Value Stream Mapping — Putting Your Processes to Work


A process is an organized group of related activities that work together to transform one or more kinds of input into outputs that are of value to the customer. Within this organized group, activities are related, work toward a common goal, and exist to create a specific result. All activities in a process consume resources, such as labor or capital. Some activities only add time to the process; others add direct value to the product or service, and some just add costs.

One technique that evaluates processes so that their efficiency can be measured and improved is called Value Stream Mapping (VSM). With VSM, the flow of materials and information that are required to bring a product or service to a customer is analyzed by looking at a “value chain.” As the name implies, each activity, or step, in the chain is examined to determine if it contributes value to the end result or if it is considered “waste.”

There are three types of basic business management processes: those that provide direction and governance for an enterprise; those that exist to sustain the enterprise; and those that reflect the unique competencies and organization of the enterprise and are mission-critical. These processes tend to be very close to core “value-creating processes” that affect a customer’s experience with its supplier. So-called value-creating processes tend to be large in scope, span multiple organizational components, and are the focus for performance improvement.

These processes tend to be very close to core “value-creating processes” that affect a customer’s experience with its supplier.

I have been involved in numerous VSM projects in the industrial and compressed gas industry, both as a participant and as a facilitator. As a process, VSM enables and sustains change and is an important way to make continuous improvements in a company. This article presents a step-by-step overview of the Map Development Process, a basic tool in VSM.

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