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Value Stream Mapping Explained

by Peter Peterka

Imagine a river. Then visualize all that the river carries with it. Apart from the water and fish, there are other elements which form the river. Processes are very much like a river. They flow in a natural direction and carry information with them from one point to another. The process of Value Stream Mapping is a by product of the Lean Manufacturing process pioneered by Toyota and the core fundamental is to identify the areas of waste which can be avoided within a manufacturing or office process. Apart from identification, Value Steam Mapping also helps streamline the process for higher productivity. Developing the Value Stream Mapping for any organization is a very scientific process. If you plan to implement the Lean Manufacturing quality system in your organization, you will need to employ consultants who specialize in Value Steam Mapping.

Method to Map the Value Stream:

The first steps in this process are to map the current flow of the various flows of production and supply. A detailed analysis will give you a flow chart for various departments on how communication, information, or goods flow from one end to the other. This requires inputs from various business heads as well as floor managers. Once this is done, a documentary chart of the organization's flow is ready to be analyzed. It is required that the information also maps the quantities of items in this flow chart as that is the key to identify where wastes or inconsistencies are happening. Apart from quantities, the diagram also requires time inputs.

The diagram put together to map the current state of Value Stream Mapping has some specific icons which highlight the various processes. A thumb rule is that the more complicated looking the diagram, the higher level of simplicity is desired by the organization.

After the present status has been mapped the next step is quite logical. Lean Manufacturing Consultants that review each step with the management and identify areas of waste and how these can be smoothened out and optimized for greater productivity. This evaluation and implementation of revised procedures is known as Future State Value Stream Mapping. A number of methods can be used to optimize processes here. A good match has to be found between the method and industry.

Cellular Manufacturing is one of the methods which can be applied during the development of a future Value Stream Mapping process. Though the concept is simple, the implementation has to be done with adequate planning and with the correct definition of a cell.

Takt Time is a measurement which is required to evaluate the lead time in the manufacturing process and is useful when implementing Lean Manufacturing processes. Takt time is even more critical in time bound deliveries of services or products.

Kanban is a method of measuring movement of goods within a system and is probably most used in the case of a retail outlet. One of the most popular terms in quality control and business process management circles is Kaizen which signifies constant improvements which can be done to a process in order to make it work more efficiently. Though Kaizen is a process, it can be so ingrained in an organization that it can become a way of life within the organization. The above terminologies are all related to the Lean Manufacturing process though they may be used loosely to describe various types of business thinking in organizations and offices.

Value Process Mapping has been found most effective is large assembly line manufacturing processes and one of other most commendable products are cars. Toyota has adapted kaizen to a large extent and can boast about their cars being very high on the technology scale while keeping a check on the costs of manufacturing. Other leading car manufacturers such as Ford are also on the same page when it comes to quality control and process improvement.

However, Value Stream Mapping cannot be the only item in consideration when it comes to implementing Lean Manufacturing. VSM is more of a technical tool, where Lean Manufacturing is almost like a culture within an organization. VSM terminologies are also more concentrated towards the automobiles industry and non-auto industries may get a bit confused when implementing VSM word by word. Some consultants feel that though VSM is a required procedure, it might sometimes be over-hyped by people and the benefits may be exaggerated to a large extent.

VSM also requires detailed training within the organization to make it effective. In case you are planning to implement Lean Manufacturing in your organization, Value Stream Mapping will continue to form an important part of the entire process.

Peter Peterka is President of Lean Six Sigma us. For additional information on Six Sigma Green Belt or other Six Sigma Black Belt programs contact Peter Peterka.


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