What is a Spaghetti Diagram?

A spaghetti diagram is defined as the visual representation of the flow of an activity or process utilized to identify areas that could use improvement. It is unique in that it demonstrates motion work and its associated waste and assists in the quantification of the amount of walking an operator must do in order to get a job done. It is called a spaghetti diagram because the lines that demonstrate the flow can curl and appear somewhat like cooked strands of spaghetti.

The Benefits of a Spaghetti Diagram

A spaghetti diagram can visually identify the inefficiencies in the layout of a process. In identifying these inefficiencies, it can help in a reduction of non-value-added time spent moving from one location to another during the process. Use of a spaghetti diagram can make product or service flow clear and allows for the optimization of distances for the most efficient delivery. With a focus on efficiency, a spaghetti diagram also cuts down on the stress and fatigue of employees as related to unnecessary movements.

How to Create a Spaghetti Diagram

The steps in creating a spaghetti diagram are as follows:

  • Determine which process needs improving.
  • Define the start/stop points for this process.
  • Plot out the physical process flow. Approximate the distance to scale between each work point.
  • Draw the path from beginning to end that the product takes. The movement of an employee from the beginning to the end of the process can also be drawn. The flow of materials, employee walking patterns, and waiting/stoppage patterns can all be mentioned.
  • Draw lines for every movement. Be sure to cover minute tasks and repeated motions. You may want to use different colors for motion lines in the representation of each operator’s movements.
  • Create the current state process and the future state process. Document travel time, travel costs, and travel distance.

What is Value Stream Mapping?

A value stream map is a visual tool that shows all the critical steps involved in a process and quantifies the time and volume spent at each stage.

The Benefits of Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping was originally conceived for use in manufacturing operations but has been found to be useful in any industry in which items pass through multiple phases and departments before reaching the end user. With a value stream map, you are able to see how operations work end-to-end, track performance, and find methods of making your processes more efficient. It is also ideal for finding bottlenecks and identifying waste.

How to Present Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping works best when it is a group effort. Having your stakeholders from different departments collaborate can help ensure an accurate and robust value stream map. First, you will want to define the steps that make up the value stream for a given product in your business. Break your processes down into doing, do, and done. Then subdivide these so that each distinct process is accounted for. Use icons or drawings to represent customers/supplies.

Once all steps are visually represented, indicate the flow of materials and information. Lines and arrows help in the visualization of the path of knowledge and physical resources through production. After you have identified all individual steps, collect data to evaluate each one. Make note of the time needed for each step as well as the resources required.

After you have all your data, add it to your map. For each part of the process, make a box that includes resources, work time, and project timeline. Figure in the cycle and lead times as well.

From here, you will identify the wastes in the value stream. These inefficiencies will come from seven categories: overproduction, waiting, conveyance, processing, inventory, motion, and correction.

Finally, after identifying all the wastes that are in your value stream, you will use all the information you have gathered to create an ideal value stream map. This ideal value stream map will exclude all the wastes.

Eliminating all waste at once is likely unrealistic, so it is recommended to create several value streams to represent various stages of elimination on the way toward the ideal.

Spaghetti Diagram vs. Value Stream Mapping: What’s the Difference?

An important difference to note between a spaghetti diagram and a value stream map is that a spaghetti diagram shows the actual current or future process while a value stream map can focus on a conceptual, idealized route.

Spaghetti Diagram vs. Value Stream Mapping: Who would use A and/or B?

Spaghetti diagrams and value stream maps are both powerful tools that can be used within any organization to help eliminate waste. A spaghetti diagram is best used to eliminate waste in movement, while a value stream map can help in eliminating all manner of waste throughout the entire process.

Spaghetti Diagram vs. Value Stream Mapping: Real World Scenarios

A manufacturing company is trying to get a better handle on its processes, so they create a value stream map. While looking at their processes that require physical labor and moving from one station to another, it is decided that there could be too much unnecessary time being spent. To remedy this, a spaghetti diagram is created to look at the movements of the workers during their tasks as well as the distance between stations. It is decided that it would improve efficiency by keeping the needed materials closer together so that the employees can complete tasks faster and cut down on waste.


Spaghetti diagrams and value stream maps are both useful tools for maximizing the efficiency of your organization. When you are looking toward having your company function as efficiently as possible, both spaghetti diagrams and value stream maps are invaluable in helping you to find where there is waste that can be eliminated.

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