Value Stream Mapping: Exactly What Your Company Needs

Value stream mapping is a popular operational approach in many organizations, especially those that believe in lean operations. It helps minimize waste while maximizing productivity and customer satisfaction. Essentially, organizations can do more with less, thus realizing better value in the long run. Shortly, we’ll discuss the reasons why you should jump on the bandwagon. But first, let’s understand the process. What exactly is value stream mapping?

What Is Value Stream Mapping?

To understand the meaning of value stream mapping, it’s perhaps best to begin with a definition of “value stream.” A value stream is a series of steps followed in an organization to deliver the products or services that customers want or need. Every company has this set of steps. For instance, a simplified value stream for software development would be as follows; request > approval > development > deployment > acceptance. Value stream mapping simply means identifying the location/position of each of these steps, where value is added, where there’s waste, and above all, how to improve upon the entire process. It provides organizations with a structured visualization of the main steps in a process. It also highlights the data needed to understand and intelligently improve each step to optimize the process as a whole. One of the best Value Stream Mapping (VSM) books, written by Karen Martin and Mike Osterling, defines it as a process that “offers a holistic view of how workflows through the entire system.”

What’s the Purpose of a Value Stream Map?

Value stream mapping is a proven Lean technique (Lean techniques are manufacturing and production approaches that focus on minimizing waste while maximizing productivity). It is useful in industries and businesses where items pass through multiple phases or departments before delivery to the customer. It has two main purposes;
  1. Provide a visual representation of the entirety of a process flow from start to finish.
  2. Help with planning to optimize the organization’s processes for desired outcomes.
By providing a visual representation of the current state of the company’s value stream, VSMs allow the management to identify gaps in the existing process. Once you identify inefficiencies or undesirable phases in the process, you can find opportunities to fix those issues. In your future state maps, you can take steps to improve upon the unpleasant parts or remove the inefficiencies to achieve your goals. This is very important in Lean manufacturing processes as it helps companies streamline the value chain for optimal performance. value stream mapping

Why You Too Should Adopt Value Stream Mapping

The following are four key reasons to consider value stream mapping (VSM) if you aren’t on board yet;
  1. VSM identifies waste

Value stream mapping diagrams both the current and ideal state of the organization’s workflow involved in making a product from start to finish. By comparing the two charts, organizations can pick out wastes in the existing workflow and correct or remove the inefficient processes to streamline the development process. “Waste” in the VSM process is any action or step in the workflow that doesn’t add value to the final product. Be careful not to confuse this with other instances where any action or effort that customers don’t pay for is regarded as waste. For instance, inspections are a critical part of the VCM process, yet customers don’t pay for it.
  1. VSM increase process efficiency

This is what makes value stream mapping different from flow charts and the ilk. VSM diagrams label and link materials to information flow. They help you see the connection between one step in the process and the next. As such, you can deduce useful information such as lead time and cycle times. Using this information, you can then identify where value is being added and where you’re losing value, and make adjustments accordingly for utmost efficiency. If the cycle times are longer than ideal, you can dig deeper to identify the reasons and address the problem right away.
  1. It’s vital for aligning cross-functional teams

This is something a lot of people rarely see. But, value stream maps also help streamline collaboration efforts, especially where you have multiple departments working on the same project. The value stream mapping process involves everyone working on the project. Each party’s role in the project will be displayed and assessed to uncover opportunities for improvement. Better still, remember that the mapping process requires buy-in from managers at the top to workers at the bottom. The result is that everyone at the company gets to view the project as an organization-wide responsibility rather than a departmental project.
  1. VS mapping can help spark vital conversations

This is one of the most significant benefits of value stream mapping. Think about this way – what happens after the mapping? What follows after the organization has identified that certain processes aren’t adding value. The obvious next step for the organization is to sit down and discuss how to address the issue. Do they remove the process? Do they improve upon it? If so, how? These are critical conversations for any company. The best part is that since VS mappings bring the entire organization together, it allows the company to have these conversations together. This can be vital in taking the company forward.

Taking the Next Step

As you can see, value stream mapping comes with several benefits, critical to business profitability and growth. As such, every organization should strongly consider the strategy. However, we must stress that identifying your key objectives and identifying those who need to be present in the mapping process is critical. Make sure that key decision-makers at the various steps of the production workflow are involved.