Value Stream Mapping (VSM)
An Introduction to Value Stream Mapping
Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is an excellent tool for improving process and flow and for eliminating waste. VSM is a method through which a team maps out the flow of value for repeating processes, forcing the team members to analyze where value is being added and where it is not.
Value Stream Definition
The value stream is the sequence of activities required to design, produce and deliver a good or service to a customer. The value stream includes the dual flows of information and material. Watch this introductory video about value stream mapping from the Lean Enterprise Institute.
What is Value Stream Mapping?
A team-based methodology for analyzing the current state and designing a future state for a series of events that take a product or service from its beginning through to the customer.
VSM in Lean Design & Construction
In the world of Lean design and construction, we are constantly evaluating processes, seeking opportunities for improvement in order to maximize value for the customer or stakeholder. This is best accomplished by adhering to the six tenets of the Lean Construction Institute, which include:
- Respect for People
- Removal of Waste
- Focus on Process & Flow
- Generation of Value
- Continuous Improvement
- Optimize the Whole
The Value Stream Mapping Process
During the VSM process, a team physically maps out all of the steps included in the working process. Then, the team must analyze each step closely to determine what parts of the process can be moved, made more efficient, or can be totally removed.
During this process, teams are encouraged to ask themselves which steps of their design and construction process add value and which steps are non-value added and therefore are wasteful.
Value Stream Mapping is not to be confused with pull planning, process planning, or hand-off work planning which generally map the pathway of work to reach a particular endpoint. Rather, VSM takes a holistic approach to determine which steps are the most necessary to the production of the end product, service, or outcome.
The Practical Use for Value Stream Mapping
Value Stream Mapping allows teams to visualize the process so that they can better identify areas for improvement. A value stream map can be thought of as a visual storyboard that shows how the team gets from the start of the project to the end result.
The map should include raw material and information flows, decision points, hand-offs, and interactions with other systems. There are eight different types of waste, and any of these wastes can be found throughout working processes.
Waste has a habit of slowly creeping into processes as we grow complacent. You might not even realize that a large portion of the tasks you do every day are in fact wasteful. Left unchecked, waste can lead to a loss in profits, backed up schedules, unsatisfied owners, and increased injury risk as workers throw caution to the wind in order to accelerate their production timelines.
Shifting the Focus
Ultimately, the processes we abide by should be done with the final product in mind: the outcome. It’s easy to get wrapped up in other aspects of the project that are demanding our attention at the moment such as the personnel, the machines, and the equipment. Lean Value Stream Mapping forces us to shift our focus to the outcome and how each of our steps impact the final outcome.
An easy way to identify waste is to ask yourself: which steps are not benefiting the outcome? Since waste can be thought of as the antithesis to value, any step that is not directly adding value to the outcome is waste. In some instances, A3 thinking can be helpful to determining countermeasures to the various problems that Value Stream Mapping can bring to light. A3 thinking is a process improvement tool that allows teams to visualize issues and all of the elements involving them so the team can identify and test a countermeasure.
How to Conduct Value Stream Mapping
The first step to creating a value stream map is to define your core and your support streams. Support streams can be mapped out separately from the core stream. Determine what your outcome is first and work backwards from there. What steps are needed to reach that endpoint?
Afterwards, visually map out the value stream. The process map should include a number of stages including:
The person who initiates the request and receives the good or service. In a proper pull planning system, the stream should always be initiated by someone who triggers the system to begin the process. In design and construction, this person is generally the owner of the project. In support streams, this may be someone else.
The signal that initiates the value stream. This is the action taken by the customer that signals to the team that the value stream should begin.
The first activity that needs to take place within the value stream. What does the trigger initiate?
The last activity in the value stream that leads to the completion of the project.
The finished project that the customer receives. In the core streams of design and construction, this is likely either the project blueprints (design) or the object being built (construction).
Issues You’ll Uncover With Value Stream Mapping
When analyzing the value stream, a number of problems within the process generally become clear. Some of the more common issues that can be found in most processes include:
- Disconnected processes
- Incomplete & unclear information
- Uneven workloads
- Wasteful activities
- Long delays
- Ineffective outcomes
- Excessive costs
- Poor customer experience
Value Stream Mapping Example
Value streams generally aren’t straight lines and often include a great number of variables. Here is an illustration of a Value Stream Map example. You can see that the map includes detailed descriptions of materials, travel steps, and time required to complete various steps of the process.
Learn Value Stream Mapping
The Lean Construction Institute is committed to transforming the design and construction industry by providing Lean educational resources, conducting research, and facilitating local and national Lean events. It is only through the power of the LCI Corporate Members that LCI is able to offer the supplementary resources below.