Updated: Sep 27
In today’s competitive business landscape, organisations strive for efficiency and
Continuous Improvement to stay ahead of the curve. One invaluable tool that has emerged
to meet this challenge is value stream mapping (VSM).
VSM is a powerful technique that helps businesses streamline their processes to enhance
productivity, reduce waste, and improve customer satisfaction. Read on to learn more
about value stream mapping, including what it is, how it works, and using it for continuous
Defining value stream mapping
Value Stream Mapping is a visual representation of the entire process that a product or
service undergoes, from its inception to customer delivery. As a key component of Lean
techniques, it aims to eliminate waste and achieve process optimisation.
The primary objective of VSM is to identify value-added and non-value-added activities in a
● Value-added activities directly contribute to meeting customer requirements
● Non-value-added activities are wasteful and should be minimised or eliminated
By understanding these distinctions, businesses can work towards process optimisation,
reduce costs, and improve customer satisfaction.
Ultimately, VSM provides a holistic view of how materials and information flow through
various stages to identify bottlenecks, redundancies, and areas for improvement.
Steps to create a value stream map
1. Select the process: Choose the specific process or workflow that you want to map.
It could be anything from product manufacturing to order processing.
2. Identify boundaries: Clearly define the scope, determining where the process
starts (i.e. with a customer order) and ends (i.e. with a product or service delivery)
to ensure that your value stream map focuses exclusively on the customer journey.
3. Gather a cross-functional team: Assemble a team from different departments
involved in the process to ensure a holistic view and capture diverse perspectives.
4. Map the current state: Start by creating a visual representation of the existing
processes, including all the steps, inputs, outputs, and information flows. Use
standardised symbols and labels to make the map easily understandable.
5. Collect data: Gather data related to cycle times, lead times, and inventory levels at
various stages to identify inefficiencies.
6. Identify value-add activities: Analyse the map to distinguish between activities
that add value to the process and those that do not. Non-value-added activities
should be targeted for improvement.
7. Create the future state map: Design a future state map based on your insights
from the current map to represent the ideal, optimised process. This map should
include improvements and changes needed to eliminate waste and enhance
8. Develop an implementation plan: Lay out a plan to make changes identified in the
future state map. Assign responsibilities, set timelines, and establish key
performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress.
9. Review and continuously improve: The hard work doesn’t stop there – regularly
review the value stream map and make necessary adjustments as the process
Utilising VSM for Continuous Improvement
Value stream mapping is not a one-time exercise – it’s a Continuous Improvement tool. By
applying VSM principles, organisations can unlock a host of benefits, chief among them…
● Waste reduction: VSM identifies and eliminates waste, whether it’s in the form of
excess inventory, overproduction, unnecessary waiting times, or redundant
● Cost savings: Streamlining processes often reduces operational costs, including
lower labour and material expenses.
● Improved quality: Focusing on value-added activities enhances product or service
quality, reducing defects and the need for rework.
● Faster lead times: Shorter lead times can be a competitive advantage in delivering
products and services to customers.
● Enhanced customer satisfaction: Efficient processes result in quicker deliveries
and better service, ultimately leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Example of value stream mapping
Consider a manufacturing company that produces bespoke furniture – they decide to
create a value stream map for their order fulfilment process.
This might include:
1. Customer places an order
Problem: Incomplete or inaccurate order information can lead to production errors.
Solution: Implement a user-friendly online order form with validation checks and clear
instructions. Provide customer support channels for order assistance.
2. Sales team reviews the order and contacts the customer for clarification
Problem: Sales team delays in reaching out, causing customer frustration.
Solution: Establish a clear timeline for order review and customer contact. Use automated email notifications to keep the customer informed about the process.
3. Production planning team schedules the order and allocates resources
Problem: Resource allocation errors lead to delays in production.
Solution: Implement a robust resource management system that optimises resource
allocation based on order priorities and capacity. Regularly review and adjust schedules as needed.
4. Manufacturing team builds the furniture
Problem: Equipment breakdowns or material shortages halt production.
Solution: Perform preventative maintenance on machinery, maintain a buffer stock of
essential materials, and establish relationships with multiple suppliers for critical
5. Quality control team inspects the finished product
Problem: Inconsistent quality standards result in subpar products reaching customers.
Solution: Define clear quality control standards and provide training to the inspection
team. Implement automated inspection tools where applicable to maintain consistency.
6. Shipping team packs and ships the product to the customer
Problem: Shipping delays or damaged products during transit.
Solution: Use reliable shipping carriers, track shipments, and implement proper packaging techniques to prevent damage. Communicate shipping information to customers promptly.
7. Customer receives and evaluates the furniture
Problem: Customer dissatisfaction due to product defects or discrepancies.
Solution: Offer a hassle-free return and replacement policy. Actively seek feedback from
customers and use it to improve product quality and customer satisfaction.
By creating a value stream map, the bespoke furniture company can identify bottlenecks,
delays, and areas where value is added or lost. They can then optimise the process,
potentially reducing lead times, improving communication, and enhancing product quality.
Learn more about value stream mapping
Value stream mapping is a powerful tool that empowers organisations to reduce waste and
continuously enhance their operations. By adopting VSM as a part of their Lean toolbox,
businesses can stay competitive in today’s fast-paced business environment, ultimately
delivering greater value to their customers.
If you would like more information about value stream mapping or to sign up for one of our
lean courses, please contact us:
● Phone: 0161 533 1617
● Email: email@example.com
● Visit our website for more information