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 The Spaghetti Diagram 

 spaghetti diagram


The Spaghetti diagram is a very visual way to depict the material or information flow, through a process in a diagrammatic form





The Spaghetti Diagram - What is it?

I'm sure most of you will remember the ancient Greek tail of Theseus and the minatour.

Theseus set out to kill the Minotaur in the Labyrinth, his friend Ariadne gave him a ball of thread to unwind so that he could find his way back, after completing his task.

Spaghetti Digram ArticleOn his return if Theseus had drawn on paper all of the different places that the thread had been, then he would have created the first Spaghetti map in history!


Imagine attaching a virtual thread to a piece of information, material or person in your workplace.

A spaghetti diagram is a way of showing what happens to this virtual thread, as the work moves thrSpaghetti Diagram Article by Graham Rossough
each process.

It's called a Spaghetti diagram because the result typically looks like a bowl of spaghetti.



The Spaghetti Diagram - How Can it Help us  ?

The Spaghetti diagram helps identify waste that is often not even recognised as such. e.g. walking to and from a printer that is located too far from the people using it.

It helps us determine the physical flow and distance that information and people travel to process work.

The spaghetti diagram helps us to "see" processes and procedures in a different way.

The spaghetti diagram can very often help you see waste that you didn't realise existed.

The Spaghetti Diagram - Who,When and Why ?

A representative spaghetti diagram is best put together by using a cross functional group, who are intimate with the processes and geography of the area being reviewed.

The Spaghetti diagram can be used at any time to gain clarity and understanding of your current condition.

In general the Spaghetti diagram is best used when you want to move from your current state to an improved future state.

The main reason to create a spaghetti diagram is to document the current movement of work and people.

It gives us an insight into the distances travelled and the number and locations that work has to travel to.

It clearly shows transport wastes, and gives us a 20,000 ft view of our operations which we rarely encounter on a day to day basis.

The Spaghetti Diagram - Preparation

You will need to prepare the following ahead of time:

Different Coloured Stick Notes
Flip Chart Marker Pens
Flip chart paper
Sticky tack
Different Coloured SmallDot labels

A Floorplan of the Current Workplace

Differnt Coloured Rolls of String


spaghetti diagram supplies



spaghetti diagram room

A room with a large enough space to create the Diagram
(Typically big enough for 4-6 pieces of A! flip chart paper


Creating the Spaghetti Diagram - Step 1 - 7

1.Join several pieces of flip chart paper together and lay them out on the desk
   (Experience will tell you how big this needs to be)

2.Draw an outline of the area you are looking at roughly to scale.

 spaghetti diagram outline

3. Walk the process to get a 3d feel of what is involved and take notes regarding the layout of the current

spaghetti diagram walk the process


4.Create cut outs (to scale) using the post it's of the various elements of the workplace, and lay them in position on the diagram e.g. equipment,storage,materials etc.

spaghetti diagram cut outs

5.Once you are happy with their positioning sticky tape the cut outs onto the paper.

spaghetti diagram stick cut outs down



6.Decide on a colour key for the various work flows you want to chart
  (use the different coloured string to represent these)

spaghetti diagram colour code


7.Start to build up the diagram by placing the string at your process start
   (sticky tack the string down at the start point)

spaghetti diagram stick down at start



8.Unwind the string (remember Theseus!) till you get to the next step in the process and sticky tack it down. Continue this till you complete the diagram.

spaghetti diagram completed


The reason for using blue tack is that 9 times out of 10 the team will change their mind about what actually happens.


spaghetti diagram team questions


9.Once you are happy that the string is in the correct position sticky tape it down.
  Sticking it will save you a lot of grief. I promise you it is worth the little bit of time
  and effort.

 spaghetti diagram tape it down !


10. Analyse the diagram and look for opportunities to minimise transport waste.

spaghetti diagram analysis



 In Conclusion

The spaghetti diagram is a great way to identify transport waste.

It provides a real bird's eye view of your process, and can give you a great start to identify layout issues
that are creating poor flow, extra travel, and wasted time.

It communicates waste that isn't always obvious, especially to those that don't actually do the job!

Hope this helps,

Best regards,

Graham Ross