Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bring Value to Your Value Stream Map with These Ten Tips

Value stream mapping is a tremendously valuable tool for improving a process. Well suited for a broad range of industries and processes. A value stream map (VSM) illustrates the flow of materials and information as a product or service moves through a process. In short, it helps eliminate waste.

But like any tool, VSM must be applied properly. That means avoiding the common errors that invalidate the mapping process. Below are some tips on developing an accurate VSM. These tips will not only improve the accuracy of your map and facilitate the mapping process.

1. Define a value stream.
Include all the activities required to bring a product from “raw materials” into the customer’s hands or provide service to a target audience.

2. Base the value stream map process on customer requirements.
You must understand what the customer values, and use that as your starting point. If you don’t, you risk, in the words of my favorite band The Fall, paying “the highest attention to the wrong detail.”

3. Capture the process as it operates now, not how it’s supposed to operate.
A process that worked well when you had 20 employees may not perform as efficiently now that the business is a 200-person company. Be sure you map the process as it happens now, not the way it used to work—or how you wish it worked!

4. Assign a value stream map manager to lead the mapping effort.
Input from team members and stakeholders is important, but appoint (or elect) one team member to draw the entire value stream map. This ensures that the manager understands the material and information flows.

5. Walk through the process to ensure that the flow of materials and information is accurate.
Make sure your map reflects the reality of the process—verifying this by following the process from start to finish can reveal crucial details you might have missed.

6. Focus on one small step at a time.
Make sure you capture each step accurately. For example, don’t trust the clock on the wall to measure cycle times—use a stopwatch.

7. Identify critical paths and bottlenecks.
Your map may reveal a number of potential areas for improvement. Which ones will make the biggest difference in meeting customer requirements?

8. Create a future state map from the current state map.
Your current-state map suggests where to focus your efforts, so you can draft a map that shows how value will flow through an improved process.

9. Limit the improvement plan to achieve the future state to a one-page document, if possible.
List the actions that need to happen to improve the process. Use simple, clearly-defined steps.

10. To implement the improvement plan quickly, focus on individual areas.
Take a step-by-step approach to putting your plan in action, then update your future state map as you implement each step.

Creating a value stream map of the current state of your process helps you focus on areas of waste such as excess inventory, non-value-added time, and multiple operators. It’s not an easy undertaking, but making a good value stream map is a great way to help everyone involved understand and see where improvements can be made. These tips will help you develop accurate value stream maps.

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