Lean Tools, Value Stream Map

Value Stream Map

I remember the first time I saw a Value Stream Map, I was completely amazed by how simple and at the same time complete that tool was.  As an industrial engineer I was very used to using flow diagrams and layout drawings but never occurred to me to put both concepts together (although on a different way to the traditional one) to map the process.

John Shook and Mike Rother on their book “Learning to See“, defined Value Stream as: all the actions currently required to bring a product through the main flows essential to every product.  Could be the production flow from raw material into the arms of the customer or the design flow from concept to launch.

The main purpose of this mapping process, as the name suggest is to identify the value of every step.  Through the use of this tool we classify every activity as value added or non-value added, it allows you to see the waste and plan to eliminate it.  Also it helps to identify kaizen opportunities along the whole material and information flow.  With the value stream map analysis we see the whole process flow which is great to connect all improvement initiatives.  Normally we tried to improve single process level, but with the value stream map we can connect the dots and see how each level is affected by the previous one or affects the next one.

We always start drawing the current state and then we visualize how the ideal process would be and create this future state value stream map.  How we close the gap between current and future processes is the funny part.  This is where all the different lean manufacturing basic tools comes to our rescue: 5S, visual management, standardize work, Kaizen, brainstorming, 5 Why’s, JIT, kanban, TPM, OEE, PDCA, root cause analysis and others.

In my opinion, we should start the Lean journey creating the value stream map, both current and future state and then draw your road map, how you plan to go from A to B.  Creating a new map with the new current state is always satisfying because that only means that you take another step on your lean journey.  Enjoy the ride!

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