Guide to Effective Value Stream Mapping – by Craig Thompson

by Craig Thompson published on April 22, 2020

The author of this article, Craig Thompson, holds certifications as a Certified Quality Manager (CQM), Certified Quality Engineer (CQE), and Certified Quality Auditor (CQA) and is an RAB/QSA-certified AS9100/ISO 9000 Lead Aerospace Auditor (previously AIEA). Mr. Thompson has extensive experience working in the Aerospace, Oil & Gas, Automotive, and Manufacturing Industries. Craig has also developed supplier process flow maps for OEM manufacturers of complex machines for both aerospace and automotive.

In my experience as a Director of Quality for a variety of manufacturing facilities and industries, one highly effective tool for success was Value Stream Mapping of product lines and complete processes. This article is meant to describe what value stream mapping is and what it is used for, the key steps to effectively map the value stream, the benefits of value stream mapping and the metrics you can use to determine your value stream efficiency. The Value Stream Mapping principles are explained here in easy to understand language along with examples that can help companies to solve problems, improve processes, and increase throughput.

The Benefits of Value Stream Mapping

When value stream is done effectively and based off a true current state of the process flow it will identify waste and bottlenecks within the process. Realizing these areas is the first step to improving product throughput by eliminating the waste of time, resources, materials, and money. Once these wastes are removed from the value stream your costs will decrease and sales will increase, both of which will dramatically improve the bottom line of the organization. A better bottom line always does wonders for employee morale, customer satisfaction, and market share. For companies that can achieve all these become the World Class Manufacturers that other companies want to benchmark. In my opinion, this is the natural progression of the value stream tool for manufacturers. I will be honest, it’s not a fast process and neither an “overnight get-better quick-scheme”. It is, however, a long-term strategy and important part of the lean manufacturing journey. Someone once told me the growth of a company is not a straight line but a series of hills and valleys, you can walk faster and farther when the road is flat. In my manufacturing background, I utilized that metaphor to mean that, if I can make a process smoother with fewer hills and valleys, the company could go further over a longer period of time.

Value Stream Mapping understood in 3 essential steps

Value stream mapping understood in 3 essential steps

The first step in mapping your value stream is understanding what a value stream is. Value stream mapping is just a fancy name for a lean management tool that helps you determine the current state flow, identifying and removing the wasted time and steps, and develop an improved future state. The value stream includes the complete series of steps taken for a product or service from the beginning all the way through to the customer.

The second step is learning what it means to map the value stream. It is important to understand that a value stream considers not only the product realization processes but the management and information processes that support the making of the product. This is especially helpful when trying to reduce cycle times, eliminate bottlenecks, and reduce setup times because you gain knowledge of the decision making behind the production process flow. In essence, a value stream map is an accurate pictorial reference of how you do what you do within your organization.

The third step is to know what value stream mapping is really used for. Ideally, a value stream map identifies the value-added process steps and the ones that you think you need but add no value to the process. It helps to think about whether a customer would complain if you deleted a step. If the answer is yes, the step is truly value-added; if not, it cannot be considered value-added, no matter how necessary it is for the business to provide the final product or service. A simple way to understand value-added is to think of the steps that the customer is paying for at the part price. Those steps are the ones that are value-added. Once you have identified the steps that the customer does not want or expect, then you can start to see if they could be combined in a value-added step or even removed from the process.

Steps to effectively map a value stream

Steps to effectively map a value stream

Essentially, there are 10 steps to effective value stream mapping. Remembering that a complete value stream also includes business processes from your process interaction map, it is important to include personnel from those processes in the team designated for this lean management event.

  • Identify the Value Stream – Based on organizational knowledge, decide which product line or service provided to map.
  • Cross-Functional Team – Personnel from each step is recommended, including operators.
  • Establish the Current Status – Get a baseline of the value stream by determining if the process is out of control, and if the metrics are being met.
  • Determine the Current Flow – Describe in bullet form how the process flows from quote to delivery.
  • Create the Current State Map – Map each step of the process no matter how small. I suggest different colored sticky notes and a big wall.
  • Identify the Waste – Note on the map all the movement, waiting, bottlenecks, time constraining operations, as well as the time each step takes.
  • Create Future State Goals – Decide what metrics and parameters the future state value stream should meet.
  • Revise the Map – Move or combine steps to eliminate the waste identified in step 6 to reflect the future state.
  • Agree as a Team – Present the future state to top management for approval
  • Implement – Determine the actions needed to fully implement and include names and dates of responsibility

Value Stream Mapping Metrics

Listed below are few of the metrics that an organization may consider while evaluating the value stream in both current and future states. As an organization, you will need to decide which measurements work best for your industry and products. However be prudent, this list could be as long as your supplier list if you are not careful. I always instruct my clients to stay within the 5-8 key metrics range for the entire process.

Flow RateLead TimesProcessing TimeFirst pass Yield %Wait TimeCost ReductionSalesScrap/ReworkProcess Audit ResultsMarket ShareOn Time DeliveryCash FlowTouch TimeDown TimeSet-Up Time5S Scores

Remember you are trying to improve the flow from when a customer calls you with a request until you deliver products to their dock. The value stream mapping process is not a sprint but more like a 5k race. An effective value stream map will improve your value stream efficiency.

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