For understanding the concept of value stream mapping, we will have to first understand what a “value stream” is. Putting it in simple words, a value stream is an order/series of steps that are carried out to provide the customer’s a product/service of their choice. To make this happen, every company or organization has to devise the plans. These plans are flexible and can be altered as per requirement.
What Value stream mapping do is, it enables us to better understand what these plans are, how the steps can be executed perfectly to make these plans successful, wherein these steps the value is added, where it’s not, and above all, how to improve these steps to improve the collective process. In other words;
“Value stream mapping is a lean manufacturing technique used to document, analyze, and improve the flow of information/materials required to increase the value of the product/service being produced for a customer.”
History of Value Stream Mapping
In the second half of the 20th century, when lean manufacturing methods became popular, Value stream mapping also saw its rise. It was one of the fundamental concepts that helped Toyota Production System a manufacturing sensation. Although all the basic concepts were the same as today, by that time, the term VSM was not present.
Some lean historians believe that value stream mapping was invented by Toyota to analyze the workflow visually. However, its origin can be traced back to Charles E. Koeppel’s book called Installing Efficiency Methods published in 1918, in which he had drawn several diagrams that showed the flow of materials and information.
By the end of the 1990s, the value stream mapping process reached its peak and became part of the lives of many western managers. Soon, its popularity began to outgrow manufacturing and eventually spread into other notable work industries such as IT operations, marketing, software development, and many others.
What is the Purpose of Value Stream Mapping?
The primary purpose of creating a value stream map is to visualize the process and find out all the places where improvements can be made by visualizing, analyzing, and comparing both its value-adding and wasteful steps.
All you have to do is to put on display every important step of your workflow, provide all details about it, and evaluate if/how it brings value to your customer. This does not only provide you with all the extra steps that wasted your time/energy but also allow you to analyze your process in-depth and decide where you can begin to improve the way you work.
Benefits of Value Stream Mapping
Many lean experts see value stream mapping as the fundamental tool to identify and eliminate waste, reduce process cycle times, and pave way for process improvement.
- The value stream map is easy and quick to learn and can be applied to find bottlenecks.
- Since it is a group exercise, it involves your workforce and can be included in your lean improvement program
- Once you have completed a value stream map, it can be used as an improvement aide or a standard to document transitions to the future value stream maps.
- It is very cost-effective. All you need to have is Edraw and basic knowledge of using it. It is to drag and drop the shapes in value stream shape libraries.
- Since it is flexible, VSM can be easily critiqued, and altered for improvement by your workforce. It helps to highlight problems that exist within the process
- It is no more a manufacturing technique! Value stream mapping has been successfully implemented upon in offices, service industries, IT & healthcare, etc.
- It’s easy to understand and practice. With a little training on VSM icons, anyone can grip its concepts and easily understand the maps that convey powerful processes in a simple pictorial fashion.
Symbols of Value Stream Mapping
Value stream mapping uses a set of unique symbols to visualize a process. To understand and implement value stream mapping, one must first remember all of these symbols.
Process. A process in VSM is represented with a rectangle with the word “Process” on top of it. Usually, a process box will represent all the collective processes of an entire department to make the value stream map more accurate and readable.
Inventory. All type of exchange of inventory during a manufacturing process is represented by a triangle with an “I” inside.
Shipment. There are three main representations for shipments
A shipment of raw materials from the supplier is represented with blank wide arrows.
A shipment of materials moving from one step in the process to another is marked with a black arrow with three white boxes inside.
A shipment made using external suppliers is represented with a truck. This truck may also represent another vehicle such as a boat/train where applicable.
Supplier and Customer. Suppliers and customers share the same symbol that looks like an abstract, geometric representation of a factory. A supplier usually comes at the beginning of a process and so is found to the left of the value stream, while a customer often comes at the last step, so it marks the far right of the value stream map.
Electronic flow. Any type of electronic information/data exchange is presented by a line with a zig-zag in the middle. Although a lot of value stream mapping practitioners focus on raw materials and finished products, electronic exchanges should also be examined thoroughly because they can be potential roots of delays and wastes too.
Kaizen burst. A Kaizen burst, or commonly known as a Kaizen blitz, refers to a short burst of activity that solves an issue with urgency and intensity. It’s represented with what looks like a cartoon explosion.
Go see. A go see means something has to be confirmed after observing it visually during the process and is represented by a pair of glasses.
Quality. Quality has a major role in value stream maps. A quality issue anywhere along the manufacturing process can be marked with an octagon with the letter Q inside, like a STOP sign.
The Challenges you might face while Value Stream Mapping
If you do not follow its necessary steps, and not be careful enough, Value stream mapping can also be wasteful activity in itself. However, this can be avoided by understanding the following points very well:
- The level of effort to conduct value stream mapping should be compared and balanced with the potential value and savings. For that purpose, you will have to keep an eye on the return on investment from the very start.
- Since the value stream mapping process could be complex and vastly cross-functional if you do not hire experienced people from the business side and product side in conducting value stream mapping, it would end up in a great mess.
