Value Stream Mapping – A Brief Guide

“Whenever there is a product or service for a customer, there is a Value Stream, the challenge lies in seeing it”


Why? – Main reasons of VSM

When planning our improvement efforts, It gives a complete picture of the actual condition, in a value flow approach (material and information flow), this help us to focus in the overall system efficiency and not isolated efforts.



And principally, it supports the point of turning department/functions as partners and align them in common goals.

 VSM Organization

What is a Value Stream Map (VSM)?

A value stream is the chain of steps performed to create a product or service, this chain can include activities that add value and many times, waste and unnecessary activities.

Then a Value Stream Map plays a critical role for Deploying the Organization’s strategy (what we call Hoshin), it is the connection between the company’s strategic goals and the execution on the operations.

It can be conducted in Manufacturing processes, or Business processes (like Product Development, New Product Introduction), the challenge to measure and visualize them differ on each process but the principles remain the same.

1.- Select the Family of Products/Processes

This step is mainly easy for steady high volume environments, where the equipment is mainly dedicated to a single or few similar products which runs in a fast pace.

The challenge comes for when equipment or people are shared with several products, and the combination of products can be infinite or its “make to order”.

Product Families

One rule of thumb to define a product family is, the products that go through at least 80% of the same processes and the work content between the products variations is no more than 30% of difference”, if a product doesn’t comply with any of these requirement you should not included in your Value Stream Family.

2.- Develop a Current State Map

The materials and information flow are equally important for the entire process, walk and review both of them by yourself, then draft the process.


VSM Current State

3.- Develop a Future State Map

After understanding the opportunities from the value stream, the team should define a future state VSM, which is a target condition to achieve on the next 3 to 6 months, depending on the needs of the value stream you can focus on the Quality, Productivity, inventory, Safety, Cost, Delivery and others.

4.- Define and Action Plan.

One we have a future state map, we will define which actions we will experiment to achieve that target condition, remember, that this is a continuous process that will require to iterate and experiment to find the desired solution for each specific problem, process owners should the the main responsible for this challenges.

Once that we achieve that current condition, we will re-do the cycle to identify the next future state, this matches very good with the Toyota Kata routines.

For some it may seem an unnecessary “tool” and for others it’s a “one time” work, but VSM is the compass that guides you in the short term (3 to 6 months) to keep aligned with your long term multi-annual objectives,



Normally is recommended to involve multi functional members to have an integral understanding of the activities (supply chain, manufacturing, quality, sales, engineering, maintenance, IT and related functions), also functions with decision must be involved in the development and review of the Map, they should understand first hand the process being analyzed and improved.

There is in several organizations a function called Value Stream Manager, who is in charge from coordination the activates across all the functions to ensure that the product/service will be delivered under the desired conditions.

How? – Main tips

  • As you conduct several cycles of mapping the information becomes more solid and useful for taking decisions, don’t stop on the first version, conduct reviews and updates every time you have significant changes (lay out changes, product introduction, kaizen projects, equipment changes and so on).
  • Use other analysis and visualization methods to complement and help you to better understand your process, some of the commonly used are SIPOC, Man-Machine Chart, Spaghetti Diagrams, Yamazumi Charts, among others.
  • The team that creates the maps the process will be the same that develop the counter measures, so involve the decision makers from the beginning, they must understand which is the actual condition, in order to develop the countermeasures
  • Develop your own solutions, Don’t copy solutions from other processes, even when they are from your own company, a solution for one process may not be suitable for another.
  • There is no crystal ball, testing hypothesis is the only way to find out if you are correct, but you should do it in a structured, standard way like PDCA with A3 reports or Improvement/Coaching Kata Cycles.



We try to cover details that are not discussed in normal conceptual description of Value Stream Mapping, there is a lot of good definitions and step by step information in how to conduct a VSM.

We want to let some questions for you to share:

  • Is your company using Value Stream mapping?
  • Its working good for your company? Which benefits have you perceived?
  • Which are the main challenges to adopt this approach in your company?

Share your comments with us.

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