A typical Value Stream Mapping team is made up of about seven people (I found this size works well), mostly managerial or supervisory level. Having a larger group makes it difficult to have everyone walk the flow and gather data. Having a smaller group tends to limit the ability to create a meaningful future state. Have an experience person lead the team and facilitate the first few events until you are comfortable with Value Stream Mapping. That includes bringing in an outside resource like a consultant.

Team members can be drawn from several areas within an organization such as:

  • Production control/scheduling
  • Operations management
  • Key floor leaders/supervisors
  • Information Technology.
  • Materials/logistics/warehousing material handlers
  • Marketing/sales/customer service
  • Accounting/finance
  • Human resources
  • Purchasing/receiving
  • Process/design engineering/engineering
  • Quality
  • Supplier/vendors
  • Internal/external customers

Choose people that are knowledgeable enough about the inner workings of your organization (also having an outsider or new person may be helpful), but the key here is that you trust these people enough to create the future state. Make sure the team fairly represents the scope of your project and that key stakeholders are involved.

Not everyone can be on the team. One of the ways to make up for this is to let people know that they may be interviewed to help with the process. A warning here – if you have 20 people in the customer service department you will probably not interview all 20. My recommendation is to interview someone that has a good working knowledge of the process family and is able to succinctly answer questions.

One of the best VSM events I facilitated included the customer (who was also the supplier of the materials). Many companies wouldn’t dream of letting a customer in to see their operations. This company was above that type of thinking. The most amazing things started to occur when we discovered that the customer/supplier was causing internal problems for this company and that many steps were redundant. This opened up everyone’s eye and discussions on improvement flowed forth.

Sign up for our free webinar “Introduction to Value Stream Mapping” on Thursday, September 29, 2011 and if you need items for your VSM event visit us at www.5Ssupply.com.

– Tony

Many books and articles do a great job explaining Values Stream Mapping especially for a product family, current state map, future state map and implementation plan. What about after you completed your first VSM? You already spent months completing the things on your VSM plan (well, most of them, anyway) so what do you do now? Here are two approaches you can use:

  1. Work on your first Value Stream Map again
  2. Start a second Value Stream Map

Do it again

Working on your original VSM again shows your commitment to continuous improvement. By already harvesting the low hanging fruit this will force you to dig deeper and really apply Lean Thinking to your processes. Most first attempts at VSM aren’t perfect, so this will give you a chance to improve what you have already worked on.

Start a New Map

The second thing you might consider doing is starting on another value stream map for a different Process (a.k.a. Product) Family. You don’t actually have to wait until you have completed the first VSM; it is more of a resource issue. Do you have enough people, time and the budget to start to make changes on another facility level value stream? Or maybe at this point you have discovered that you need to do some more process level maps to make improvements. My advice is to not get too focused one way or another. As soon as someone says we need to map out another process family, I might ask if they need to dive down in a little more detail. If they say that they should focus only on process level maps, I might suggest looking at another process family. The point is to not assume that there is only one right answer. It’s what’s important to the organization.

How to make the transition

This can seem to be daunting for some organizations. It’s not really that hard, you just have to be prepared for it. The first thing to remember is that the success of your first map will have an impact on your second. That is, how well you did completing your plan on the first map will set the stage for your next map.

One way to get ready for Future State 2 is to have a team meeting. Start by reassembling the original VSM team. Perform a review of the map and plan. Although the Value Stream Manager has been updating the map and the plan, it might be useful to do this one more time with the entire team present. Present the facts, current conditions, progress and completed projects or kaizen events. The next thing do is to talk about and capture lessons learned. A “lesson learned” can be a either good feedback or opportunities for improvement for next time. I doubt that anyone starting their very first value stream map is going to be perfect in execution the first time through. We need to learn from this including learning from our mistakes. Don’t be afraid to look at the cold hard truth about how well you did as a team completing your future state. Next, walk the flow again as a team. Focus on looking for waste. Talk with the value-adders to get insights on how things went and how they are going now.

