Sticky NotesValue Stream Mapping (VSM) is a tool that helps organizations map the flow of materials and information required to produce a product or service and ultimately deliver it to the customers. VSM generates a chart of the product or service’s current state in order to  identify where improvements might be made  and design its ideal or future state.

Value Stream Mapping is recognized as part of six sigma methodologies used to eliminate waste and improve the flow of materials and information through the stream value of a product or service. Its purpose is to provide optimum value to the customer through a complete value creation process with minimum waste in the design, production process and delivery.

Value Stream Mapping involves the creation of maps using a specific set of symbols. A “current state map” is the first one that should be developed, then one or more “future state maps” which will progressively show how the value adding steps can be improved and the non-value adding steps eliminated in any process. The basic steps in creating a Value Stream Map are:

  1. Define the process by literally walking through it to identify tasks, flows, value added and non-value added activities.
  2. Create the “current state map” by gathering data on resources, time, number of people, space, etc.
  3. Determine opportunities for improvement by identifying bottlenecks and other flow impediments and seeking potential solutions to eliminate waste and add value.
  4. Create a “future state map” to visualize the desired and realistic next state and plan the necessary actions to achieve it.

This tool can be used in any process and in any organization. All that is needed is time, paper, pencil and willingness to walk through the whole process. The benefits that may come from having a view of the whole value stream of a product or service are:

  • Improves the identification of interactions and connections of materials and information.
  • By using a predetermined set of symbols it provides a common language for talking about a process.
  • Bottlenecks and wastes are easily identified.
  • Helps unify activities or tasks that can easily be integrated.
  • Provides a process “blueprint” for planning and improvement.

The visualization of material and information flows and how these are connected will help organizations see waste, plan to eliminate it and integrate the necessary actions for improvement. With this tool it would be easier to see how to integrate the efforts of different areas in order for them to work as a unit for a specific goal and not in isolation as it is too often seen in many organizations.