Developing BPMN for Process Improvement and Discrete Event Simulation

Nathan Proudlove, Stephan Onggo

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Process mapping is commonly a central technique in process improvement projects in healthcare. It is usually a physical activity involving groups of process stakeholders from along a patient pathway, conducted with post-it notes and long rolls of paper. Short of Value Stream Mapping symbols, there are a few sets of basic conventions – but these are rarely used. Physical construction is an involving activity, and recommended in the Operations Management literature, though the results can be hard to make further use of, display, manipulate and archive. When the process map is captured electronically this is generally done with MS Office. We have seen Visio used in the NHS, but licences and expertise are scare.
A process mapping tool starting to appear in the healthcare literature for is Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) standard. It has many practical advantages, including very user-friendly freeware (a big plus in the NHS), validation of flow construction, the ability to build nested hierarchies of processes (recommended in the NHS for long pathways) and, being a standard, file transferability between software packages.
An additional feature is that BPMN files can link with DES through standards such as BPSim or be imported into commercial DES software. Some freeware integrates BPMN and DES seamlessly using BPSim. This potential makes DES much more accessible, where OR expertise and DES software access are generally limited. There has been very limited use of this in healthcare.
However, we have to be cautious. BPMN was not designed for process mapping for operations-management type process improvement nor for conceptual modelling for DES. In use, conceptual and technical limitations become apparent at DES stage, whether using BPSim or import to some commercial DES packages. Consequently we are investigating what developments to BPMN could make it more fit-for-purpose for both process improvement and DES.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2017
EventOR Society Annual Conference: OR59 - Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Sept 201714 Sept 2017


ConferenceOR Society Annual Conference: OR59
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Discrete event simulation
  • BPMN


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