Understanding Value Stream Mapping

The Value Stream represents all the activities that are necessary to bring a product/service from its raw material state to its final state. Understanding the value stream is essential because it defines exactly where to focus process improvement efforts. To identify the value stream, you may need to start by bringing together a cross-functional team that comprises those with both business and technical domain knowledge.

A Value Stream Map displays the flow of material and information needed to deliver a product or service to the market. It is different from a standard business process model because it displays information at a higher level and covers a broader range of functions (as opposed to steps, which are covered by business process models). It is widely regarded as a lean tool used for analysing the flow of materials in a process as well as the information that is needed to complete the process.

Value stream maps document the current state of the business, the improved state as well as the gaps that need to be filled to arrive at the improved state. You may go product by product or service by service to pinpoint all the activities within the scope of the value stream. You could also start from a product or service and then work your way back to identify all the steps involved in delivering it.

Map the information flow to ensure that orders, schedules and all the data objects involved in completing the value stream are included. Also, indicate the time and cost implications of the process to make identifying and prioritising improvement opportunities easier.

The objective of further analysis is to eliminate non-value adding steps. One best practice is to define the current value stream as-is, and then define the future state so that the gaps that need to be filled in the process can be identified and corrected.