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I Keep Hearing These Words, What is Value Stream Mapping?

A Guide to Finding Out When and How VSM and Lean Management Techniques Are Right for You

Last month, we took a different approach by posing questions about your supply chain system to gauge where you may require improvement. This month, we're starting you on the road to Lean by helping you examine your manufacturing processes and discover if and how you may require Value Stream Mapping.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a powerful technique based on Lean manufacturing principles used to identify and eliminate waste. It helps to evaluate specific aspects of your organization's "current state" that might not be performing at an optimal level. It is then used to develop a plan of action that will lead to the achievement of an organization's intended "future state."

A value stream can be defined as all activities both value-added and non-value-added that are required to bring a product or service from raw material to the customer. The map becomes a visual baseline from which to identify Lean process improvement opportunities. Examples of waste that can be reduced using VSM include: overproduction, excess inventory, Non Value Add (NVA) processing, defects, excess motion, underutilized personnel, printing paperwork too soon, filled "in-boxes," system downtime, data re-entering and entry errors, and excessive movement of paperwork.

Below are several questions to identify your organization's "current state." This is your chance to take your ego out of the equation and ask yourself, "Does this really work?"

  • Do your finished products pass first inspection, or do they often require rework?
  • Does information flow through the process smoothly?
  • What notification signals are there that a product moved, if at all?
  • Can processes be defined where they currently do not exist?
  • Are there operations that should be standardized?
  • How often do you spend time waiting for an answer from another department in your organization?
  • How often to you spend time waiting for a delivery from a supplier or an engineer?
  • Are there any bottlenecks?
  • At what point do you initiate work via a schedule?
  • Have you had issues in the past at responding to changing demand?
  • Are your material handling systems lengthy or overly complex?
  • Are you working at a faster rate than customer demand, or worse, slower?
  • Do you find yourself accessing multiple storage locations?
  • Have you noticed a lack of balance in work flow, forcing inventory build-up between processes?
  • Have you noticed an excessive travel between work stations?

These are just some of many questions to help you evaluate your organization to prepare for Value Stream Mapping implementation. Ultimately, learning and embracing this technique as a method to document and improve business processes can spell the difference between a stagnant facility and a thriving business.

For any help answering these questions or to learn about HVTDC's Value Stream Mapping services, contact Business Development Advisor, Ralph Brown, at at 914-393-98765, or ralph.brown@hvtdc.org.