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.  

What makes the VSM unique is that it shows the flow of all the high-level steps, what it is done, not how. This map allows us to see the entire value stream, how it works, and how value is delivered to the customer. The customer is front and center while drawing the value stream, providing a clear line of sight to the external customer.

The first two steps for Strategic Planning are to establish the Vision after assessing the current state and develop breakthrough objectives.  With the Value Steam Map, we easily see those areas where the flow stops, making it an effective instrument to understand the current environment. The improvement opportunities are the non-value-added steps, and those points the flow stop.  The future state map deploys the opportunities for improvement identified in the current-state map to achieve a higher level of performance.  This high-level of performance would be part of the strategic plan breakthrough objectives. 

A detailed explanation of how to create a VSM is beyond my scope but this how it looks.  A VSM has three parts, the information flow, the product flow, and the timeline.  

Value Stream Map Example

Before drawing the current state, it is important to go to gemba, where the action happens, to observe the processes and gathered information.  VSM uses a set of symbols or icons to represent a process, inventory, outside sources, transportation, information, and others.  The customer data box is the first thing you draw while doing value stream mapping, and it contains the daily requirements.  It also shows how the information flows from the customer to your facility, using different types of arrows for manual or electronic information. The sequenced process boxes represent product flow, and the data boxes under each contain relevant metrics, like the number of staff, process time, and lead time.  Between processes, you can add any work in process inventory.  Under them, it 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.

Once completed, this 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.  Those are future kaizen or continuous improvement events.  

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.  These events are the part that says how to achieve the desired results.  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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