Value Stream Mapping isn’t a complex tool to utilize and despite being traditionally associated with manufacturing improvement initiatives such as Lean, Kaizen or Six Sigma, Value stream mapping is suitable to use in a wide variety of settings from offices to service industry and of course manufacturing.

Value stream mapping at its heart is the mapping of information and material flow throughout an organizations production process (bear in mind the production process doesn’t have to be manufacturing it can be administrative tasks (such as raising a purchase order) or delivering services such as hospital care).

A complete Value Stream Mapping process commonly includes a number of major activities.

1/ Review and capture the current state
activity in a value stream map format
2/ Capture issues and bottlenecks and look to realize changes that can make rapid improvement

3/ Develop a “to be” future state value stream map

4/ Develop a plan and deploy the future state process.

Irrespective of the industry being mapped, its imperative that when carrying out process mapping of any type that those mapping have a significant understanding of the process by visiting the workplace. Gathering the data and constructing the value stream map “in situ”.

As an example healthcare service providers have bought into Lean practices significantly (check out the excellent twitter.com/LeanBlog for regular info on this) – in this excellent paper on value stream mapping the emergency department of a busy hospital . you can see the importance of mapping the process from the perspective of the workplace and the level of detail required for a successful VSM.

The importance of the workplace in mapping is universal is at the heart of any successful improvement initiative – develop processes when isolated from the workplace at your peril!! Workers have a key part to play in any improvement strategy and should be consulted for improvement ideas.

As discussed Value stream mapping can be applied in a wide range of business environments the key is being able to interpret the material and information flows. Applying VSM’s in an Office environment is fairly straightforward – the process and symbols used is identical to that which is commonly used in a manufacturing environment with the same benefits check out this excellent video from http://www.crollproductivesynergy.com on applying value stream mapping to an office environment.

Summary

Value Stream Mapping provides many benefits irrespective of the industry – it’s a common toolset that apart from material and information flows does not have any other requirements – its relatively simple to learn and can offer significant insight into process and issues and can be a great facilitator for improving a business.

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