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Value Stream Mapping Overview

By Ron Pereira Updated on March 2nd, 2021

Value Stream Mapping

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.

VSM Overview

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!

Value Stream Mapping Overview

If you want to dive deeper into this topic be sure to check out our Value Stream Mapping Overview video below.  This is the first video in our Transforming your Value Streams Course.

Next Up

In the next installment I will explain exactly how to complete a PQPR matrix.

Read the next article in this series: How to Create a Product Quantity / Product Routing Matrix

  1. Todd McShay

    March 17, 2008 - 10:04 pm

    I have been reading your blog for the last 6 months or so and must say that this series ranks as my all time favorite. Keep it up Ron.

  2. Ron Pereira

    March 18, 2008 - 7:47 am

    I am glad you enjoyed it Todd. Thank you for the nice compliment as well.

  3. Michelle

    August 23, 2008 - 6:57 am

    I am challenged by trying to taking the principles and use in a healthcare process. I really appreciate your resources.

  4. Yatin

    February 5, 2009 - 5:22 am

    Probably am not in the right place to comment but am looking out for specific lean tools which are available to remove Motion Muda and Transportation Muda in a service industry and let me give you some specific issues I have come across in a back office setup.
    There are multiple systems with their many screens, which the back office personnel needs to use to process work. The work could involve moving data from one screen to the other and then you have then there is the ubiquituos Microsoft excel too, from which data is copy-pasted to and from it.

    So enough said, my question is (rather my questions are)-
    1. Would it be right to term the motion of the mouse copy-pasting from one app to another a TRANSPORTATION MUDA?
    2. And, toggling from one screen to another as MOTION MUDA?
    3.In a typical Backoffice, where work begins only when the customer sends in request (since no request would mean no work to work on for back-office personnel), would pull concept make sense? or are we saying it’s kinda built-in? If not, how do we go about determining the takt time?

    Phew! Am done 🙂

  5. S. Rajagopal

    March 28, 2012 - 10:02 pm

    I downloaded your 74 page PDF book on Lean couple of day back and. I find it very easy to understand the you have explained the concept. Thanks for the the book.

  6. Kien

    August 10, 2015 - 4:22 am

    It is great to me when ran into your web. Especially I am the new to VSM.
    Thanks a lot for your article.

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