Learn what is Value Stream Mapping (VSM). Discover how VSM can help identify waste, improve process cycles, and substantially contribute to continuous improvement.
Published 30 Nov 2022
Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is one of the key principles of lean manufacturing tools about having an overview of the end-to-end process (from the supplier until the product reaches the consumer) to help analyze and manage the flow of materials and information, identify waste, and determine which step or items do not add value from the customer's standpoint.
VSM is also known as “material-and-information-flow mapping.” It uses a system of standard symbols as representation of the flow of goods. A study from the American Society for Quality (ASQ) defined it as “the process steps from order entry to delivery.” An excellent simple definition of VSM is from Cutter: “Value stream mapping (VSM) is a Lean manufacturing method used to analyze and manage the flow of materials/information/product to be able to bring a product to a customer. Items are mapped as ‘adding value’ or ‘not adding value’ from the customer’s viewpoint, with the purpose of uncovering whatever doesn’t add value.”
Simply put, VSM is a lean technique for finding and eliminating waste in the process flow that will eventually contribute to efforts for continuous improvement.
The origins of VSM are often attributed to Toyota Motor Corporation that popularized lean manufacturing. Being “lean” focuses on eliminating the “mudas” in manufacturing to achieve its main goal of creating more value for customers. Below is the 6 key tools used in lean manufacturing to eliminate waste in the processes:
The philosophy behind all Lean tools is to eliminate waste from your processes in order to maximize the profit. Details such as who is participating in the process, what processes are taking place, and how much time each process is taking are also emphasized.
The goal of VSM is to critically address every step in the manufacturing process in order to do the following:
Waste can come in the form of time, material, and labor. But it may also be related to the utilization of labor as well as poor planning. Below is an infographic from Visual Paradigm showing the 8 waste of lean manufacturing in an acronym from the letters of the word “DOWNTIME” to make it easy to remember:
8 Wastes in Lean Manufacturing | Source: Visual Paradigm
Following the identification of wastes, the types of operations or activities that occur during the process flow are determined. There are three types:
VSM provides a clear view of the work process—the kind of activities involved. This is also to visualize the process cycle time or how long does one process take for items to go through them. Once the waste has been identified there will automatically be a reduction in process time. This results in a more optimized process.
Handoffs means “wait-time” or when one worker needs to wait for another to complete some task. They are most commonly the place or time where things go wrong. Lack of communication can cause delays and waste. VSM identifies handoffs and helps in establishing what’s working and what could be improved.
Using VSM enables you to identify where the sources of waste are and how much time in every cycle is used in every step of the process, giving you opportunities to save time and reduce production cost. Its goal is to make businesses see improvement areas to help them grow and scale successfully.
There are a number of lean techniques available to help the company identify high-value activities as well as waste.
Value stream maps can be created with flowchart illustration or with softwares like autoCAD by following the steps below given by Visual Paradigm:
Step #1: drawing the process boxes that will be provided with the different process steps, starting from the supplier side going to the customer side in the information flows area.
Step #2: drawing process boxes which will be provided with the different kinds of production steps under the material flows section
Step #3: drawing of data boxes under each box for production steps, in which data is captured of each of the process steps drawn in the map.
Step #4: drawing the connection methods like the push arrows symbols between the process boxes.
Step #5: drawing the link between the suppliers and customers. The last step is the lead time ladder, which can be found at the bottom of the map. It shows the process cycle time in the value stream.
An illustration below shows what a typical value stream map look like:
Value Stream Mapping Template | Source: Visual Paradigm
A value stream map helps you see where you can improvise and station your unused or misused resources to produce good work.
See list of typical symbols or icons used in value stream maps here: Project Engineer
There are two kinds of value stream maps:
(1) Current state value stream map – this is created before making the future VSM through analysis and tracking of the information and material flow. This is used to determine what the process looks like at the present time; and
(2) Future state value stream map – this focuses on what the future value stream map will look like—including the ideal improvements to the process.
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To properly analyze all the flows and processes involved in the delivery of products or services to the customer, mapping is used.
Here are 7 steps from on how to analyze any manufacturing processes:
VSM was originally created using paper that could get messy, hard to manage, and hard to understand as the processes and data keep piling up. Using a software to digitize your processes is an easier and more effective way to map your business flows. It will also be more efficient to share it throughout the entire organization if you have a platform for it.
Get a better solution with the help of SafetyCulture, the best digital tool you can use to accurately build up the information you need for analysis and identification of waste in your processes. You can also use SafetyCulture to:
Checklists to Identify Wasteful Work Practices:
Checklists Related to Value Stream Mapping:
Loida Bauto is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. An Interior Designer by training, she began to pursue her passion for writing in 2017. Her interests involve a diverse range of topics such as Disability, Universal Design, and Sustainability, among other matters that aim to improve the world we live in. She is a self-published book author in 2018 and 2021.
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