Value Stream Mapping

You want to bet your Value Stream Map in your company is not right, or worse still missing?

Let’s be realistic. Many companies that I have been visiting over the last 20 years had no or only a partial Value Flow Map. What is so exciting about that?

The source of all problems
Especially larger companies have to deal with complex flows that start with a quotation request and which of course must end with the delivery of a service or a complete product. Customer first! Of course it is difficult when you deal with many departments or even more complex when important parts of the process are outsourced in Eastern Europe or even further away in India or China. A regular Value Stream Map often contains at least 10 to 20 departments and/or teams that will cover around 50 to 150 steps in total. No wonder that the lead time and reliability of this process is under pressure. A Value Stream Map of an entire organization under 15 meters does not exist on a brown paper. It contains too little information to be able to identify the correct wastes. On the other hand, a too detailed Value Stream Map is not good either. The improvement team will get an overload of information in which the overall picture will be lost. The longest value stream map I have made was over 50 meters. So that was a bit enthusiastic!

True or False.
Addressing the operational activities such as production and assembly departments certainly gives a good appearance and can therefore be very useful. But if attention is only focused on this, the effect can sometimes be disappointing. The simple fact: the front of a process largely determines the success for improvements! Of course, this applies entirely to companies that outsource their production and or assembly process. One of the reasons to focus Lean projects mainly on operational management lies in the fact that our accounting and planning systems focus on measurable items such as purchasing costs, man hours and materials. These mainly look at the visible (measured) hours and kilos. Very useful, of course, but you will not get the basic problem or the root cause insight!

Strikingly enough we encounter the problem at many companies that at the front is not clear at all what exactly has been sold under which conditions. If your margins are big enough then you can live with this, but in many cases this margin has shrunk considerably under the influence of the competition. A while ago I had an organization that had to go back to the customer 6 times to ask what they had really ordered! And the longer the lead time, the more complex this process will become.

If you manage to make the process well manageable at the front, there are plenty of Lean tools on the horizon. Of course, a process from Push to Pull can be reversed, which can result in considerable time savings (standard rule at least 50% lead time reduction).

Current versus future value stream
A further challenge for many companies that have ever started to make its Value Stream Map (VSM) is a familiar one. It is only one! What do you mean? Well a kind of combination of a current flow and something that we are likely to achieve.

Unfortunately, that does not work, of course. The current flow of 1 process is the actual representation of how a product or service passes through the organization, based on facts. After the 7 (or 8 if you wish) wastes have been released on this, you can start working on the Future Value Stream Map. Personally, I keep a period of up to 2 years to reach the future situation. Enough for a vista, but also realistic when it comes to practical feasibility.

Let yourself be coached
Of course, the biggest pitfall remains the downplay of possible improvement options. The well-known knockdown arguments and excuses of people who cannot or do not want to change are always present. Surprisingly, these people are often found in middle management. Internal process improvers often see themselves confronted with this and therefore perhaps even demotivated. My advice is to use an external expert for this part.

With 20 years of experience we have already seen all the excuses. In all cases we work out the current and future value stream map in 2 days including the plan to get there together with your core team!

You want to catch up? I like to come along because: Good can always become better!