costs, increased capacity and revenue growth. Your work plan should include:

  • Activities with dates and accountable parties

  • Measurable goals

  • Practical completion dates

  • Meet at least monthly to review status

We hope this will help you get started mapping your processes! Looking for more information on the basics of process mapping? Join us next week Tuesday (6/16) for a virtual Supply Chain Workshop taught by an expert APICS Instructor on the topic. This event is free for APICS Milwaukee members.

APICS Milwaukee is the premier professional association for supply chain management, helping over 180 Milwaukee area companies represented by our members, with educational and networking opportunities.  Learn more about how we do this on our website at