What Is Value Stream Mapping?

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

Value Stream Mapping can help businesses identify and eliminate these costly problems before they even become a problem. By mapping out all the steps involved in a process, businesses can quickly and easily identify any waste or redundancy present.

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.

Benefits of Lean Value Stream Mapping for Businesses

Creating a good map takes effort as well as time, so why do people do it? Lean value stream mapping is popular because it results in a continuous increase in workplace efficiency. 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 involves putting in some work upfront to significantly streamline your business’s activities and consistently save time and effort down the road.

Value stream mapping can help in various fields,  including:

1. Manufacturing

With a value stream map of your manufacturing process, you can identify where waste is created 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.

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. 

How To Perform Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping can look confusing, but it will become clear in time what each part means if you’re trained in how to read it. Here’s how you can start performing VSM within your company or a specific department. 

1. Choose Your Value Stream Mapping Team

If the value stream mapping is for your entire company, you need to include stakeholders from every department. Try to put together a team of about ten people to ensure you have a variety of perspectives without creating an unmanageable team.

2. Schedule Your Kaizen Event

Lean kaizen events are three-day events during which you:

  • Day one: Explain VSM, 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. To develop this flowchart, you’ll need to talk to the people who perform the tasks. Take your team to speak to the people on the ground and walk through each step of the process to gather information and spot inefficiencies. 

Make 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

Learn More About Lean Value Stream Mapping

Properly performing lean value stream mapping is a great way to accomplish continuous improvement within your business. 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.

Want to learn more? Schedule a consultation.

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