Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping is a technique which is commonly used to analyze and design the flow of materials or information that is required to move a product from conception to the hands of a customer.  It is an important part of the lean manufacturing process and when done properly can help increase the efficiency of any company while also driving profits up.  Unlike many other process improvement techniques used in manufacturing which focus on small pieces or tasks, value stream mapping is used to give a bigger picture of the whole process.

Of course, using this big picture, or map, you can then focus in on areas which are identified as bottlenecks or problems in the process.  A detailed value stream map can be the baseline which is used for a wide range of other improvement opportunities. In fact, without value stream mapping it would be very difficult to perform many of the recommended tasks within the lean manufacturing best practices.

To implement value stream mapping you need to walk through the five basic steps which are:

  1. Identifying the product or service
  2. Draw a current value stream map – This will show every step of the process including delays, information requirements and raw materials
  3. Review the current state of your map while considering ways to improve the flow of the tasks by eliminating waste.  In this case waste could be wasted materials, wasted time or wasted effort.
  4. Draw an ideal value stream map or ‘future state value stream map’ which will be the goal that you are working towards.
  5. Begin implementing processes and improvements to achieve the desired results.

One of the nicest things about value stream mapping is that it can be done in a variety of ways by manufacturing and industrial companies of all types and sizes.  Some places will begin with a simple pen and paper to draw out their value stream mapping.  Others use complex software which allows for the detailed creation of a value stream map.  They both can be effective when done properly.  Keep in mind, however, that the idea behind these maps is that they should be changing on a regular basis as improvements are made.

Value stream mapping can be used along with a variety of other 5s and lean manufacturing techniques including Kaizen and the Muri Mura Muda concept.  The map should serve as a guide for where these other process improvement techniques might be best used.  While value stream mapping can be used for virtually any type of business or organization, it is ideally suited for manufacturing industries such as factories since there are often multiple areas where even small improvements can result in significant change throughout the organization.

Taking the time to learn how to design and implement value stream mapping into your company is truly an investment in the future success of your entire organization.  Without a regular improvement plan it will be difficult to stay competitive in the rapidly changing manufacturing industry.

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