Visualise your product journey.
Delivering a product or service includes a number of steps, inputs, outputs, and people. Value stream mapping helps you visualize the steps needed, from product creation to delivery to the end customer. Visualizing the journey helps understand the business better and the processes that are in place so that you improve the flow of value through your system and minimize waste.
Value stream mapping is a tool that embodies Lean management. Lean management is a widespread method across industries and encourages shared responsibilities and leadership. It’s centered around respect for people and dynamic continuous improvements.
Lean management emerged from the Japanese manufacturing industry in the 1940s. Taiichi Ohno, an engineer at Toyota, developed many of the Lean tools and methods we use today. He was seeking ways to improve efficiency and quality while reducing waste and cost. The keystone of Lean management is “flow” or “continuous flow.” This means that the product or service flows smoothly from one process to the next without interruption.
The goal of value stream mapping is to identify and then remove waste from the value stream. Waste is anything that doesn’t add value to the product or service from the customer’s perspective. There are seven types of waste:
1. Transportation – Moving products or materials that don’t need to be moved
2. Inventory – Excess or unnecessary inventory
3. Motion – Unnecessary movement of people or equipment
4. Waiting – Idle time for people or equipment
5. Overproduction – Producing more than is needed
6. Overprocessing – Adding unnecessary steps or features
7. Defects – Mistakes or imperfections that require rework
Value stream mapping is helpful in revealing waste because it forces you to take a close look at the process and each individual step. Once you’ve identified the waste, you can brainstorm ways to eliminate it and make the process more efficient.
There are two main types of value stream maps: current state maps and future state maps. Current state maps show the existing process, while future state maps show the ideal or desired process. Future state maps are usually created after a company has already implemented some Lean improvements and they serve as a target to strive for.
Creating a value stream map is a collaborative process. It’s best to involve as many people as possible from different parts of the organization, including front-line workers, managers, and executive leadership. The more people you involve, the more likely it is that you’ll identify all of the waste in the process and come up with creative solutions.