Value Stream Mapping examples

Value stream mapping (or VSM) is usually considered a manufacturing tool, but it’s incredibly helpful for organizations to improve their customer service. Maybe you’ve heard value stream mapping is a great tool, but you’ve never used it.

So what is value stream mapping? Value stream mapping is a Lean manufacturing technique that lets you visualize and analyze all the steps in a process.

You can think of its use this way. Unless you understand the flow of materials and information in your business, you can’t make improvements that really matter. We’ll look at some value stream mapping examples to understand how it works.

Generally speaking, if you identify the flow of information and materials, you can improve your customer experience by eliminating waste. Usually, VSM could be part of a process improvement initiative spearheaded by senior management to increase efficiency.

You have to create a detailed breakdown of where each step of the process goes and analyze how it affects the customer. By doing this, value stream mapping can help you find waste and areas where you can improve. It can then result in leaner, more efficient processes and a better future state for products and services.

Brief History of VSM

Toyota introduced value stream mapping in the early 1990s as part of its lean manufacturing initiative. The goal was to reduce waste and improve quality by streamlining materials and information. 

Toyota used this process to analyze its car production and identify areas it could improve its customer service. A detailed plan for each step of production was created, along with an analysis of how each step impacts the customer experience. Toyota was able to streamline its processes as a result and create more efficient ones.

Since then, value stream mapping has been widely used to improve production processes in various industries.

Why is value stream mapping important?

There is often a disconnect between those who design products and those who produce them. This can lead to inefficiencies and waste. Value stream mapping has become a powerful tool for analyzing and improving complex work systems.

Can any size or type of organization use value stream mapping?

Organizations of all sizes and types can benefit from value stream mapping. It can be used to improve current processes or design new ones. In addition, organizations can improve efficiency and effectiveness by identifying all steps of a process and understanding their relationship.

There is a value stream whenever there is a demand for a product or a service.

There are usually one or more customer-facing value streams and many internal support value streams. Within each type of value stream, there may be a variety of activities or tasks that need to be completed in order to deliver the desired output. All of these activities are identified and tracked to streamline the process as part of value stream mapping.

Benefits of VSM

  • Helps organizations to transition from internally focused thinking to customer-focused thinking.
  • Creates systems thinking and achieves functional alignment that aids in the delivery of value to the customer.
  • Increase transparency of the process by visualizing different stages, including non-visual work. 
  • Shows the connection between the information flow and the material flow.
  • Improve communication between different departments.
  • Simplify complex work systems that can aid in better strategic improvement decisions.
  • Identify the hidden sources of waste.
  • Reduce waste and improve efficiency.

Types of waste

Value stream mapping is all about finding “waste” and getting rid of it. Waste is anything that does not add value to the product or service being delivered to the customer. There are eight types of waste, commonly called DOWNTIME.

  1. Defects: Whenever a product or service does not meet the customer’s needs, it is considered a defect. This can result in customer dissatisfaction and product returns.
  2. Overproduction: When a product or service is produced more than what is needed by the customer. It builds up inventory and increases costs.
  3. Waiting: This is when materials or information are awaiting processing. This can cause delays and increase costs.
  4. Non utilized talent: Employees lack the opportunities to use their skills and abilities to optimize the output. It can happen for a variety of reasons, including inadequate training or a lack of an agile workforce.
  5. Transportation: Materials or information are moved unnecessarily. This can cause damage and increase costs.
  6. Inventory: It’s when there’s more inventory than you need. That leads to higher storage costs and obsolescence.
  7. Motion: It’s when people move more than they need to. It can cause fatigue and injuries.
  8. Extra Processing: More work or higher quality that does not add value in the eyes of the customer. This can cause defects and delays.
8 types of Waste
The 8 Types of waste of Lean Manufacturing (Designed with Visme)

Supporting techniques

Value stream mapping is often used in Lean environments to analyze design flows with supporting methods. Examples include process mapping, process analysis, and spaghetti diagrams.  

Process mapping helps visualize and document the steps in a process. It is often used in conjunction with value stream mapping to identify bottlenecks and waste areas.

Process analysis identifies opportunities for process improvement by examining a process. It is often used with value stream mapping. 

Spaghetti diagrams illustrate the flow of materials or information through a process. They are frequently used to visualize and document a material flow or information flow.

How VSM is implemented?

A value stream map can be used to create a high-level overview of a process to drill down into specific areas to identify potential improvements. It can improve quality, reduce lead times, and increase customer satisfaction when properly applied.

There are a few things to remember when creating a value stream map:

  1.  Value stream mapping is a visual representation of the process, so be sure to use clear and concise symbols and notation.
  2. The map should include all the steps in the process, from start to finish.
  3. It should show all the input and output materials and information for each step in the process.
  4. It should be designed so that it’s easy to update as the process changes.
  5. It should be used for continuous improvement to find bottlenecks and areas of waste.

Let’s walk through a values stream mapping example in detail.

Value stream mapping examples

Step by step value stream mapping examples

1. Put together a team

The first step in creating a Value Stream Map is to put together a cross-functional team that includes all stakeholders in the production process. That way, everyone has a shared understanding of the current state and the desired future state of the process.

2. Select a product or product family

As the first step, identify the product family for which the value stream map is to be created. It refers to a group of products or services that go through the same or similar process steps. 

3. Collect data

The next step involves collecting data and creating the current state map. It is typically accomplished by conducting a ‘walk the floor’ activity, where the team visits each step of the process and interviews the process owners.

4. Map the current state

Now the team has all the information to map the current process steps, which can be done using a simple process flow diagram. Once all the steps are laid out, it is necessary to determine the flow of information or materials between the steps.

5. Identify waste

The next step is to determine which steps add value to customers, and which ones are not. By doing so you can identify waste, bottlenecks, and opportunities for improvement in the process.

6. Map the future state

Once the team understands the current state, the next step is to map out the desired future state. Throughout the process, maximizing efficiency, reducing waste, and minimizing non-value-added activities are all considered. 

7. Implement the action plan

At this stage, all is set to develop an action plan. There should be a timeline, responsible parties, and measurable goals outlined in the plan. Then you are ready for the implementation. Changing the process, training employees, and monitoring the results are all part of this.

8. Measure progress

The final step is to evaluate the results. We can determine if the changes had the desired impact by assessing the changes made. It may also assist in identifying any new problems resulting from the changes.

Shortcomings of VSM

Value stream mapping can be a powerful tool, but it has limitations. The major criticism of value stream mapping is that it can be time-consuming and expensive to implement. Additionally, it can be difficult to accurately record all the data about a process. 

Another criticism of value stream mapping is the difficulty of changing a process once it has been mapped out. It is because value stream maps are often created using software that is not designed for easily accommodating changes. 

Last but not least, value stream mapping can create a sense of rigidity in a process. Employees may feel like they have to stick to the map, even if it is not the most efficient way to do things.

Despite these criticisms, value stream mapping remains a valuable tool that can help organizations improve communication, increase transparency, and identify areas of improvement.  If done correctly, value stream mapping can improve efficiency and effectiveness for organizations and support the implementation of other lean tools such as 5S and Kanban.

Disela Dassanayake
Disela Dassanayake
Disela is a business analyst with a passion for researching and sharing information on technical topics. He has over 15 years of industry experience in multiple domains, including industrial engineering and information technology. He has a master's degree in Engineering Management from the University of Alberta and a master's degree in Computer Information Systems from Boston University. He currently holds multiple professional designations, including PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA and ITIL.

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