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Value Stream Mapping

This lean management tool is sometimes known as Lean manufacturing, and relates to the processes in a value stream mapping business being identified and analysed.  This gets done by assigning a value to each separate activity that produces value to a product, service or process then mapping these accordingly. 


Benefits of Value Steam Mapping

  • Highlights any processes that do not add value to the overall product or service, which can then be mitigated.
  • Provides a better visualisation of the overall process flow
  • Forms the basis of an implementation plan
  • Shows the links between material and information flow
  • This tool helps manage the change process
  • Allows the company to see things from a customer perspective which increases the value to the customer

Value stream mapping (VSM) is a team-process, which should include representatives from all areas within the processes being mapped.  There needs to be a facilitator who has experience in creating value stream maps.  This person could be internal or external to the company. 


Value Stream Stages 

There are 6 key steps in the Value Stream Mapping Process, outlined in the diagram below:


  1. Identification

    This will initially involve identifying the value stream then deciding whether you want to map ‘material and information flow’ or just ‘information’. You will then need to gain leaderships buy-in.  This is arguably one of the most important steps because if you haven’t got leadership buy-in, the VSM will be doomed to fail. Stakeholders will also need to be identified as they will be effected by this change. You do not want to start a VSM aiming to improve a particular area of the business if the stakeholders of this area are not initially aware, and later find out as this may result in pushback.  Lastly, it is imperative that the purpose of the VSM is communicated well across the organisation in order to ensure everyone is on the same page.

    You also need to decide on process level.  This could be:

    • Order to dispatch process (time sales department receives an order to the time dispatched to a person)
    • Concept to launch (more related to engineering or research & development. The time the concept was raised to the time it was launched)
    • Department/Business unit level (define the start and end of a process within an organisation for a certain department, then investigate that).

    There should be one map for one product or related products that will track the cycle of this product from the supplier through to the customer.  This is because there will be information overload if multiple various products get mapped together.

  2. Define Objectives and Scope

    This step is related to quantifying success, which may involve outlining process boundaries and answering why it is important to change.  This will require answering; Why is this important? Why do we need to change? What really is the problem? What does good look like? And what adds value to the customer?

    For example you may be wanting to look at the way administration carries out a particular process, and establish that the current process creates frustration across the organisation, and increases lead time.  If what you are proposing to change does not add value to the customer, then consider rethinking this change.

  3. Map the current state

    This step will involve creating ‘swim lanes’ of responsibilities – these make it easier to define accountability.  Mapping the current state may first involve sketching the process map, then using sticky notes or A3 sheets to develop on these. The benefit of using sticky notes is that they are easy to move around.  It will be surprising at how differently people see the same process due to altering perspectives. This step will also include actually gathering the information, which means speaking with a relevant process expert and gaining an overall understanding of the current situation.  Then benchmark your organisations current state, which could be done using;

    • Cycle Time: The value added time a person or team spends on a specific task or process step
    • Lead Time: Total time a person takes to complete a task
    • Right First Time %: Percentage of information based work that is complete and accurate the first time and doesn’t require any rework or further clarification

  4. Waste Identification

    From mapping the current state, it will be easy to identify the areas that are creating waste from this current process.  This step will involve a lot of brainstorming ideas for improvements from looking at the 8 wastes of lean and seeing which ones come into play.  From here, the items that don’t add value to the process can be separated into whether they can be fully eliminated or just minimised. 

  5. Map the future state

    Once the map has been created to discover where the business is at today, another map can be designed that will envision an ideal state for the business to be moving forward.  This is important as it will create a shared vision and goal for the company and all of the workers in it.  By looking at the current state the business is in, anything identified as “waste” will be removed when designing the map that is looking into the future.  When removing this waste, the 8 wastes of lean will be taken into consideration in order to establish what is needed and what can be taken away, as demonstrated in the table above.  If you are struggling to identify which steps could be eliminated or minimesed, it may be beneficial to ask;

    • Where do team members or customers become frustrated?
    • Which of these steps creates a bottleneck for the rest of the process?
    • Which of these steps is the timeliest, or has the most amount of delays?
    • Where do costs go up and down?

    Action Plan and Implementation

    As with any good brainstorm, it is important that some solid ideas come out of this.  Without the action plan and implementation, all that has been achieved is some pictures on a wall. This final step of the VSM process requires ideas to be grouped into the following categories:

    • Quick gains
    • Investigations required
    • Functional re-alignment
    • Funding required

    The action plan developed from these categories should include a timeline and the stakeholders that lead these tasks.  Once the action plan has been established, the implementation of this plan should begin.

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