Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Five Simple Ways to Make Your VSM A Valuable Improvement Tool

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.

Value-stream mapping is a useful tool for grasping the current situation and for planning improvements. A current state value-stream map depicts the current situation as is. A future state value-stream map depicts what the value stream should look like after planned improvements have been implemented.

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.

There is a tendency to skip mapping the current state and go directly to the future state map. But if we don’t understand the current process, we can’t really make intelligent decisions about how the future current state might or should look. A lot of companies want to skip the development of the current state map and get right into brainstorming ideas for improvement. We must reduce this impulse.

Skipping the current state map is like building a house without surveying the land or visiting the site.  Doing so can lead to a home that can’t be built and an upset homeowner.

These tips will help you develop accurate value stream maps that you can use to drive continuous improvement.

1. Define your value stream.
Identify the basic process steps before conducting your value stream map. Base the value stream map process on customer requirements. You must understand what the customer values, and use that as your starting point. Include all the activities required to bring a product from “raw materials” into the customer’s hands or provide service to a target audience. For each step in the process agree to the measure/data requirement needed for the map.

2. Capture the actual process in the actual place.
Describe the process as it operates now, not how it’s supposed to operate. Don’t be shy – visit the workplace when doing a value stream map. Walk through the process to ensure that the flow of materials and information is accurate. You will gain far more knowledge of the process if you witness the events yourself. An incorrect VSM can lead to wrong conclusions being drawn and can waste valuable time of improvement teams.

3. Make your value stream map with pencil and paper.
These days there are lots of value stream mapping software available but for first timers who may not be familiar with the software it’s just one extra thing to learn. Excellent results can be obtained through traditional pencil and paper. This helps your Value Stream Mapping team be familiar with the process and understand the level of detail that will be captured. When drawn in pencil it is easier to make changes. Just remember to stick with basic value stream mapping icons.

4. Analyze the entire value stream.
Too many Lean practitioners skip value stream analysis and jump right to identifying specific sources of waste and removing them. Unfortunately, as they note, this often results in local improvements, but rarely results in significant overall improvements in the overall value stream or in improved products for customers. To really have an impact, you need to begin by streamlining the entire value stream, and only after that, drill down into specific processes to eliminate waste. Your map may reveal a number of potential areas for improvement. Which ones will make the biggest difference in meeting customer requirements?

5. Map your improvement plan.
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. List the actions that need to happen to improve the process. Take a step-by-step approach to putting your plan in action, then update your future state map as you implement each step.

Bonus: Remember keep your value stream map simple.
Remember that there is no perfect value stream map and you should set out to capture all the sufficient information. Keep the mapping process simple and allow for corrections. This will allow everyone to participate and be engaged in the improvement part of the process.

There is a lot to think about when undertaking value stream mapping so be sure not to rush. Create a check list of items that should be included in the map and cross them off as you go along. When you think you’ve got your map complete – validate it with your stakeholders – ensure its representative of what actually happens. Use this to iron out any problems with the map. Don’t take this stage for granted – get it wrong and you can find your improvement suggestions shot down in flames as stakeholders trash your map!

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