After the walk the team has to make a critical decision; create a Future State for the original process family, start a new Value Stream Map for another process family or both. In my experience, it mostly boils down to resources; do we have enough people and time to start a new map now?

Sign up for our free webinar “Introduction to Value Stream Mapping” on Thursday, September 29, 2011.

For more resources for VSM, click here>> 5S Supply & Value Stream Mapping


During a Value Stream Mapping event a team member asked “Why do we have to walk the flow, we can get the data we need by using our computer system and reports?” Here are seven advantages to walking the flow versus just data dumping in a conference room:

  1. The team gets to hear first-hand from the people who actually do the work and their perception of the status of their task.
  2. The team sees all the hand-offs and distances traveled just to get an order through your system.
  3. It gives you another chance to look for and see waste in your operations.
  4. It gets the people (value-adders) involved, their opinions are heard, and builds buy-in.
  5. It is a great way to verify management’s idea of what’s going on versus what is actually going on.
  6. The team gets to walk the entire distance and possibly see opportunities for improvement in layout; this may be a good time to draw a “spaghetti diagram”.
  7. It allows team members to become more familiar with areas that they do not normally visit in their daily routines

During this process of training the team will interview the people who perform the task to gather data and information. When you perform the interview, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Remember, people may be nervous when they see a troop of people marching towards them with clipboards. The best thing to do is to communicate with people in advance that you will be visiting them to gather information for your Value Stream Mapping project. If it is not possible to contact the individuals ahead of time, another alternative may be to communicate to the entire staff via newsletter, bulletin board, departmental meetings or other means that a VSM event will be performed.

Sign up for our free webinar “Introduction to Value Stream Mapping” on Thursday, September 29, 2011.

For more resources for VSM, click here>> 5S Supply & Value Stream Mapping

It’s pretty easy to see how Value Stream Mapping helps out in operations planning or short-term planning (one year or less time-frame). But what about using VSM for strategic or long term planning?

Here are two answers for that:

  1. Create Extended Level Value Stream Map
  2. Create Ideal State Value Stream Map

As you get better in your lean thinking, you will discover that involving your customers and suppliers is the right thing to do. Using your Extended Level VSM can help tailor your strategic long term or Hoshin plan to help improve your market position. Seeing what is important to your customers and suppliers by getting them involved in your Extended Level VSM focusing on a longer time frame (three to five years) will help build a solid strategic plan. This, of course, means getting top management from the supply chain actively involved. Another way VSM can help strategic planning is to create an Ideal State Map for a value stream. Create an ideal Future State that is about five years out. This will help determine “breakthrough” strategies as part of your strategic planning.

Some organizations are seeing the benefit of using Hoshin Kanri as their primary strategic planning and execution process. It might seem a little “chicken and the egg” to say should we have our Value Stream Maps first to help direct our planning efforts or should our planning efforts drive our maps? Well. The simple answer is “yes”. Part of Hoshin is to review previous plans including Value Stream Maps. Once a strategic vision is set VSM can help drive the right projects to help achieve the future state.

Join us for a Free Webinar – Introduction to Value Stream Mapping September 29, 2011

Through my experience over the years I have seen many things go awry when creating Value Stream Maps. Here is a condensed list of twelve of the most common problems that I have seen. The point here is not to repeat these same mistakes, but to learn from them. I will present the first six in this post and the rest in a later update.

1. Not determining the process families incorrectly or at all

Basically, companies want to skip this step because they are not sure how to do it, they think their processes are overly simple when they are not, or they think it is too hard to do. Do not skip this step! If you do, you may be setting yourself up for failure by trying to bite off more than you can chew. When you complete this step, you’ll also have completed the first step of creating a work cell (for manufacturing or office). Even if you are doing a process level VSM I highly recommend performing this step. While mapping complaints in a customer service department we discovered that there were six different types or streams through the work area. Don’t assume you already know all your value streams.

