Spaghetti diagrams or layout diagrams they’re often called are a really useful lean process improvement tool used to monitor the movement of personnel or material within a predefined part of an organization.

While this tool has it’s origins in manufacturing, these diagrams can be used in lots of different business environments and are even great when analyzing an office environment.

Monitoring movement is a crucial part of lean (remember how excess movement is one of the seven wastes) by identifying movements you can better organize your layout and improve effeciency.

Producing a spaghetti diagram isn’t difficult you don’t need specialist software (you can do it with a paper and pen if need be) all you really need is a layout diagram of the building/office/area to be mapped and yourself or a member of staff that will track the movement of the object or resource your interested in – every time your target moves annotate it’s tracks onto the layout diagram. Over a period of time is you’ll build up all the tracks made by your target which you can then analyze.

One point to consider is how long you should monitor your target for – there’s no hard and fast rule here just ensure you monitor for enough time to get a representative sample (you might even want to run the monitoring event a number of times – remember that you want to use the data to make decisions with so it needs to be accurate.)

The real power of layout diagrams comes when there completed and what they tell you – remember were looking to reduce excess movement so were looking how best to minimize both the number and distance travelled.

Once your diagram is completed look at what you’ve learnt – what the movements are for are large distances travelled – are numerous movements made to the same location – for example are movements for tools that would be better located closer to the workplace? Once we understand what the movements are for we can set to optimizing the workplace.

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