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What is value stream mapping?

The thing that you need to know about value stream mapping is that it is a paper and pencil tool that helps you to see and understand the flow of material and information as a product or service makes its way through the value stream. Basically value stream mapping is usually used in lean manufacturing rather than in six sigma manufacturing. If you are using six sigma manufacturing then you would be using process mapping instead of value stream mapping. Another thing that you need to know about value stream mapping is that the process includes physically mapping out your current state of processes while at the same time focusing on where you are trying to go as a company, this can help you determine what type of lean manufacturing strategies you will need to use. Basically value stream mapping differs from the process mapping of Six Sigma in four ways:

- Value stream mapping gathers and displays a broader range of information than a typical process map does.
- The value stream map tends to be at a higher level than many other process maps. Value stream maps are usually 5 to 10 boxes.
- The value stream maps are used in a different way than process maps because it covers a broader level. An example of this would be that a value stream map would begin with the receiving of the raw materials and then proceed all the way down to the delivery of finished goods.
- And the last difference is that the value stream map is usually used to identify where to focus a company's future projects, their subprojects, and or any of their kaizen events.

Something else that you need to know about a value stream map is that it is also known as an end to end system map. The reason for this is that a value stream map takes into account not only the activity of the product, but everything that goes into the project itself, which includes the management and information systems that support the basic process. One of the best things about how defined a value stream map is that they are especially helpful when your company is working to reduce cycle time. The reason why they are so helpful when trying to reduce cycle time is because you gain insight into the decision making flow, but you also get to gain insight into the process flow.

But another thing that you should know about value stream mapping is that it is a great tool for lean manufacturing because it provides your company with so many benefits. One of the best benefits that value stream mapping provides is that it is a starting point for managers, engineers, production assistants, customers, etc to help learn to identify waste and the causes of the waste. In fact value stream mapping is probably the best place that your company can start on their journey to implementing lean manufacturing. The reasons why value stream mapping is a great place to start are:

- VSM helps you visualize more than just the single-process level, i.e. assembly, welding, etc.
- It helps you see more than wasteit helps you see the sources of waste in your value stream
- Value stream mapping provides a common language for talking about manufacturing processes
- It makes decisions about the flow apparent, so you can discuss them
- VSM ties together lean concepts and techniqueshelps you avoid "cherry picking"
- It forms the basis of an implementation plan
- Value stream mapping shows the linkage between the information flow and the material flow
- It is much more useful than quantitative tools and layout diagrams that produce a tally of non-value added steps, lead time, distance traveled, the amount of inventory, and so on.

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