by Larry Rubrich
Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is the only Lean tool that will not eliminate waste--its sole purpose is to help organizations identify the waste that is preventing them from reaching their organizational goals. Once the waste is identified, the appropriate waste elimination Lean tool can be pulled from the toolbox and deployed to eliminate the waste.
Value Stream Mapping creates a one page picture (although it may be a very large page and take up several walls in a training room) of a process, identifying all the steps, sequence, touches, and times. Some organizations start by mapping the "system cycle time"--from the time a customer requests a product or service to the time the customer receives a completed product or service. VSM is most effective at identifying how to improve system efficiency.
It should be noted that VSM is the most misused of all the Lean tools. Often maps are created with no specific organizational goal or improvement in mind other than to map a process. Since most organizations have hundreds of problems which can be revealed by the map--where do you start? It is recommended that the following four-step VSM process be used:
1) Pick the product, product family, service, production, or organizational process to map (improve). An improvement goal(s) is required. The most meaningfull results are achieved when this goal is tied into the organizational goals.
2) Create the "Current State" VSM (CSVSM).
3) Create the "Future State" VSM (FSVSM). This map must meet the goal(s) established in #1 above.
4) Develop an action plan (Kaizen newspaper) to make the FSVSM the new CSVSM (see figure below).
By creating Value Stream Maps, an organization begins to "see" the waste in the organization and can systematically attack the waste.