Friday, June 20, 2008

Value in Value Stream Mapping

When we first embarked on the continuous improvement path, we called it JIT (Just in Time). As the term lean became popular with the book Lean Thinking, we expanded our focus to eliminating waste in our process. We jumped right to massive kaizen mode with literally hundreds of kaizen events across the corporation completed each year.

The little mistake we made was skipping the identification and mapping of our value streams. Even as it was pointed out by our lean sensei that we should do a value stream map, we did not see the value in value stream maps.

Our typical mindset was: What’s the big deal in doing a value stream map anyway, why can’t we just make improvements? We know what the problems are and don’t need to waste our time doing maps. We see waste now, just let us attack it. Aren’t we making improvements without needing these maps? Maps?..We don’t need any stinking maps.

Sure, you can make some improvements without value stream maps however we learned that not all our improvement activity led to bottom line results. What was worse, our improvements did not always add value to our customer. After a little humble reflection, we realized our lean efforts were nothing more than cost reduction and we were starting the stray off the path. What happened to reducing lead time and increasing customer value?

We were faced with another change in our thinking and took step back to learn about value stream maps. After several training sessions and just doing it, we began adding value stream mapping to our “way of doing” things. We still are not experts at value stream mapping but have experienced a nice boost to our continuous improvement efforts.

Where we found the most value in value stream mapping was being able to see and understand the whole process (value stream) where previously no one person ever did. We only knew our little sections of the process. This helped us look at optimizing the whole value stream instead of improving our sections, usually at the expense of the whole. We also started focusing on lead times as opposed to cost reduction. The maps also helped us prioritize our kaizen efforts aimed at making a bigger impact for our customer instead of just a shotgun approach. We now see our kaizen events as “Strategic Kaizen”. Finally, value stream maps helped us all agree on our current state and what our future state vision looks like. With this shared vision, our team began to move forward as a team.

If you have not begun using value stream maps yet on your lean journey, don’t just dismiss them as an optional step. There is value in value stream mapping.


Anonymous said...

Your Blog is mind blowing ,its fantastic,very very informative.
A great work done.
Debashish Bramha.

Mike Wroblewski said...

Hi Debashish Bramha,

My humble thanks for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Mike--Good post. I have been shouting this from the rooftops for years, but for some reason everyone still wants to "start in the middle" and have a big 5-Day kaizen event without really understanding why or how it effects the big picture. And, we really need to get rid of the "cost reduction" mindset currently infecting LEAN and get back to the idea of reducing lead time, building EXCELLENCE, and imcreasing value for our customers.

Anonymous said...

In case this helps your lean travellers, they may want to look at Vdot from Procelerate Technologies, a value stream mapping tool that would allow lean teams to rapidly create their current state, identify waste and non-value added tasks. This technology borrows heavily from the concept of the lean "kit" in manufacturing, is very easy to deploy and has the added value of an as performed database to assist in providing realiable metrics by which to measure lean improvements

Anonymous said...

What is interesting in the popular lean subculture is the over-emphasis of value stream mapping. Unintentionally, that is what has happened, but not what was intended by Womack and company.

At Toyota, the phrase "value stream mapping" is not even in the vocabulary. At Toyota, the name for that activity is "Information and Material Flow Analysis" and is done for a very specific purpose with the end goal of maximizing profit by eliminating hidden costs. Of course you have to eliminate waste to get there, but the goal is profit.

Yes, there is value in value stream mapping, but it has also gotten a little out of hand -- when there are job postings for a "value stream manager" or "value stream sensei", then there's something going on that is well-intended, but also a little misguided.