Value Stream Mapping or VSM is a way to see the current state of a process visually and quantitatively. Unlike Lean Process Flow Mapping, which only documents the flow of information, VSM includes the flow of materials, information and personnel. Pictograms are used to represent different functions and movements. Most importantly the map quantifies potential waste. VSM is a great way to begin your Lean journey by identifying areas for improvement and providing data on the potential benefit.

When implementing a value stream mapping process it is important to select a team of experts from a cross section of the organization. These people must be given the time to gather the data in small sub-teams, and to meet as the full team to create the VSM. The data needed can include:

  • Time studies of labor time
  • Inventory
  • Equipment cycle time and set-up time
  • Equipment downtime
  • Scrap
  • First pass yield
  • Maintenance time/costs
  • And more!

VSM is a great way to begin your Lean journey

The more complete the data, the more robust the value stream analysis. This analysis should help the team identify “quick-win” opportunities for improvement, potential hazards and safety violations that should be fixed immediately, and processes that need Lean Six Sigma projects or kaizen events to streamline.

The VSM depicts, from left to right, the flow of material and information moving from the initial state, through the transformation process, and finally through customer delivery. Along the way, the different activities and functions involved are portrayed to highlight interactions and possible waste. Action items for improvements are displayed by a “starburst”.