Planning the value-stream map event

Planning the value stream map event is critical for success, do not take shortcuts.

Lack of visibility and clarity are common mistakes while planning all kinds of events.  Most of the time, the reason is not enough time spent on planning.  Given that it is a strategic tool, planning the value stream map event is crucial for success.  For that reason, you should ensure to complete this step without shortcuts.  This is the second post from a series dedicated to VSM.

Aim to provide clarity while planning the value stream mapping event

Ensure clarity about what is the subject by stating the scope of the event.  Describe what triggers the process, where it starts, and where it finishes.  Also, think about regulations, policies, or critical procedures that cannot change.  Those are the limitations or boundaries that cannot be crossed or change during the exercise.  In addition, indicate the specific conditions for the process map.  Does the map is for one product or service or a family of products or services?  Are you mapping the process for new customers or existing customers?

Based on the objective of the event and the process itself, determine how you will measure success. What metrics will you use to measure progress?  Learn the process’s actual and forecasted volumes.  Furthermore, the types of tasks manual or automatics, machines, or technology used.  That information supports the mapping discussion where capacity, inventory volumes, and staff are conversation points.  Besides, you should gather relevant data to accelerate those conversations.

The VSM team for the event

During planning, you also choose your mapping team.  The team should be a multi-disciplinary group representing all the functions along the value stream.  Because the VSM is a high-level map for strategic purposes, team members are managers and above.  In other words, people who have the authority to approve changes, assign resources and change current strategies.  To facilitate effectiveness, limit the number of team members to 5-10 people.

The focus of the preparation stage is to get clarity and information.  However, that is not the only objective.  Like with any kaizen event, you need to communicate its purpose.  Gaining support from leadership before the event starts is convenient for success.  For that reason, ensure that all leaders know what you want to accomplish and why.

The facilitator must ensure that all team members have a basic understanding of value stream mapping. Also, they need to know the basics of lean manufacturing principles.  For instance, knowing what waste is, is critical to achieving the mapping objective.  If there is a knowledge gap, then it should be closed before the event.

There is more regarding the planning the value stream map event

Another activity for this stage is to determine who is the owner or champion of the value stream.  That is the person accountable for the performance of the value stream that is the subject of the mapping activity.

Other planning actions are choosing the date(s) of the event and location.  For instance, to ensure that all necessary equipment and materials are available.  In addition, to coordinate break times and snacks or lunch. 

Once the plan is complete, it is time to share it with the event sponsor and the champion.  If all agree, the next step is the event itself.  In part 3 of this series, we will address the first step of the value stream mapping event, draw, and understand the current state.

How do you identify all the steps in the value stream?

Drawing a value stream map enables the process of identifying the steps in the value stream.

The value stream is all the steps required to bring a product or service from order to delivery.  The first lean principle is to define value from the customer’s point of view.  The second is to identify all the steps in the value stream and eliminate waste.  How do you determine those steps?

Identifying the steps in the value stream

A value stream map (VSM) represents the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service from order to delivery.  You identify value-add activities using the customer’s lenses as a reference.  This visual representation helps to accomplish the goal of eliminating waste within and between processes.  

The first step is to determine the scope and form the team to draw the map.  You need to decide the boundaries of the VSM event to be clear about what process you will be working on.  A process can start with the suppliers or the customer’s request.  Similarly, it can end with the end of the process at the site or the delivery to the customer.

In general, during the VSM event the team will complete the following steps.

  1. Determine the process family.
  2. Draw the current state map.
  3. Determine and draw the future state map.
  4. Draft a plan to arrive at the future state.

Benefits of the value stream map

Drawing a VSM enables a high-level view of the process, which uncovers where the stream stops.  Many times this map is the first time that people see the entire process from start to finish.  Therefore, it brings clarity to what happens between departments and the challenges associated.  For instance, it helps to see the materials flow and the information management as well.

The conversation around the drawing activity promotes discussions regarding efficiency, resources, and individual processes themselves.  The depiction of the process crosses departmental lines, which breaks silo thinking.  As a result, teamwork and collaboration drive the brainstorming process seeking improvement ideas.  Furthermore, it conveys the flow of action plans to execute those ideas.  

Another word about identifying the steps

Drawing the map is not the objective or the most meaningful thing of the VSM.  What matters is the thinking process to identify the process steps and identify the value of each one.  Moreover, the conversations around the subject, the collaboration within departments, and the clarity to see the opportunities for improvements.

In the next post, I will write more about the steps to draw the value stream map.

Lean thinking, what is it?

Lean thinking

I mentioned the phrase, lean thinking pretty often.  As I indicated before, the term was coined by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones.  It is used to describe the process of making business decisions based on Lean Principles.  

What are the principles of lean?

  1. Customer Value 
  2. Identify all the steps in the value stream and eliminate waste.
  3. Make the value-add steps flow.
  4. Let customers pull value from the next upstream activity.
  5. Continuous Improvement 

The foundation of lean thinking

This list of principles is the foundation of the Lean system.  It is a collection of thoughts, behaviors, or propositions that guide what we had known as Lean Thinking.  

All effort directed to improve a process starts with identifying value from the customer lenses.  The continuous improvement goal is to deliver the Customer the highest product or service quality, at the lowest possible cost, in the shortest lead time.  Consequently, the focus of all our decisions is quality, cost, delivery, and people.  In other words, the focus is on those things that the customer value.

Process Improvement and the customer

If the focus is on customer value, then it is logical that the next step is to identify the value stream. That is to say, to identify all the steps from request to delivery and eliminate waste.  Waste is defined as those steps that do not add value.

The third principle is to make the value-add steps flow.  Eliminating delays, waiting time, and other sources of waste, the flow improves.  Therefore, the total process time would be shorter. Once this happens, let them pull value from the next upstream step.  That is to say, that your clients will indicate when they need more inventory.  Continuous improvement is the repetition of the first four principles.  Once you improve one process, standardize, train, and start improving again.

Lean thinking vs. traditional thinking

It is necessary to put aside old behaviors and ways to change the culture by embracing continuous improvement thinking.  To make decisions based on customer value and flow is not what you learned in business school.  Give your team the power to change things is not common either.

The table below presents various examples of each thinking type, side by side.  You will recognize some principles and behaviors that I mentioned in previous posts.  For example, to empower the team to improve their workplace versus bringing external resources.

Lean thinking vs traditional thinking

It takes time to get used to this type of thinking.  However, practice lean thinking every day, everywhere, by everybody is worth it.  Above all, your customers will notice the difference, and your business bottom-line will be better.