Value Stream Mapping and its Benefits

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Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping is a lean-management tool or flowchart method used to illustrate and analyze the current state of a product or service in order to improve the steps required to deliver it as well as reduce waste. It utilizes a set of standard symbols that represent various work activities and information flows.

Value Stream Mapping Process
Value Stream Mapping Process

What is a Value Stream Mapping?

Value stream mapping is a process-mapping method that enables an organization to:

  • Current State Map: Visual representation of existing operations (information and product flows)
  • Identify the largest sources of waste (non-value added activity)

The Value stream mapping process allows you to create a detailed visualization of all steps in your work process. It is a representation of the flow of goods from the supplier to the customer throughout your organization.

Process mapping is one of the top level tools of Lean manufacturing, by this I mean it is a tool that identifies the areas and steps required for improvement within the organization

The value stream is the processes that your product has to go through from raw materials to delivery to the customer. During this journey your product will go through a number of steps, some of which add value and others that add no value or leave your product sat waiting sometimes for weeks at a time.

When mapping the value stream we seek to identify those value adding and non-value adding steps and delays to allow us to eliminate or at least reduce those steps that cost us money and increase our lead times.

Value Stream Mapping
Value Stream Mapping

What Information Does a Value Stream Mapping Show?

A value stream mapping summarizes on one page, a tremendous amount of information about a process.

Value Stream Mapping may includes:

  1. The flow of the process from beginning to end
  2. Information flow
  3. Time data—cycle time, lead time, wait time
  4. Inventory build-up of people or things
  5. First time quality
  6. Staffing data

Value Stream Mapping Steps

Value Stream Mapping
Steps in Value Stream Mapping

Step 1: Select and schedule the Value Stream Mapping team to include:

  • Subject matter experts who understand the process
  • A Lean Expert to facilitate the mapping
  • Fresh eyes to question the status query and bring a new perspective
  • The customer and suppliers, if possible, but at a minimum bring your VOC – CTQ data

Step 2: Secure a room near the process area and gather the following supplies:

  • Butcher paper
  • Post-its
  • Markers
  • Pencils
  • Data collected in advance

Step 3: Gather as much data as possible before you start. You will verify the accuracy of any pre-existing data in the VSM process. Look for information on:

  • Cycle time (C/T): The time it takes to complete all work elements before repeating them.
  • Value-added time (VAT): The time of work elements that actually transform the product in a way the customer is willing to pay for.
  • Lead time (L/T): Time taken for one piece to move all the way through a process or a value stream from start to finish.
  • Work descriptions: Documented standard definitions or explanations of job roles and responsibilities.
  • Number of workers: The total number of specific employees scheduled for a given shift or time block.
  • Total working time per day (all shifts): Total number of available hours to be worked/scheduled in a day.
  • Demand: Measure and stratify demand for products or services by type, time of day, and day of week.
  • Capacity: Estimate both scheduled and theoretical capacity. Pay special attention to potential constraints and bottlenecks in the process.
  • Quantity of work performed: The total number of measurable work or units, performed for a given period of time.
  • Waiting or delay time: Total time spent waiting for an activity to be performed due to bottle necks in the process or other causes of delay.
  • First pass yield: The percentage of time the customers need would be met the first time with no rework. Final yield is what a customer actually experiences, including rework.

Step 4: Take a quick walk through the entire end-to-end value stream mapping.

  • Instead of starting at the beginning of the process, start at the end of the process and walk upstream. This way you will start with the processes that are linked most directly to the customer.

Step 5: Begin drawing the map with the value stream mapping team.

  • Start with the internal and external customer on the left and right hand sides of the page.
  • Add the beginning and ending points of the process. Your process will begin on the left and end on the right side of the page.
  • Add process steps in between, remembering to focus on how things really are, not how they should be.
  • Document the flow of information. Usually this is done with red zigzag lines.
  • Add push-pull arrows showing the patient moving from step to step.
  • Add a data box below each process step.

Step 6: Validate the Map. Go to the actual process area, observe the process, talk to staff, and then update your map with what you have learned.

  • In the team room, complete as much of the map as possible.
  • Take the team to the actual process area.
  • Observe the process and talk to employees.
  • Note any discrepancies between what the team documented and what was actually observed or described by employees.
  • Use a stopwatch to manually collect time data if needed.
  • Return to the team room, discuss observations, and update the map.

Opportunities to Enhance Value Stream Mapping

Classic Value stream mapping can overlook environmental considerations:

  • Raw materials used vs. needed in products and processes
  • Pollution & other environmental wastes in the value stream
  • Flows of information to environmental regulatory agencies

Making some simple adjustments to your value stream map can help you explicitly address pollution and natural resource wastes:

  • Improving cost reduction opportunities
  • Saving additional time
  • Improving the health and safety of the workplace

Benefits of Value Stream Mapping

  1. Value Stream Mapping is a powerful tool for analyzing information and flow throughout or between organizations in order to identify and plan improvements.
  2. A VSM provides clarity to reduce inventory and lead time, as well as helps to plan and identify lean rapid improvement events to increase effectiveness.
  3. VSM allows participants from different parts of an organization to gain an understanding of overall information and material flow.
  4. Making breakthrough improvements requires out-of-the-box, cross-functional thinking. You must be able to see the waste across the entire flow of work to gain clarity to eliminate it.
  5. A VSM is a tool to help you visualize your current state in order to realize the future state.


Value Stream Mapping  reveals waste, and sources of waste, that you probably wouldn’t notice on a day to day basis.



Question: What is Value Stream Mapping?

Answer: Value stream mapping is a process-mapping method that enables an organization to:

  • Current State Map: Visual representation of existing operations (information and product flows)
  • Identify the largest sources of waste (non-value added activity)

Question: What are the symbols used in Value Stream mapping?

Answer: Symbols used in Value Stream Mapping are:

Value Stream Mapping
Symbols Used In Value Stream Mapping

Question: In Value Stream Mapping where does customer symbol should be pointed?

Answer: The Customer/Supplier symbol represents the customer in the upper right of the value stream map or the supplier in the upper left.


Important Links:

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Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA)

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