Value Stream Mapping
What is value stream mapping
When trying to identify — and fix — inefficiencies in a process, it helps to get a “big picture” of the process. One way of getting such a big picture is using a value stream map, which is, in a sense, a “picture” or overview of a value stream.
When we talk about a value stream, we mean the flow of materials and information that brings a product or service to a customer. It’s the way in which value is delivered — from the source, or starting point to the actual delivery of the item to the customer. The flow of a value stream can be disrupted by any obstacles or waste — such as wasted time, unnecessary motion, or excess inventory.
Before you can figure out where waste is occurring and how to make the value flow more efficient, you must first have a clear picture of the full value stream.
A value stream map is a useful way of getting just such a picture — it’s a graphical representation of an entire value stream, including material and information flows. It provides an overview of the complex relationships within the value stream and shows the flow of steps in product management-and- information systems that support value-add activities.
The value stream mapping process
The proper process for value stream mapping is to create two maps — one to reflect the current state of a process or system and one to reflect its future state.
The current-state value stream map is a visual representation of a process as it currently stands. This provides a starting point for identifying waste and its causes. The future-state value stream map represents where you want the process to be once improvements have been made — or its targeted state. It highlights areas in the process where improvements are needed and what value flows should be changed for a leaner production and information flow.
To create a current-state value stream map, you measure, document, and analyze the complex relationships between process steps. This gives you insight into both decision-making and physical processes, which helps you plan improvements to operations and organizational structure. Because the future-state value stream map depicts the goals for improvement initiatives, planned improvements are added here.
The value stream mapping process begins with you identifying a product or service for which you want to create a map. Then you create a current-state map of the value stream for that product or service.
You follow this by assessing the current value stream, identifying waste and opportunities for improvement. Then you create a future-state map. Finally, you develop and implement a plan to bring the value stream closer to the future state you’ve depicted.
An understanding of the functions of value stream mapping is key to effectively planning for process improvements.