One of, if not the single most powerful lean tool available to us is value stream mapping (VSM). The reason it’s so powerful is because of its relevancy.
You see, it doesn’t matter if you are an accountant who sits behind a desk, or a nurse caring for the sick, or an assembler building a Toyota Camry – value stream mapping can help you see wasteful activity in a new way. I guarantee it.
There are some excellent books written on this topic and I will point to them later. But for now, I want to take my own shot at explaining this wonderful tool to you. And, yes, the price is right if I don’t say so myself.
Since this topic is so large I will be breaking this up into a series of articles. As of right now, this is how I see things going.
- VSM Overview (this article)
- Introduction to PQPR
- Current State VSM
- Future State VSM
- Action Planning
So, let’s get started.
Definition of a Value Stream
A value stream can be defined as all the steps – both value added and non value added – required to take a product or service from its raw materials state into the waiting arms of a happy customer.
Initially, value stream mapping can seem a bit intimidating. There are lots of funny looking icons and zig zaggy lines that upon first glance seem to do nothing but confuse things. But once you understand what you are looking at you will be hooked forever.
Like most things related to lean and six sigma there are some general steps to follow when we create value stream maps. Here is how I do it.
Step 1: Identify the Product Family
The first step I recommend you take is to identify the product family you wish to map. The tool to use for this is a PQPR (Product Quantity / Product Routing) matrix. This tool will help you identify which product or in some cases products to focus in on.
I cannot stress how important this step is. I have seen too many excited people run out and start mapping the first product or process they see. While value stream mapping anything is better than nothing you definitely want to focus your efforts on the most important areas first.
Step 2: Create a Current State Value Stream Map
Once you identify what to map you and your motley crew must set off and create a current state value stream map.
As the name implies we are interested in how things look today. We are not interested in how things “should” look or were “designed” to look. No, we want to draw reality onto a piece of paper.
The piece of paper is a key point. While I am a big advocate of using software to draw our final maps up, I cringe when I see people attempting to go straight to the computer.
A stopwatch, oversized piece of paper, pencil, and good eraser are all you need at this point.
Step 3: Create a Future State Value Stream Map
Now that we have a better understanding of the current state of affairs, which is typically one eye opening experience by the way, we are ready to draw a picture of how we would like things to look in the future.
Typically, as an example, we aim to make things flow and reduce the amount of inventory or waiting in between steps.
It’s at this point when people get to dream a little. You know, create the ideal working place.
Step 4: Create an Action Plan
Now that we know how things are working today and how we would like to see them working in the future it’s time to form a plan.
There are a variety of templates available for this. The key is not which kaizen newspaper or A3 report you use – instead it’s that you and your team know exactly what needs to happen and when it needs to happen.
In short, we form the plan… then execute the plan!
In the next installment I will explain exactly how to complete a PQPR matrix.
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Read the next article in this series: How to Create a Product Quantity / Product Routing Matrix