flow chart of processes

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Value Stream Mapping, or VSM, is a Lean technique used to document, analyze, and improve the flow of information, materials, energy, etc. required to produce a product/service for a customer.

Use VSM to help visually document where an area may be having some difficulty – either in material flow, information processing delays, or other difficulties.

Value Stream Mapping helps eliminate waste

The objective of Value Stream Mapping is to eliminate the ‘wastes’ of Lean – VSM most closely addresses the wastes of transportation (of raw materials) and waiting (for materials, machine availability, information, etc.)  It also shows the path that is taken to deliver the process:

Once you can see the process visually, you can more easily identify areas that can be improved:

  • bottlenecks
  • delays
  • distance traveled between steps
  • etc.






Value Stream Mapping often starts with a picture of the process as it currently runs
“as is”, as well as the future perfect “to be” state:


Value Stream Mapping – “as is” and “to be”

Lay out the work as it is accomplished now.  Then determine how the process would run if everything was perfect.  The gap between the “as is” and the “to be” will lay out the work to be done on order to achieve a higher-functioning process (the “to be”).  Follow the flow of information among these processes (let’s say it’s processing a phone order for services – getting a repair person scheduled):

value stream mapping - current state suzanneb41.sg-host.com

The information is received in process 1, logged in in process 2, scheduled on a calendar in process 3, scheduled with a technician in process 4, and dispatched in process 5.  It may be done via paper, text, phone call, etc. and the system is not linked – so if a reschedule takes place, it manually has to go back through several processes in order to make that a reality.   Also, the departments are not located within visual line of site to each other, so they are working ‘blind’.

An Optimized Process Flow

When a process has been optimized, the information no longer needs to go all over the place – the processes are laid out in order and information is seamless transitioned from one group to another; software or a status board is used which links all the processes together, reducing errors and increasing customer satisfactionValue Stream Mapping - future state suzanneb41.sg-host.com

Here the process is co-located in one area visually – either physically or via software.  The person receiving the request for service can quickly get the service schedule, and if a change is needed, can identify when that can be accomplished.

Visual Stream Mapping is not difficult to do, and requires no special software or skills – post it notes and pens are the main supply needed.  It does, however, need a commitment from employees and management to document the current process accurately, including metrics and interim deliverables.

Once VSM is complete, the organization can then make changes to streamline the process to eliminate bottlenecks, improve process flow, and streamline delivery to the customer.

Interested in finding out more?  Click HERE for more info from McDonald Consulting Group.