Value Stream Mapping (VSM)
Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is adopted from Lean methodology and is a fundamental lean practice that involves diagraming a value stream, which includes all the actions (value-creating and nonvalue-creating) needed to move a product or service from input to output, including the material and information flow. It is a visual tool that displays all critical steps in a specific process and easily quantifies the time and volume taken at each stage. The primary purpose of value stream mapping is to analyze, design, and manage the flow of materials and information required to bring a product to a customer. It helps visualize the flow of work across all processes, identify waste, and provides a common language for discussing the process. Value stream mapping is widely used in lean manufacturing but has been proven effective in any industry. The current-state map enables everyone involved in the value stream to visualize a shared understanding of how each step in the process delivers value to the customer, including the material and information, and identify areas of improvement. The future-state map creates a shared understanding of how the process will work once improvements are made, serving as a roadmap of improvements.
Best Practice Considerations
- Gain perspective on how long you are spending on valuable steps vs. how much time is being wasted
- Identify inefficiencies, bottlenecks, rework, and overhead
- Identify procedures which could be automated
- Highlight where processes cross over and could be integrated
- Engage with process stakeholders and improve communication and awareness
- Align teams which would benefit from working more closely
How do I do one?
- Understand your value-adding activities. These typically fall into three categories: what the customer wants you to do, (in the process flow), the information being used to achieve the desired result, and resolving that issue as quickly as possible and if possible, the first time. Any activity that exists outside of these three criteria could be considered waste.
- Define what your focus is; understanding what you want to achieve by mapping out your process can help you to identify the areas you need to improve first. Your focus may be laid out in your vision and mission statements or strategy, and/or underpinned in KPIs for the process/organization.
- Walk the Process, i.e. map out, from start to finish, every step within a process or workflow; this will allow you to fully understand a process before attempting improvement initiatives.
- Make a note of roughly how long the full process takes to carry out and also how long each individual step takes.
- Include what data inputs are needed for the process as well as the outputs, and this can be used to understand how processes can be integrated and how different teams within the support function can interact.
- Between each procedure, add the number of people, departments, functions etc., needed to complete each step, which steps are performed by technology, and any other relevant information.
Best Practice Summary
Using the VSM model will allow you to see areas of the process where there are bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and steps which require a large number of resources. From here, you can begin to strip down some of the more wasteful elements of the processes in small, iterative improvement cycles, until the process becomes as efficient and effective as possible. (Kaizen principles). Review your processes every year or so to ensure they remain efficient and changes within the organization or infrastructure haven’t made any steps redundant. When mapping out the process, be sure to engage with process stakeholders to fully understand what the process entails and potentially gain another perspective on improvements which could be made. Bottomline, this is an ongoing, dynamic, and cross-functional undertaking in a continuous improvement culture.
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