The Tool of Value Stream Mapping


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When beginning with Lean most of us immediately delve into Value Stream Mapping (VSM) thinking this process alone will make us Lean. It is one of the most requested Lean software tools (even though it may be the most difficult one to master) and Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate MUDA. It is often the first Lean book purchased. We look at a VSM as being the tool that will:

  • Move us from a push to pull process
  • Reduce batching
  • Identify value adding processes
  • Eliminate non-value adding activities
  • Reduce cycle times

We think about doing all these things without the understanding of a value stream or a mapping process in general and more, specifically in Lean. One of the better definitions of mapping that I have come across is from – Dianne Galloway, author of Mapping Work Processes:

Mapping is merely an enabler – a means to a more important end. It is a vehicle for expressing and releasing the knowledge, creativity, and energy that lies within every group, regardless of its position or level within an organization. And while the mapping activity is valuable by itself, the second challenge was (and continues to be) to compile and validate specific ways to use the visual map to inspire meaningful, creative change.

Her book is the best introduction, I have found to mapping processes (I do not think it mentions Lean or Value Stream Mapping, in it) and has been part of my library for many years. I utilized book in the 90’swhen I was practicing “Lean” before I knew I was practicing Lean.

What is a Value stream? My definition, paraphrased from The Lean Enterprise Memory Jogger for Service would be a value stream refers to all the activities your company must do to deliver its products/services to customers.

A value stream has four main parts:

  1. The flow of activities, from the initial determination of customer need to the delivery of the product/service thrPDCAough the completion of associated tasks.
  2. The identification of resources (people, information technology, materials, equipment, facilities, instructions) required for service delivery and transaction completion.
  3. The transformation of data into information for guiding and improving value stream activities.
  4. The classification of activities as value-adding or non-value-adding and their associated lead times.

There are often several value streams operating within a company and can also involve more than one company.

A Value Stream Map is a comprehensive set of activities, tasks and communications that collectively creates and delivers value to the customer. A typical approach to process improvement is to select a process of concern to the organization, map all the details of the process, remove the non-value added activities and then fix whatever seems to be broken. The non-value added activities should be determined from the customer’s point of view. In a value stream mapping process time is a key component and amounts to much of the waste discovered. Most organizations focusing on a system redesign do so with the intent of reducing costs.

With these definitions out of the way, you may ask, when should we introduce Value Stream Mapping? In a Lean process Value stream Mapping can be utilized early in your journey with the help of a facilitator. However, I believe it is better to start at Gemba and start instituting a Kaizen. Develop a Kaizen (PDCA) type culture so that when larger projects where VSM is needed there is a culture in place to institute the changes. Value Stream Mapping is a tool to be utilized within PDCA to grasp the situation, starting with current state.

One of the main failure points in any mapping process is the failure to gather and collect the needed information to complete the map. Many of us believe that the mapping process will create the information. Think of your map as a visualization tool to enable understanding better. The collection of the information needed will be our next step.

Extra Material: Value Stream Mapping has been a practice that was first introduced in the book Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate MUDA by Mike Rother and John Shook. This groundbreaking workbook, which has introduced the value-stream mapping tool to thousands of people around the world, breaks down the important concepts of value-stream mapping into an easily grasped format. Dan Jones and Jim Womack followed that book with Seeing the Whole Value Stream which took the mapping methodology through an improvement process that converted the traditional value stream of isolated operations to a broader view of the entire value stream.Lean

Recently the co-authors, Womack and Jones in response to feedback asking for examples in other sectors and questions about how to understand supply chain costs more accurately, have added five essays to the book for this new edition. These essays demonstrate how real companies have taken on the challenge of improving their extended value streams working in collaboration with their suppliers and customers.

The new essays for the book are:

  • Spreading value-stream thinking from manufacturers to final customers through service providers—extending the wiper example.
  • Applying extended value-stream thinking to retail—a look at the Tesco story.
  • Learning to use value-stream thinking collaboratively with suppliers and customers.
  • Product costing in value-stream analysis.
  • Seeing and configuring the global value stream.

The one particular essay that stood out to me was Learning to use value-stream thinking collaboratively with suppliers and customers. The objective of this effort was to garner their suppliers and customer in a true collaborative effort to create value. It was the first time any of these five companies had ever viewed a shared value stream. They started with a few modest objectives for improvement. However, it turned into much more than an improvement effort but rather a deeper type of organizational relationship. The reason they cited was that they learned how to communicate with each other. You can view the experience: Video of Matthew Lovejoy’s presentation on the Acme Alliance story.

This story exemplifies the power of collaboration and what can be developed from it. Collaboration in a Value Stream Mapping exercise can be a difficult process. You open your doors to all the skeletons you have in the closet for both vendors and customers to see. Most people are surprised by the reactions. It is typically not one of disgust or insecurity but rather a helping hand is extended and many times consideration that certain requirements may not even be needed.

The spirit of this venture serves a valuable insight that co-producing, co-creation and open innovation is not as far-fetched as it may seem. A single Value Stream Mapping process led to four years of increasing engagement. I wonder what would happen is they shorten that iteration a bit?

P.S. If your 1st edition of the book looks like mine, it’s time for the 2nd edition anyway.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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