Value stream mapping (VSM) is a graphical tool originally used in the auto industry to define a method for streamlining work processes called "lean manufacturing." Toyota is credited with defining this strategy of steps that has led to a standard known as Six Sigma. Six Sigma is an efficiency model of best practices that corporations use to improve their production.
These efficiency principles originated in the 1900s with Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, science engineers who conducted motion studies to understand how to shorten the processes necessary to perform a task. Their work has withstood the test of time.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Value stream mapping is a graphical tool originally used in the auto industry to define a method for streamlining work processes called "lean manufacturing." Process mapping tracks and analyzes the steps in a process, looks at the sequence of steps and eliminates those not needed or reorders steps for better efficiency.
Value Stream Mapping
Value stream mapping consists of three steps that examine the interactions between processes. A present state value stream map shows work processes as they exist in the present. The present state is assessed to understand what needs improvement. A future state value stream map assesses where the corporation would like to be after changes are implemented.
Future state requires more in-depth understanding of inventory processes, like Kanban (an inventory-tracking methodology); Kaizan, a Japanese principle of continuous improvement; and lot sizing (small or large,) which affects inventory efficiency. Finally, developing and implementing a plan to reach the future state should be the outcome of VSM.
Process Mapping to Analyze a Process
Process mapping tracks and analyzes the steps in a process, looks at the sequence of steps and eliminates those not needed or reorders steps for better efficiency. The Gilbreth's research led to a set of color-coded symbols that can be used to read processes during analysis. Process mapping allows for analysis of details to a fault in search of bottlenecks or other issues.
Value Stream Mapping and Process Mapping Combined
Value stream mapping and process mapping are used in concert in lean manufacturing. As the value stream is studied for present state, the processes are mapped to prioritize them or eliminate them. Workers' socio-economic engagement with one another is also studied. Analysts need to determine how the workers integrate with processes and what, if any, personnel changes should be made.
Example of Usage in the Industry
The Kaizen Event (Blitz) is an example of usage in an organization for VSM and process mapping. The Kaizen Blitz is a project an organization undertakes for the purpose of rapid implementation to improve a product line. The project runs from two to 10 days and "blitzes" through training, analysis, design and re-engineering of a target product line.
The idea behind blitzing is to force change and allow no time for resistance to creep in and obstruct the implementation. Because there is a certain degree of risk involved in the Kaizan Blitz, it may not work for all companies.
Francine Adams has written for the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals and Data Management International since 2006. She earned her Master of Science in Internet technology leadership at La Salle University and is earning her Doctor of Education in instructional technology and distance education at Nova Southeastern University.