7 Basic Steps to Mapping a Value Stream, Part I

Value stream mapping is one of the core activities every Six Sigma belt candidate learns. It’s a foundational effort in identifying waste and opportunities for improvement. The framework applies to any business seeking improvement. To understand the importance of mapping the value stream, it’s worth looking at what the proper mapping process looks like. In this two-part series, we’ll identify the seven basic steps to mapping the value stream and what role they play in the process.

What is a value stream?

A value stream is the start-to-finish path for every product or service, conception to fulfillment. However, it’s more than just outlining a step-by-step procedure for how to complete a task. The concept of a value stream also is about recognizing opportunities for improvement. Mapping value streams is a step toward creating solutions that help manufacturers become efficient, wasting fewer resources.

Within the value stream map, it’s easy to identify problem areas that might otherwise go unnoticed. Little everyday tasks — making phone calls, transporting products, meetings — get overlooked. A value stream map forces you to consider everything that goes into the making of a product or service, illuminating key factors such as time, resources, and waste.

Value stream mapping is not a one-time activity. Your company should map a new value stream any time someone believes a process could be done better. Here’s how.

Step 1: List steps 📝

Write down every activity that contributes to the creation of your product or service. While creating the steps, you’ll realize some activities are wasting time or preventing processes from being efficient. This is normal. Keep all activities during this phase, even if they present weaknesses. Simply make note of what you intend to change later.

Step 2: Create symbols 👁️‍🗨️

Once your team has brainstormed all steps, make it visual. There are universal symbols within the Six Sigma modality used for mapping out a value stream. These symbols have agreed-upon meanings, so everyone understands what happens during each step. They illustrate where resources go, areas that need improvement, where suppliers play a role, and many other things. Keep a chart with all the symbols and their meanings next to your value stream map for easy interpretation.

Step 3: Quantify time ⏲️

Your map presents steps in a chronological order. Thus, you should figure out the time it takes to complete each step. This gives you an accurate calculation of how much time is necessary to fulfill a product or service. Put the time demands for each step on the map — they’re integral to the whole picture.

Step 4: Identify wastes 🗑️

Wastes in a value stream are steps that aren’t contributing to the customers’ needs. Eight types of waste in production processes include:

  • Overproduction
  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Overprocessing
  • Defects
  • Unused talent

For example, waste may be a surplus of product or excessive time spent waiting for materials to arrive.

Value stream maps are a great way to identify waste, saving you from costly investments. In other words, reducing waste just involves re-imagining a step so it’s more efficient.

Continue reading about the 7 basic steps to mapping a value stream in Part II, found here.

There’s no understating the importance of value stream mapping. If you’re having trouble identifying wastes and opportunities within your manufacturing maintenance approach, you can always count on the professionals at Global Electronic Services. Contact us for all your industrial electronic, servo motor, AC and DC motor, hydraulic, and pneumatic needs — and don’t forget to like and follow us on Facebook!
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