What is a value stream map?

The value stream is all the steps required to bring a product or service from order to delivery.  A value stream map (VSM) represents the flow of materials and information through that path.  This type of process map is a storyboard of how the work moves from request to receipt.  It represents a great tool to understand the current condition or state and identify improvement opportunities.  The goal is to identify and eliminate waste within and between processes.  

Characteristics of a value stream map

What makes the VSM unique is that it shows the flow of all the high-level steps depicting what it is done without showing how. The customer is front and center while drawing the value stream. This map provides a clear line of sight to the external customer and facilitates to see how each step affects the client. For instance, it allows us to see from the moment the product or service is requested to the point value is delivered.

Strategic Planning and the Value Stream Map

The first two steps for Strategic Planning are to establish the Vision and develop breakthrough objectives.  The first step is to assess the current state. The Value Steam Map facilitates to visualize where the flow stops. Therefore, it is an effective instrument to understand the current environment.

The improvement opportunities are the non-value-added steps and those points where the flow stop.  The future state map deploys the opportunities for improvement identified before achieving a higher level of performance.  This high level of performance would be part of the strategic plan breakthrough objectives. 

How to draw the map

The picture below shows how the VSM looks. It has three parts, the information flow on the top, the product flow, and the timeline on the bottom. The map uses symbols or icons to represent a process, inventory locations, transportation, information, and others.

Value Stream Map Example

The customer data box is the first thing you draw while doing value stream mapping. This box contains the daily requirements. It also shows how the information flows from the customer to your facility, using different arrow types for manual or electronic data.

The sequenced process boxes represent product flow, and the data boxes under each contain relevant metrics. For example, frequent metrics are the number of staff, process time, and lead time. Between processes, you can add the work in process inventory. Under the process section goes the timeline, which shows the lead time and the processing time. Also, you can highlight non-value-added activities to make sure that you see them as improvement opportunities.

The value stream map speaks to you

You will see where the flow stops, where you have more inventory, or more delays.  In the future state map, you will highlight those opportunities identifying them with the kaizen burst symbol.  Each of them represents future kaizen or continuous improvement event.  

To improve flow, you will remove or minimize handoffs, rework, work in process, motion, transportation, batches, and other sources of waste.  You can also implement standardization, balance work, and improve quality.  

The last step of the VSM process is to create an improvement plan. Tie each item, long-term and short-term, to an objective of your improvement strategy.  During the implementation of the strategic plan, continuous improvement events will lead the way.  The frequency of doing VSM can go anywhere from three to six months to a year.  Shorter times are better to drive action.

Value stream mapping is an excellent tool to analyze the current state of a value stream, which is the sequence of steps from request to delivery and design of the future state.  VSM is a strategic tool, while process mapping is a tactical tool.  Are you ready to work on your new strategy?

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