Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a lean manufacturing technique used to analyze and design the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service to a consumer. It is a visualization tool oriented to the Toyota version of Lean Manufacturing (Toyota Production System). At Toyota, it is known as “material and information flow mapping”. It can be applied to nearly any Value Chain.

It helps to understand and streamline work processes by using the tools and techniques of Lean Manufacturing. The goal of VSM is to identify, to demonstrate and to decrease waste in the process. Waste is defined as any activity that does not add value to the final product. The word is often used to demonstrate and decrease the amount of “waste” in a manufacturing system. VSM can thus serve as a starting point to help management, engineers, production associates, schedulers, suppliers, and customers to recognize waste and identify its causes. As a result, Value Stream Mapping is primarily a communication tool, but it can also be used as a strategic planning tool and as a change management tool.

In order to do this, the Value Stream Mapping method visually maps the flow of materials and information. From the moment that the products are entering the back door as raw materials. Via all manufacturing process steps. Until the moment that the products leave the loading dock as finished products. Mapping out the activities in the manufacturing process with cycle times, down times, in-process inventory, material moves, information flows, helps to visualize the current state of the process activities and guides towards the future desired state. The process usually includes mapping the “Current State” and the “Future State”. These then serve as the foundation for other Lean Manufacturing strategies.

History of Value Stream Mapping

The use of waste removal to achieve competitive advantage inside organizations, was pioneered in the 1980s by Toyota’s chief engineer, Taiichi Ohno, and sensei Shigeo Shingo and is oriented fundamentally towards productivity rather than towards quality. The reason for this is thought to be that improved productivity leads to leaner operations which help to expose further waste and quality problems in the system. Thus the systematic attack on waste is also a systematic assault on the factors that are underlying poor quality. And on fundamental management problems. The seven commonly accepted wastes in the Toyota production system were originally (reformulation by Jones between brackets):

  1. Process activity mapping. Origin: Industrial Engineering.
  2. Supply chain response matrix. Origin: Time compression/logistics.
  3. Production variety funnel. Origin: Operations Management.
  4. Quality filter mapping.
  5. Demand amplification mapping. Origin: Systems Dynamics.
  6. Decision point analysis. Origin: Efficient Consumer Response/logistics.
  7. Physical structure mapping.
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