What Is Value Stream Mapping?

In today’s competitive business world, companies constantly look for ways to reduce waste and redundancies in their processes as they strive for continuous improvement.

Value stream mapping can help businesses identify and eliminate redundancies and other risks before problems even arise. By mapping out all the steps involved in a process and identifying how each stem contributes to the value stream, businesses can quickly and easily identify bottlenecks and time-wasters and find ways to improve.

Once these problems have been identified, it is easier to work out a solution that will not only save costs but also improve the quality of the final product or service.

This information can then be used to improve efficiency and reduce the need for human input, thereby reducing logistical costs and eliminating potential opportunities for error.

What Is Value Stream Mapping?

A value stream map, also known as a flowchart, is a visual diagram illustrating the sequence of activities in a manufacturing or service operation.
It is a methodology that aids in identifying and tracing the steps involved in obtaining a product from inception to customer delivery. It is widely used in manufacturing and service organizations.

Value stream mapping involves the process of value stream management, which gives business leaders a better understanding of how their organization’s products are created, processed, and delivered to customers. This knowledge can help them identify opportunities for waste and Improve efficiency by cutting out steps that don’t add value to the end product.

History of Value Stream Mapping

The value stream mapping process was first developed in the Toyota Production System in the 1960s and has since been used by many other organizations to improve efficiency and quality.

When Toyota began producing automobiles in the early 1900s, manufacturing a car was very time-consuming and expensive. Due to this, Toyota believed that removing non-essential activities from their production process would make their vehicles more efficient and cost-effective. Toyota initiated a value stream mapping initiative in the late 1950s. This initiative aimed to help improve coordination throughout their production system by tracking all aspects of the product life cycle. This process mapping allowed Toyota to anticipate better demand for their products, which improved customer satisfaction ratings.

Later on, this process was associated with Lean, and Six Sigma was adopted by many businesses to improve efficiency and decrease cycle time.

What Is Value Stream Mapping in Lean Management? 

Developed from lean manufacturing, value stream mapping is a tool that allows a business to see each component of its supply chain. This allows the business to understand every step involved in product delivery to streamline the process where necessary. 

Value stream maps help businesses see where there may be inefficiencies and redundancies in their information flow and change these processes for optimum service delivery. 

Why Create a Value Stream Map?

Creating a good map takes effort as well as time, so why do people do it? For one, these visual tools aid in continuous improvement. By optimizing business processes, you can consistently offer better service to your customers, which enables you to stand out among the competition and solidify your reputation as a trusted provider. The purpose of lean value stream mapping is threefold:

  • To understand where your business currently stands regarding its processes and information flow
  • To spot waste in the form of problems and inefficiencies and create a plan to fix them
  • To build a vision of the future that your company can pursue by following key steps

When it’s done well, lean value stream mapping lets you significantly streamline your business processes to save time and effort down the road without compromising customer service. Value stream mapping can help in various fields, including the following. 

1. Manufacturing

With a value stream map of your manufacturing process, you can begin identifying waste and work to reduce or eliminate it. Additionally, you will be able to monitor the flow of materials and products through your factory, which will help determine where improvements can be made. Implementing process mapping into your manufacturing process can create a more efficient and effective production line. Lean value stream mapping can also help you develop strategies to withstand supply chain disruptions.

2. Service Operations

Service operations benefit from value stream mapping in several ways. By understanding the flow of customer calls and responses, you can identify areas that require improvement. In addition, you can see where efficiencies could be achieved by tracking the resources used in delivering services. This way, you can ensure that the right resources are used to deliver optimal customer service.

3. Software Development

In software development, value stream mapping can provide critical insights into managing and coordinating projects. By tracing the steps involved in developing a new product or application system, you can track down dates and details that may have been missed during the planning phase. Process mapping also helps visualize dependencies between different parts of an application system so that changes to one area don’t impact other parts unpredictably. With this information, developers can plan their work more effectively and build reliable systems.

Value stream mapping is a comprehensive and time-consuming process, but with the help of a professional consultant, it doesn’t have to be.  An Incito value stream map consultant can walk you through the entire mapping process, from gathering data to identifying problem areas to improve your business efficiency.

Examples of VSM

The original lean value stream mapping process emerged from Toyota’s material and information flowcharts. These diagrams demonstrated the company’s plans for how its various processes would work in a clear, easy-to-understand way. 

In the time since these diagrams have been refined. The image below demonstrates what a modern VSM chart might look like, including issues such as the time it takes to accomplish a process, the time between each process, and how information flows through the department. 

What Are the 4 Steps of Value Stream Mapping? 

You can create value stream maps for any process within your business by following these steps.

1. Identify What You Want to Map

Start by identifying which of your processes you want to improve with value stream mapping. Use this to identify the start and end points of your process and develop your map by filling in all the spaces in between. 

You may choose to evaluate only part of a process or department instead of a whole process. For example, if the amount of time it takes to deliver your products is increasing, you may want to evaluate your shipping and delivery process. 

2. Map Your Current Process

Convene a group of stakeholders who manage each part of the process you’re mapping. Include people at all levels to produce an accurate visual tool that illustrates the process in detail. You may choose to look at material flow, information flow, production flow, or other process improvements.

