What is Value Stream Mapping?

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a key tool in the application of Lean Operations within an Operational Excellence strategy. Used to visually represent a process, component steps and all of the supporting inputs required to make the process work. Specifically to highlight areas of Non-Value Adding and Value Adding activities within the process. 

The map consists of three horizontal strata read from left to right on the map:

  • Information used to support the process.
  • Physical Process Steps are shown using simple block drawings and symbols.
  • The process timeline highlighting – The total process time. – The perceived Non-Value Adding Time - The Value Adding Time.

The VSM can be applied to literally any process:

  • Manufacturing Processes
  • Service Processes
  • Administration Processes
  • Retail

VSM’s can also be applied to any size of the process – large or small however the business may want to “scope” the process in order to minimise the number and complexity of the inputs. In this way, parts of large processes that are giving concern can be targeted more precisely. Value stream maps are created through process observation by teams or by single individuals.

example value stream map for manufacturing company
Simple Example of a Value Stream Map for a manufacturing organisation.

The Purpose of the Value Stream Map

  • Identify and study a process through observation.
  • To determine overall process lead time including all delays, queues in the process.
  • Identifies Non-Value Adding Activity
  • Identifies Value-Adding Activity
  • Identifies all information streams in the process both internal and external.
  • Identifies all supporting activity inputs that are required to effectively carry out the process.
  • Helps confirm the degree of standardisation in the process and adherence to specified working practices etc.
  • Forms a key part of the introduction and execution of Lean Operational principles within and Operational Excellence strategy.
  • Involves and gives process ownership to employees by training them in observation and mapping tools and techniques.

Why is a Value Stream Map important? 

A VSM allows the organisation to examine processes that may be giving rise for concern.

By observing the process, the Map can help identify areas of Non-Value-Adding activity  (either avoidable NVA waste or unavoidable NVA waste ) these areas can then be analysed by the team and actions initiated to eliminate or minimise NVA.

The VSM assists us in precisely targeting where lean tools and techniques can be applied to increase process efficiency and reduce process cost.

It should be noted at this point that by applying the mapping process we can more appropriately apply process costs taking into the waste (pre-improvement actions) and by apportioning costs post improvement activities.

By definition, the process should be re-mapped post improvements to facilitate continuous improvement and to re-enforce Operational Excellence strategies.

Value Stream Mapping dovetails nicely with A3 methodologies and applied problem-solving techniques within the Lean Operations programme.

10 Steps to create VSM:

In order to help you understand, we've created a 10 step approach that you can use to create a VSM.

  1. Decide upon which process is to be observed and mapped.
  2. Select the team or individual to carry out the observation and create the map.
  3. Select the “scope” of the process – where will the map start, where will it finish.
  4. Create an observation plan, what-who-when-how?
  5. Determine the process steps – create distinct process steps based upon actual observation. Several observations will be required before these steps can be finalised. Include information flows in the map – internal and external.
  6. Observe and study the process over time. The time taken will be determined by process content.
  7. Support activities and facilities key to process execution to be noted and detailed in the map. n.b; Include periodic requirements.
  8. Create the map complete with process time measurement. Use best repeatable times.
  9. Identify and analyse NVA and VA activities.
  10. Create an action plan for improvement activities that eliminate and minimises NVA and maximises VA activity. Present and communicate map and plan.

Value strream map for will writing process from enquiry received through to dispatch of will to client
Example of Value Stream Map for a Will Writing Process

What are the benefits of creating a Value Stream Map?

Value Stream Maps are an essential tool in applying Lean Operational practices.

Key to successful creation are:

  • The ability to observe a process objectively.
  • Being able to observe without interacting with the process.
  • Observers to have empathy with process operators – careful not to appear to criticise.
  • Careful measurement of the process in terms of time.
  • The ability to analyse and recognise Non Value adding activity that is Avoidable in nature. (This can be eliminated)
  • Non Value Adding activity that is Unavoidable. (This needs to be minimised)
  • Value-Adding Activity – This needs to be maximised!