- The intense process of identifying delays and wastes is often accompanied by the common symptoms of fear and uncertainty. Make up your mind from the beginning accordingly.
- Baby steps are often a great way, to begin with. Although, improving a step here and a step there may not directly translate a bottom-line improvement and will surely rake in savings for sure. More clear results will be obtained once a full walkthrough is completed.
How is VSM Used in Different Fields?
Manufacturing: The manufacturing industry was perhaps the first one to implement the VSM method for finding wastes in the production process by analyzing all the steps of material and information flow. Since the start of lean methodology in the 1950s at Toyota, lean methods and value stream mapping have proved to be the key to manufacturing excellence throughout the world.
Supply chain and logistics: VSM is used in the logistics industry to root out waste and costly delays at the various points on the supply chain leading to finished products.
Software engineering/development: From ideas to their implementation, VSM is a vital tool to find out inefficiencies in software development, including feedback loops, revisions, and rework. There have been discussions on the value of VSM in an agile development environment, however, many users found it helpful in gaining efficiencies, reducing the wait time between steps, and eventually reducing the need for rework.
Service industries: VSM is employed in the services sector to improve the added value and find waste in the activities that will require to carry out service for external customers.
Healthcare: By using VSM tools, healthcare professionals can improve the steps required to treat patients in the most effective, high-quality, timely, and cost-efficient way possible.
Office and administrative: To find wasteful steps, potential delays, and improve the timing and quality of service provided within a business to internal customers, VSM can be used.
How to Create a Value Stream Map?
1. Decide the problem you are solving for
It is the first step of value stream mapping to decide and determine the very problem you are mapping for. What is it that bothers you from the customer’s standpoint? Find out and publish the complete problem statement and get everyone on the same page.
2. Empower the right team
Select an experienced, mature, and skillful team and empower them. They should be equipped with all the knowledge and techniques to skillfully address a given problem in a timely fashion. The C-suite should make sure that enough budget is set aside to ensure that the execution of Value Stream Mapping is uninterrupted.
3. Bound the process
Once you have published the problem statement, it is time to limit the scope of your value stream mapping accordingly. You may or may not need to map the entire process, and rather focus on a particular area instead.
4. Map the process
The bounded process should then be reviewed thoroughly. Since firsthand experience cannot be substituted by possibly biased narratives and inaccurate documentation, it can make a great deal of difference.
5. Define the steps
It is advised to conduct a value stream mapping analysis multiple times. This may sound redundant, but you will find several missing pieces in the second time that were not extracted for the first time. Likewise, when investigated further, the skeletons will fell out of the closet during the final times.
5. Collect process data
For the sake of conducting a successful value stream mapping, you should note the process data in the data boxes of the map. Process data may include the number of people involved, cycle time, the average number of working hours, wait time, uptime, downtime, and more.
6. Create a timeline
We are doing it all for the time. So, an active timeline must be created and updated with progress mapping out process times and lead times.
7. Assess your current map
Being inquisitive is the key. Regardless of the flow of information, always look for stagnation and drag in the flow. There may be process steps that you value a lot but they fail to mean much to the customers.
8. Design the future map
You may not be able to nail a full and final version, and it is natural. Make sure your new map aligns with the company’s vision. Also, everything is meant to be changed. Based on customer needs, make continuous alterations to the maps.
9. Implement the future map
Follow old value stream maps for the future VSM and ensuring that it makes better sense for the customers. The problem statement that you stated at the beginning of the map should be solved by now. Learn from the trends and make sure that all efforts are rowing in the direction of customers.
Recommended Books for learning more about VSM:
1. Value Stream Mapping: How to Visualize Work and Align Leadership for Organizational Transformation, by Karen Martin and Mike Osterling.
I found this book very useful for VSM professionals. In Value Stream Mapping, Karen and Mike not only provide a comprehensive how-to book for transforming value streams, but they also demonstrate the benefits that taking a general view can have on an organization’s culture, professional’s training, and commitment to customer value. There is something to learn for the novice and expert on every page. You can check out this book on Amazon.
2. New Lean Toolbox: Towards Fast Flexible Flow, by John Bicheno
I found this a detailed, well-sorted, and useful reference book. It helped me consolidate and extend my knowledge and increase my expertise. Fairly detailed descriptions of all major Lean topics are given, wastes, principles, and continuous improvement. It also covers where Lean came from, Lean accounting and measures, lean transformation approaches, and new product development. You can check out this book on Amazon.
3. Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate Muda, by Mike Rother and John Shook
I will highly recommend this book for all beginners who want to learn VSM. Excellent book for comprehension of not only what the workflow processes are, but also explains in details the waste in the process. Helped for working towards the lean six sigma approach in the workplace. You can check out this book on Amazon.
In Lean Manufacturing Methodology, Value stream mapping is a tool of great value & importance for achieving continuous improvement of any type of work. The main benefits of value stream mapping are:
- It allows you to visualize and bound your process
- It helps you optimize the way you deliver value to your customers
- It helps you identify the process steps with the greatest significance