A Value Stream Map isn’t just pretty wallpaper For your office


Have you ever created a Value stream map, felt really proud of yourself for learning how to do it and then done nothing with it afterwards? You wouldn’t be alone, plenty of people have. This is why they are sometimes referred to as office wallpaper. We stick them up on the wall for everyone to see as if they are right of passage to being a called Lean engineer.

Here’s the problems your now up against:

To create the Value Stream Map you required Stake holder co-operation. So you’ve cost the company lost time and achieved nothing

As stakeholders have seen no rewards from their hard work they now have no intention of supporting you in future, well at least not to the same level of effort.

You’re stuck for ideas. You’ve created The Value Steam Map (VSM) and you’ve got a lot of generic data such as rolling yield, WIP in the system and finger in the air cycle times for each process but now don’t know what to do with it.

So where did it all go wrong

I’ve been in the exact same position I’ve described above, I’ve questioned myself as to why I do these things, I’ve had other specialist Lean professionals telling me “VSM’s are a waste of time, Use this instead” showing you a completely over complicated tool that really comes out with the same answers.

Here’s the mistake I made. I used the same old generic VSM templates or how too guides your probably using or are going to use. They include yield, Cycle times, and Resource, WIP and communication routes. The second mistake is to stick a VSM on a wall or PowerPoint presentation and expect people to understand what you want them to see.

What should you do?

The standard templates for VSM’s are great, they give you a top level understanding of what’s going on. You filled in all the blank boxes on your template and then said you were finished. Don’t stop there! You’ve now got a basic understanding. Go away and have a think about what the VSM is showing you. One I did recently told me exactly what I thought I needed to know, which was where the bottle neck was in the system which would give me somewhere to concentrate my effort.

My aim was to cut cost, although the Bottleneck was my rate limiter, was it really my major cost? Well in this case the major cost was Labour but the bottleneck I found was mainly asset utilization or in other words a machine. So concentrating my efforts on reducing the bottle neck would have had little reward.

But why waste the VSM it contains a lot of useful data. I decided to get the Stakeholders back together and add some specific manning data to the VSM. Don’t be afraid to cut and shut your VSM it’s not pretty wall paper after all. So we had a talk through and realized that the issue wasn’t required Man hours to complete the tasks at all, it was he requirement to have an operator stop what he doing approximately every hour and perform a 10 minute operation checking the material thickness and then reloading the automated line. Planning this was extremely complicated so resource utilization (worked hours vs available hrs) was really low, meaning we had far more staff than actually should have been required, meaning our costs where high. In this case we were able to use the gathered data to create a business case and purchase additional capability for the line to allow it to automate the thickness check. Meaning there were no more interim ops for the operators meaning planning was much simpler and we could cope with 1 less man per shift.

VSM Summary

Hopefully the major message you should take away from this is don’t waste the great data you’ve gathered. Develop the VSM to suit your needs. VSM’s can be really flexible after all its just a data gathering tool. Figure out what data you need and adjust your VSM to suit nd generate a report of your findings. Your report should concentrate on whats important to your requirement rather than listing every bit of data on the VSM.