Value Stream MAPPING: To add value and eliminate Muda

What is Value stream Mapping?

A Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is all the ACTIONS (both value-added and non-value-added) currently required to bring a product through the production, information flow across boundaries from raw material into the arms of the customer. It is a pencil & paper tool that helps you to see and understand the flow of material and information as a product makes its way through the stream.

When setting out on the journey to become a Lean organization many organizations miss the true importance of utilizing Value Stream Mapping.  Value stream mapping has emerged as a preferred tool to identify process improvement opportunities.

VSM shows the current and future state of processes in a way that highlights opportunities for improvement. It is a lean manufacturing technique used to analyze and design the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service to a consumer. It is a pencil & paper tool that helps you to see and understand the flow of material and information as a product makes its way through the stream.

Material & Information flow

1. Within the production flow

  • One flow is – movement of material
  • Other flow is – movement of information that tells each process what to make or do next

2. In Lean manufacturing the information flow is treated with just as much importance as material flow
3. Material and Information flow are two sides of the same coin

Levels of mapping the value stream (for product family)

  1. Process Level
  2. Single plant (door to door)
  3. Multiple plants
  4. Across companies

Symbols & Icons used for Mapping

Information Icons

General Icons

List of typical process data

Points to remember

A number of points can be made about applying Value Stream Mapping to the project selection across range of industries and processes. They are as follows:

  1. Understand the goal of applying VSM
  2. Understand the real constraints
  3. Focus on key projects that help achieve the goal
  4. Define the options
  5. Integrate existing initiatives into the plan
  6. Be creative


  • Establish a direction for the company’s improvement efforts – maps become the blueprints for the Lean transformation.
  • Target KAIZEN™ activities for bigger and more sustainable impact.
  • Gain a better understanding of the linkages between material and information flow.
  • Visualize improvements to the overall production flow, instead of spot improvements to single processes.
  • Create the basis for an effective Lean implementation plan by designing how a facility’s door-to-door material and information flow could operate.
  • Give operators, engineers and managers common language and process for continuous improvement

Source: Book by Mike Rother & John Shook

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