Value stream mapping is a visual means to depict and improve the flow of manufacturing and production process, as well as the information that controls the flow of materials through the process.

It is the preferred methodology for identifying the inherent waste and losses within an operation.

As a management tool, value stream mapping (VSM) is used to:


  • Graphically illustrate, analyze and understand the flow of materials and the information needed to process them. Unlike process maps that are limited to mapping the sequence of tasks that are performed to complete a procedure or process, value-stream mapping provides the means to:
  • Display the interaction between multiple functions within the manufacturing process as well as ancillary functions such as production planning, scheduling, and materials management, etc.
  • The flow of information (communications) and materials throughout the complete manufacturing or production process.  Coordination and in-process materials are common sources of significant loss in far too many plants. Value-stream mapping provides the means to visualize and recognize these limiting factors.
  • Highlight problems, inefficiencies and losses within complex systems. Since the value stream map integrates information and materials flow, as well as the sequence of tasks -- including cycle time and lag between tasks -- the ability to identify restrictions, bottlenecks and all other factors that limit effectiveness and efficiency is greatly enhanced.
  • Develop and implement countermeasures in a highly visual way that facilitates culture change within the organization. The entire value-stream mapping process utilizes graphical depictions of limiting factors that all stakeholders can easily visualize. The process is also designed to actively involve all stakeholders in each stage.
  • Focus direction for the lean transformation teams, front-line supervision and upper management towards continuous improvement.
  • Serve as a dashboard to monitor and continuously improve the process

First Pass: Understand the Current State

  • Train your value stream mapping (VSM) team: Select a cross-functional team that includes all stakeholders of the process or area to be mapped. These teams must include the operators and maintenance personnel with first-hand knowledge of the process or area as well as those who must support them.
  • Physically walk the path of the material flow, beginning from each source of primary and secondary materials required to support the operation as well as the actual manufacturing or production process that is being mapped.
  • Document each step observed or discovered as part of the walk-down. Identify the communication points and how communication occurs.
  • Create your “current state” VSM and include all pertinent data and information. Now is not the time to skimp on detail or short-cut the process. Dig until you are sure that the VSM accurately and completely describes the current process.