Value Stream Map
What is value, and how do we define it? According to the principles of Lean, value is always defined by the customer. Regardless of whether a company believes it is providing value through products or services, they are not truly valuable unless the customer believes they are. Traditional companies focus on providing their goods or services in a manner that is convenient to them, often without regard for what is truly of value to the customer. Operation/ Performance Excellence companies use strategies like Lean and Six Sigma to provide products and services that their customers truly value. This enables them to win more business, reduce costs, and spend more time on innovation. Understanding your value stream is a key step toward providing value to your customers.
Value stream mapping (note: for more information, please visit: Value stream mapping (VSM) training) is a tool that allows us to see both the information flow and the material flow of a product or service. In general, the value stream map is used to identify waste in and between processes. A value stream is all of the actions and process steps, both value added and non-value added, that are currently required to create a product or service. It’s the flow from the moment of customer request through to delivery into our customers’ hands.
In a manufacturing environment, it may include the steps from delivery of raw materials through to completion of the product. In a design or service environment, or even the design of a new service, it may include all steps from the idea’s point of original conception to the delivery of that new product or service to the customer. In a transactional environment, a value stream involves understanding which inputs come from customers and how those trigger activities which must happen in order to deliver our service to those customers. A value stream map is a data-rich process map that extends the usefulness of standard process maps by adding more data, material, information flow, and sometimes even whole systems, operating parameters, and process and lead times.
Value Stream Maps can be used strategically, to help guide the business, or they can be used tactically, to help identify waste and opportunities for improvement. From a strategic perspective, value stream maps provide a common understanding of the current state. They can be created at any level of an organization or include multiple organizations. They can be used to understand a strategic business objective, or they can be used in a value chain analysis across the entire business. They can even include suppliers or other companies that are instrumental in the manufacture or delivery of a service.
Data is what separates a value stream map from a process map. Your goal should be to capture as much information about your process as possible. That information may include, but is not limited to, process lead time, cycle time, capacity, bottlenecks, and constraints.
When gathering data for your value stream map, it’s important to understand key measurement terms and the differences between them. It is generally advantageous to brainstorm or identify data targets and sources within the team before gathering data and to develop operational definitions for each of your metrics.
Preparing to Map the Value Stream
- First, gather all the information you think you will need for the activity. Having this information as you draw out the map will be helpful. You can go and collect additional data after you have a first draft.
- Next, drafting a high-level overview of your process is a great way to ensure you will be prepared to do a value stream map. You can create this macro map by answering these questions: What is the starting point of this process? What is the ending point of this process? What are the major process steps?
- Third, use as much space as you can. Do not restrict your mapping activity to a single sheet of paper. Find a large piece of butcher paper or a white board to document your map. The more space you have, the more detailed you’ll be.
- Fourth, use colors, sticky notes, and erasable markers to document your process. You will not get it right the first time, so the easier it is to make changes, the better.
- Fifth, be prepared to discuss your map with those not involved in the process. Make sure you understand the map well enough to explain it to others when it’s finished.
- Finally, make sure everyone on your team understands the goal of the session and is prepared to have lively discussions. A few ice breaker activities are a great way to start the day, especially for teams that don’t know each other or if the task at hand is sensitive in nature. A relaxed, happy team creates value stream maps that highlight the most opportunities for improvement.
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