3. Analyze Your Current Value Stream

Once you have your process completely mapped, identify value-adding activities at each step. For example, if you’re mapping your sales and marketing process, each step of the value stream potentially benefits the company. 

Your marketing team may run a lead-generating campaign that brings potential customers into the funnel, and the sales team may use these leads to generate sales. In this example, the sales process would offer more value, because customers who make it to this step of the process are more interested in making a purchase. 

Discuss which parts of your existing process contribute to the value stream and eliminate those that offer no value.

4. Create a Future Value Stream Map 

After you’ve gone through your processes to determine which activities add value to your company, you can start creating your future map. Identify potential bottlenecks and other parts of the process that result in waste, including excess inventory and other post-process waste. 

Find parts of the process that could be consolidated for greater efficiency. Use the results to develop a future value stream map with a leaner process. Showcase how you’ll reduce your lead time and identify other performance indicators to measure success. 

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How To Perform Value Stream Mapping

How do you put these steps into practice? Value stream mapping can look confusing, but it gets easier once you get into the process. Here’s how you can start performing value stream mapping within your company or a specific department. 

1. Choose Your Value Stream Mapping Team

If the waste value stream mapping is for your entire company and your inventory, you need to include stakeholders from every department. Identify an organized person with experience in project management to lead the team. Try to put together a team of about ten people to ensure you have a variety of perspectives without creating an unmanageable team. Choose representatives from each level who are involved with the processes you’re using for your value stream maps.

2. Schedule Your Kaizen Event

Lean kaizen events are three-day project management events in the value stream mapping process during which you:

  • Day one: Explain value stream mapping, put together process families, and gather information about your current continuous processes.
  • Day two: Draw a current state map and train your team in lean concepts if necessary. 
  • Day three: Create a future state map and draft a plan for how you’ll reach that future state.

Ideally, you should have at least one person on hand who’s experienced with lean value stream mapping to guide the process. Incito’s expert Value Stream Mapping consultants can help guide your team through the process, whether in person or virtually.

3. Determine Your Process Families

A process family is a collection of processes that use the same resources or involve similar steps. You’ll need to develop process families for every department or area in your business.

To find your process families, create a matrix or spreadsheet. Along the top, name every process involved in a specific department. Along the side, list the product your company uses in its processes. Place a mark in the boxes where a process intersects with a product it requires. The methods with a substantially similar collection of marks are part of a process family. 

4. Choose Where to Focus First

In one three-day kaizen, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to refine every process family in your business. You can choose which families to focus on by asking questions such as:

  • Which steps take up most of your company’s time and resources?
  • Which steps matter most to customers?
  • Where do you think you could make the largest difference?
  • Where do you think you have the most significant likelihood of succeeding?

Pick one process family to focus on for the remainder of the kaizen based on how you answer these questions. 

5. Create a Current State Map

A current state map is a flowchart explaining how a process or family of processes works and how it contributes to your value stream. Current state mapping begins with learning from the people who perform each task. Take your team to speak to the people on the ground and walk through each step of the process or production flow to gather information and spot inefficiencies. Take notes on lead time and other important parts of the process. 

Improve your value stream mapping efforts by making sure you learn about the product, how inventory is stored, and what actually takes place during the process. Once you’ve gathered data, you can put together a flowchart that shows how the company accomplishes tasks and creates products or services right now. Incito value stream mapping workshops can help you learn how to structure these maps most effectively.

6. Create a Future State Map

This map will explain how the steps to perform a process will look in the future. Your future state map should include the time it takes to move a product through each step in a process and how it resolves issues like bottlenecks or waste. It should also clarify who’s involved in each step. Most importantly, it should include a clear, easy-to-read key so people who weren’t involved in the development process can understand it. That way, you can ensure the continuous quality of your product.

7. Draft Your Initial Plan

Now you need to draft your initial plan explaining how you’ll move from your current state into that future state. This plan won’t be your final one, but it will be a good start. 

To save time and make refining the plan later easier, include details like:

  • What changes you’ll make
  • How those changes could be accomplished
  • A schedule for how you’ll proceed through the plan
  • Potential team members
  • A cost estimate
  • The projected impact of the changes

Is Value Stream Mapping a Lean Tool or Six Sigma? 

Value stream mapping is a lean management technique that is similar to Six Sigma in that they both aim to make your business and project management more efficient. Value stream mapping is a visual tool for evaluating material and information flow to identify inefficiencies and reduce waste.

A value stream map allows you to offer consistent, high-quality service to your customers by delivering products or services faster without sacrificing quality. 

Six Sigma helps you make your processes more consistent by reducing defects and variations. You can use value stream maps to evaluate your product life cycle, from raw material to delivery. Six Sigma is more useful when you’re examining specific processes. It’s not a tool for eliminating waste.

Learn More About Lean Value Stream Mapping

Properly performing lean value stream mapping is a great way to accomplish continuous improvement within your business, eliminating waste and improving your efficiency. However, it requires a clear understanding of how the process works to implement it correctly. Work with Incito to bring in qualified consultants to train your leadership team on how to get started with value stream mapping, which will make your business more efficient and help you consistently produce the best product and effectively manage your inventory.

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