Value Stream Mapping
Many companies rush into massive waste (Muda) elimination activities in the form of Kaizen Events / Rapid Improvement Projects once they learn about Lean and its tremendous effectiveness in waste elimination.
This is an extremely dangerous move. While companies may witness immediate and short team tangible results from these Kaizen Events / projects, these activities may be counterproductive to the long term flow of the companies’ value stream. The well-intended Kaizen Events may fix some issues, but may not help much in improving the overall flow of the value stream. In some cases, it may even result in moving the problem from one area to another. Improving specific processes without looking at the overall value stream may result in what is known as sub-optimization.
The net result is that there is no value-added improvement to the end customers, although the individual projects seem to be successful.
Hence for sustainable Lean implementation, it is important to resist the temptation to rush to implement Kaizen event after event without conducting a complete end-to-end value stream mapping workshop. The recommended way is to map out the value stream map (current state and future state), identify bottlenecks, stoppages and waste, quality issues from a macro perspective. This is then followed by prioritizing and selecting and planning the projects that will help the company to move from its current state value stream map to the future state value stream map.
This approach will prevent sub-optimization, encourage Lean culture building (because the employees / process owners are no longer just looking at their own processes but the bigger picture of the whole company), better usage of resources (as the projects are carefully selected and agreed upon by all stakeholders).
(Source : Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate MUDA, 1999, by Mike Rother and John Shook)
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