Value Stream Mapping 101

Value stream mapping is considered one of the most powerful visual tools in Lean. Regardless of the type of work you do, they can be an extremely useful part of your work and help eliminate waste, in areas you never knew waste existed.

What is a Value Stream?

A commonly used and basic definition of a value stream is as follows:

All the steps, both value adding and non-value adding required to take a product or service from raw material to the waiting arms of the customer.

What’s a Value Stream Map?

Value Stream MappingThe visual tool is a method for documenting all the activities needed to take a customer from the initial ordering process, to the fulfillment. The map is usually placed within a close proximity to the actual work. This allows workers to have a direct observation of everything needed to happen in order to complete the process and add as necessary.

This mapping of events gives the whole team a visual representation of the entire flow of processes, from beginning to end. Now individuals who usually only have access to their particular act in the process, have a chance to see the whole process and how their actions effect the flow.

A value stream map is considered a dynamic document because it is continually updated as process are improved.

Keep in mind that a value stream map is not a traditional process map. There might be some similarities that would have you think otherwise, but there a major differences. For instances, value stream maps focus on information flow and material flow, whereas most process flows only concentrate on material flow and leave out information flow.

Three Types of Maps

1. Process Level- These maps focus on the material and information flow within a particular cell or production line.

2. Factory Level or “Door to Door”- The material and information flow within the walls of the factory are the focus.

3. Extended or Enterprise Level- The material and information flow of several companies gets highlighted on this map.

Why Value Stream?

  • Visualization: Creates a visual representation of the entire process for the entire team to view, allowing them to see ( some for the first time) the linkage between material and information flow. This not only allows you to see the process as a whole, but also see what both your internal and external customers are experiencing.
  • Spot Waste: When you break down a process in such a meticulous manner, you are able to spot waste like you never have before.
  • Focus and Alignment: There is always a focus on the product, but little on the process. A value stream map puts a focus on the process by bringing together the people that actually do the work, giving them an opportunity to improve and implement new processes.

Value Stream Mapping In Eight Steps

1. Communicate From the Top: The first thing that needs to be done once management has decided to implement a value stream approach is develop a communication plan. Everyone needs to be on the same page. This is done by presenting the need to understand why flow is important to the business needs of the company and how they will be a part of the process.

2. Identify Primary Product Families: Using specific techniques like product routing and product quantity analysis, define your products and families in the process.

3. Create a Current State Value Stream Map: This is what you can see and touch in the current moment. Not what you hope or expect to see. How is your process functioning right now? Get to the Gemba and find out!

4. Create a Future State Value Stream Map: This represents the ideal condition that can be achieved in the next two to three months. This is the goal for what you want the process to look like, creativity is encouraged here.

5. Develop Detailed Action Plans: Without a plan of action, you have nothing. How are you going to get from a current state to a future state? Develop a plan that will get you to your desired state,  leave no detail unattended.

6. Appoint a Value Stream Manager: This leadership role takes a motivated individual who is able to bring the diverse departments together for one goal, for one company. This is a critical role and can not be taken lightly.

7. Communicate Progress Often: Communication is important before, during and after a value stream mapping event. Action plans and maps need to be out and open to create open and honest communication between employees.

8. Map all Value Streams: Repeat previous seven steps for other product families.

While there’s a lot more to each step, this overview provides the basics to a very important Lean technique. A technique that when done right, will provide more value to your customer through a complete evaluation of your creation process by minimizing waste in the design and delivery process.

Additional Resources