Abstract Analysis of transformation processes is a potent tool for the understanding of materials utilization, energy consumption, environmental pollution and the productivity of capital and labour. This paper introduces process analysis with emphasis on the need for physical rather than monetary data. Some uncoordinated data gathering activities relevant to process analysis are examined. Two prototype process databases are described to illustrate ways of approaching process analysis and it is noted that a process database is necessary for the next generation of economic models. Although there is as yet little progress in assembling the organization to coordinate the building of such a database, some strategies for the future are proposed.