2. Not having a Value Stream Manager or the Value Steam Manager doesn’t do his or her job

If you do not appoint the appropriate person to be the value stream manager, the maps and plans may languish in the ether. As Will Rogers once said “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” I’ve seen organizations trying to apply the concept of a Value Stream Manager without really putting the appropriate amount of thought behind the concept. For example, a VS Manager needs to work across multiple departments without having direct authority over those areas. To answer this issue, I’ve witness a Vice President of Operations take on the role of VS Manager. When I asked him if he actually had time to take on this role, he added he did not. On the other extreme, I’ve seen a company that took the newly hired young engineer and put him in the role of VS Manager. He lacked the experience and knowledge of the organization to be effective in this role.

3. The map is created by a team of one

Having one person create the map means you only used one brain and two hands. The information gathered may be biased or even worse – incorrect. We are trying to make decisions for what is best for the entire value stream and that is hard to do with only one person. Make sure you use a good cross-functional team to walk the flow, gather the information and then draw the map.

4. Not considering things that might not typically show up on the map like change management, training, communication, team building, 5S, etc.

Even though the maps will give us great information and insights for improvement, they typically do not have other enterprise-wide initiatives that an organization should undertake during its Lean journey such as 5S workplace organization and standardization. What I am trying to say is that a company needs to have 5S everywhere and value stream maps may only show an area or process that needs 5S, not the entire facility. Also, other important functions like communication or good change management do not usually show up as an action item on a value stream map but are extremely important while implementing Lean.

5. Trying to jump to a higher level building block of Lean (i.e., Cells, TPM, or Kanban, etc.) before the basic building blocks are in place.

An example of this is trying to create a manufacturing cell when basic concepts such as 5S, Standard Work or teamwork are not even present in an organization. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t jump to a more complex tool right away, I am saying, in my experience, that you will have a higher probability for success and get better results if you have the basic concepts already started. This also goes for Lean concepts like Pull Systems and kanban, Total Productive Maintenance or Just-in-time (JIT).

I mentioned the concept of starting with the basics during a 5S event at a company before trying to do more complex things like kanban. During a break an engineer Nikki came up to me and she said “Tony, we already have kanban.”  I asked how it was going. She said “Not so good.” After our discussion we discover that it was obvious that they had not developed the discipline with the value-adders to pull the kanban cards and place them in the correct spot. I mentioned to her that a good 5S program, visual controls and Standard Work helps sets the stage for the discipline needed to have a successful kanban card system.

6. Not updating the map

One of my favorite questions received while presenting during a conference was “How often should we be updating our maps?” I replied “Basically, whenever there is a change, probably once a week or at least once a month.” There was a long pause and then the person said “I guess we are a little behind.” I asked “When was the last time you updated your map?” He said “Two years ago.” There was a big roar of laughter from the crowd. Obviously we need to keep the maps updated. For one reason it is easy to do if you use paper and pencil and also remember that we use these maps to communicate. If you don’t show your progress, you are not communicating effectively.

Have you run into these issues before? What did you do to correct them? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks – Tony

P.S. At 5S Supply this month we are highlighting Value Stream Mapping. Join us for a Free Webinar – Introduction to Value Stream Mapping, September 29, 2011

I had the honor of working with the Society for Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and the Modern Drop Forge Company (MF) to develop a new Total Productive Maintenance Blitz DVD in conjunction with the Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME). As part of SME’s award winning Manufacturing Insights video series, this Total Productive Maintenance Blitz program follows a cross-functional team during a four-day kaizen event.

Watch as team members immerse themselves in a TPM kaizen event within a manufacturing cell. This program highlights how the team established which equipment to focus on, identified potential problems, determined the root causes for underperforming equipment, and then brainstormed improvement ideas. The team then quickly implements over 50 ideas, which resulted in the company saving over $50,000 per year by reducing production downtime by 50%, and scrap by 10%.

I’ll write more about my experience creating the video in another post. Stay tuned. – Tony

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