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Pawley Lean Institute

Pawley Hall, Room 460K
456 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-4542

Value Stream Mapping

One of the most integral tools in the arsenal of Lean thinking is value stream mapping.

The value stream is the flow of value-adding activities that serves the customer needs. Value stream mapping (VSM) is a visual way to map out product and information flow.

A value stream map draws out the supply chain from raw material to customer for manufacturing processes. In an office environment, a value stream map illustrates the steps it takes for a customer (either internal or external) to receive a particular service or product.

The value stream map makes it easier to identify wastes in the process by mapping out and seeing where it occurs along the value stream.

Another important aspect of VSM is the collaborative effort it involves. In a value stream, every step of an entire process is mapped out.

This helps show how every team member’s job is interrelated, and everyone involved is better able to see how they can more efficiently complete their step in the process and transition to the next step.

These maps help break the barriers between different departments and open up the lines of communication.

A value stream map also praises the positive aspects in a system. After perusing the current system, a value stream map will not only show which steps need to be fixed, but which ones are currently doing a good job.

The VSM tool also encourages other proactive Lean activities. For example, when a process is mapped out, any waste is then found in the diagram. To further examine and eliminate these wastes, managers may go to the shop floor to physically see how the process is run – going to the gemba.

By using the VSM tool and going to the gemba, it is easier for managers and employees to see what their current state really looks like. VSM helps create agreement across the board on where the problems lay and how to move forward to reach their desired, future state.

VSM is an important tool. It allows a company to see how steps in a process are connected and how these steps can be run more effectively. It shows companies the disparity between how they think a process is being run and how it is actually run. Only in finding and reducing waste can a value stream run more smoothly and more efficiently for both the company and the customer.