What Is Value Stream Mapping?

If you’re just getting started implementing lean processes, figuring out where to start can seem overwhelming. It takes a deep level of understanding your current processes, what needs to change, and what you want them to look like in the future — and each of these steps requires time and attention from you to avoid continuous waste of company resources. Your organization will be improved with consistency and reduced inefficiencies once you’ve effectively deployed lean principles.

Value stream mapping plays a key part in deploying lean. Below, you’ll learn what value stream mapping is, how it works, and how to do it correctly. 

What Is Value Stream Mapping?

At its core, value stream mapping (VSM) is a tool you can use to map out how your current processes work by employing specific visualizations. A value stream map is a flowchart that displays both material processing steps and the flow of information through your business in one place. Great value stream maps will also include other relevant details to make them more informative. 

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.

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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