A diagram that shows a process or system step by step is known as a flowchart or flowchart, used in numerous areas, whether to plan, document, improve, etc. These use a series of symbols with which each of the steps that are carried out is indicated, such as the rectangle, rhombus and circle, which must be known in order to know how to make a flow chart. Some of the most common diagrams are those of systems, data and documents, but for their elaboration it is necessary to follow a few steps thoroughly.

What is a flowchart

Understanding what a flowchart is is really important, because through them you can solve various problems with the processes within an organization. The most accepted definition of flowchart is that of “diagrammatic graph that is used to indicate the order in which the instructions must be carried out in order to solve a certain problem”, generally this type of graph is used within areas such as economics, programming, cognitive psychology and even industrial processes.

These schemes can be based on any process, an example of a flow chart could be the lighting system of a light bulb, or the process to prepare a food recipe.

Characteristics of a flowchart

The main characteristics of a flowchart are the following:

  • They must be as precise as possible, since very long diagrams are usually more complicated to understand and assimilate, so their practicality is less.
  • They must contain the appropriate symbols according to the process that is represented, which prevents them from being misinterpreted.
  • When observing the diagram, the steps to be followed in a process or system should be captured directly, without the need to read long notes referring to said process.
  • It should be noted that the characteristics of a flowchart can vary depending on the type of diagram and the process that is described.

What is a flowchart for?

These graphs are very useful for breaking down any activity that you want to carry out, both at an industrial and service level, in any of its areas. The flow chart of a company is extremely important, since through it you can know the order in which it operates and the processes that follow to obtain your product. In the same way, they are used for the description of any system or method that has to be implemented within them, allowing a clear understanding of any process that is carried out, as well as its operation, which in turn contributes to subsequent studies and possible modifications to improve it.

Flowcharts can even replace long pages of text, since being a drawing, the human brain interacts better with the information contained in it. That is why it is important to know what a flowchart is.

Most common flowchart symbols

Start / end symbol

It is represented by an oval, it is in charge of indicating the starting point and the end of the process, it generally includes the words within it, such as “start” and “end” as appropriate. This is also called the terminator symbol and can indicate, in addition to the aforementioned, the possible result of a path.

Action or process symbol

In this case, the symbol used is the rectangle, it should be noted that each rectangle will indicate a step within the system (“add the cheese to the pizza”) or, alternatively, a thread for those systems of greater complexity or size (elaborate a pizza), which makes it one of the most widely used symbols in diagrams.

Printed document symbol

It is a rectangle whose bottom line is curved, it represents the input or output of a data that can be read by people, such as a printed document or report, although it could also be an email, while in the case of Outputs could be a memo or a letter.

Multidocument symbol

It is similar to the one described above, however in this case three symbols are shown superimposed one after the other, indicating the entry or exit of several documents within the process. Like the printed document symbol, some examples might be: print reports or emails for input and a memo for output.

Symbols for a flowchart

Decision or branch symbol

It is shaped like a rhombus and marks an unknown that must be answered, thus creating a branch that indicates that the course of the system will follow a direction in accordance with said decision. Those lines that indicate different decisions, originated from different points of the rhombus and this can happen according to the answers that are provided.

Input / output symbol

This is also called the data symbol and is used to display or indicate data coming in and out of the system, such as a customer order (input) and product sales (output). It should be noted that the symbol of the paper tape represents input and output, however it has been replaced by it.

Manual entry symbol

This symbol represents that a person will perform a procedure manually. That is to say that the data in the field or the step to be followed by the system must be carried out by means of some manual device, such as a keyboard. Another example may be when logging into the PC and the user is prompted for their password.

Preparation symbol

Through this symbol it is being indicated that before continuing with the process, it is necessary to make adjustments or some modifications. It is the point of difference between the steps where the process is prepared and where the process is executed. It allows incorporating the configuration in another step within the same system.

connector symbol

It has the shape of a sphere and is characterized by marking that an inspection will be carried out at that point and that the process will continue where an equal drawing was placed. In general, this figure is used in the most complex diagrams and is responsible for linking the elements that are separated on the same page.

fusion symbol

It indicates that in this step, two or more threads will be merged into one. The shape it has is an inverted pyramid.

Flowchart Types

Flow Chart Example

Document Flow Diagrams

Its purpose is to indicate the controls that exist within the flow of documents, through the components of a process. This type of diagrams must be read from left to right, for example: process of transporting documents to places where they are required.

Data flow diagram

By means of them, the controls that determine the data flows within a process are shown. They are used to indicate the channels through which the data is sent, for example: they are used in software engineering, to provide an approach focused on technical development.

Systems Flow Diagrams

Indicates the magnitude of the data that passes through the most important components of the process, such as storage media, communication networks, processors, data entry and programs.

General Flow Chart

It is used to describe each of the stages that make up a production or service process, representing each of the steps to follow to obtain said product. For example: the process of bottling a beverage in a bottling plant.

Work Flow Diagram

Work flows are graphed, it is common to use information and office documentation, in addition to involving tasks. For example: graph the steps required in a health center for a visit.

Program Flow Charts

By means of them, the controls that are incorporated in a program that in turn is part of a process are shown. For example: the process how a machine performs, which at the same time is part of a larger system.

Detailed flowchart

In this class all the details of each of the activities of the processes, the feedback, the guidelines, the points where decisions would have to be made, among others, are exhibited, for example: when in a production line the product must be selected finished and discard those with faults.

Product Flow Chart

It is used only to describe how a certain product is made. This diagram determines which raw material will be used. For example: when some type of bread is made and the type of flour to be used and how it should be used are specified.

Process flow diagram

This type reflects the relationships between the main components of an industrial plant. It is widely used in the fields of chemical and process engineering.

For example: it is used to improve or document a process or model a new one.

Logic Flow Chart

It is a type of diagram that focuses on businesses and their activities. It is a tool that graphically symbolizes the sequences of the steps of a process, demonstrating the logical sequence of those steps to solve or develop a process. For example: help in the detection and search for errors in a process.

Decision Flowchart

This contributes to the study of strategies both in terms of internal relationship and consistency with respect to the outside. For example: the communication process within one of the sections of a company

How to Draw a Flowchart

1. The first thing that must be taken into account to know how to make a flowchart is to determine the elements that will make up the system, since this will help to draw it in the correct order so that it can be easily understood. Some of the components are:

  • Input or inputs: these are various types of data, such as tables, information, documents, articles, among others. What are used within the system and later transformed into outputs.
  • Processing: actions that through techniques and tools are implemented in the inputs, which are then converted into products or outputs.
  • Exit or outputs: it is the fruit of the process and that, like the inputs, can be documents, materials, articles, etc.

2. The second step is to know what symbols are used and the meaning of each of them.

3. Draw each step in the correct order. It should be noted that in some cases there are steps that occur in parallel or that, failing that, must wait for the output of other previous processes.

4. Draw the arrows that link the processes.

5. Then, through the symbols, what happens in each step of the process must be shown, that is, if it is necessary to wait for another step, if it is necessary to wait for documents or data, or also to make a decision.

6. At this point the symbols that correspond to each step of the system should be drawn.

7. Finally, the result must be inspected.

Currently there are various tools to develop these diagrams, to the point that on the web it is possible to find programs to make flowcharts, thus opening the doors to an important tool so that it is available to those who need it and that even, They give you the possibility to create a flowchart online.