As a continuation of our look at key concepts in lean manufacturing, this article is going to explain value stream mapping.
Value stream mapping is an important part of attaining the general lean goal of reducing waste in manufacturing (or in any workplace).
Before you begin reading about value stream mapping, know that we've included a free lean manufacturing infographic you can download at the bottom of this article, too!
You might also want to check out our lean manufacturing training courses.
At its root, value stream mapping is a tool used in lean manufacturing to reduce waste (and therefore increase efficiency and value production). And that's important because, as you may remember, lean manufacturing is all about reducing waste and increasing value.
A value stream map is a flow chart that you can use to better understand and analyze how your company currently delivers your product or service and then improve that process.
Value stream mapping begins with an analysis of your current state. You then identify areas of waste in your current state, and you use the exercise as a way to refine your processes.
To create your value stream maps (representing both the current state and your future, ideal state) you create a diagram or schematic that represents all the different flows in your production process, starting with your suppliers and ending with your customers. Your value stream map should include three different "levels" or tiers representing:
Although VSM is associated with manufacturing, it can be used in many industries or applications, including:
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you begin the value stream mapping:
To keep things simple, you may want to create a value stream map on a white board or similar writing surface, perhaps by using Post-It notes. You can also use the lean manufacturing workplace visualization technique known as kanban for this (there are now plenty of good and inexpensive online kanban software applications, including Jira, Trello, and others). If you want to get a little more fancy, you can use the special symbols that are often used in value stream mapping to represent things such as inventory, shipments, suppliers and customers, and more.
If you've used value stream mapping at your work, we'd love to hear about your experiences and get your tips. Use the comments section below.