What is value stream mapping? – Part One

Man wearing a hardhat standing in manufacturing warehouse. An example of value stream mapping.
  • Value stream mapping is a business process improvement technique to analyse, design, and manage the process of bringing a product to a customer.
  • Process steps are mapped as adding value or not adding value from the customer’s standpoint, with the paim of removing waste.
  • It is a disciplined and formal business process improvement technique but can also be effective applied in a less formal way.
  • Here is a great example of some of the value stream mapping principals being applied in real life Meals Per Hour.


Where did Value Stream Mapping come from?

Lean Manufacturing
  • The term comes from lean manufacturing, a quality improvement methodology.
  • Lean principles started to emerge as early as the model T Ford but really started to take off with the massively successfully Toyota Production System through the 50s, 60s and 70s.
  • This evolved into Total Quality Management which was very popular in the 1980s.
  • Lean manufacturing strives to eliminate waste.
  • Waste is defined as any activity that does not add value to the customer.
First Use of the term Value Stream Mapping

  • “Muda” is a Japanese word meaning waste.
  • This book made Lean concepts widely accessible and applicable outside of Toyota for the first time.


What can Value Stream Mapping Be Used For?

  • to improve any process where there are repeatable steps.
  • Much of the waste in knowledge work occurs in the handoffs (or wait time) between team members, not within the steps themselves.
  • Inefficient handoffs lead to low productivity and poor quality products and services.
  • Value stream mapping helps to show where the waste is and streamline the production process.
  • It can be applied to both the product and customer delivery flows.
  • Product flow focuses on steps required to produce a product that meets customer requirements.
  • The customer flow focuses on the steps required to deliver a service that meets the expectations of the customer.


What are the benefits of value stream mapping?

  • Reducing or eliminating waste can reduce costs and increase productivity leading to increased profits.
  • Having more efficient processes can improve morale, reduce training time and reduce staff turnover.
  • Improving the quality of your product or service increases customer satisfaction.


What are the challenges of value stream mapping?

  • Selecting the right process to map can be tricky.
  • The scale of the project must be in proportion to the expected financial benefit.
  • Assembling the right team can take important people away from their daily duties as it is important to involve experienced people who work in or affected by all steps in the process.
  • While continuous quality improvement is always valuable, your business process improvement may not directly translate to bottom line results until a full walkthrough is completed.
  • Implementing your improved process comes with all the usual challenges of change management.



This article is Part One in a  series. Coming soon, part two will explore the different types of waste.

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