Please help me understand what a process is



Hello all.

First, this is such a wonderful site and you all are so knowledgeable. Thank you so much.

I work in a small company - 12 people. Small distribution center. I think I have an understanding of ISO as it applies to us, but I am still unsure about a process versus a procedure.

For example my purchasing procedure (paraphrasing):

Evaluate suppliers (and re-evaluate on a set frequency)
Use Approved Supplier Log to determine suppliers that are available
Place PO using specifications from company and from customer
Log any discrepancies on SCAR Log and SCAR Form

My PROCESS for purchasing so far looks like this:

(Input from customers and company)->Purchasing Procedure->(Output in the form of receiving forms that go to our receiving department)

Does my process need to be more detailed? I will include ownership, necessary documentation, necessary resources...etc...but my flowchart is essentially just those three things above in bubble form.

Any guidance would be great!

Elsmar Forum Sponsor


Fully vaccinated are you?
A process is a way of doing something. A procedure is essentially the same thing in documented form. Then again, you can have undocumented procedures. If you roll this around a bit you will find yourself wrapping yourself up in semantics - E.g.: Procedure vs. Work Instruction (WI) - What is the difference?

Here is Eileen's definition: Procedure - Definition

I suggest you read through some existing discussions here, such as What IS a Process Map? - The discussion is a bit long and heated at times, but all in all it's a good read.

Here is a "quickie": Flow chart vs. Process map vs. Value stream map - What are the differences?

As to how much detail you "need", that is something only you can decide. I have done very simple procedures, and I have done very complex ones, both in text, in flow chart form, and as a mixture. Some people put in visuals/graphics/pictures.

As you are new to this, over time you will find you will develop your own style and format.

And remember the interaction of processes aspect. While it wasn't new, ISO 9001:2000 "made it's mark" by promoting this phrase. From a writeup I did in the 1990's (for some thoughts): System vs. Process and the next 10 or so slides.



I appreciate all of these links!

Admittedly I am still lost when it comes to making a document that outlines my process.

The written procedure lists everything that the purchasing agent does, the only thing left is to get inputs from what the customer needs and what we need internally. The output generated is a completed purchase order and receiving forms for the warehouse.

Is having a documents process as simple as writing this down? Am I over complicating it?


Sidney Vianna

Post Responsibly
Am I over complicating it?
Yes, you are. Why do you think you need another document? If the process is straightforward and the people performing the process are competent enough to do it effectively, DO NOT create a non-value added document. That is the main reason ISO 9001:2015 does not mandate any documented procedure any longer.

It is that simple.
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