Value Stream Mapping: Definition, Process and Examples

Max 4min read
Value Stream Mapping

Imagine you’re embarking on an exciting journey, not through physical landscapes, but through the inner workings of a process. Close your eyes and visualize a magical map that unveils the hidden secrets of efficiency and waste reduction. 

Welcome to the world of Value Stream Mapping, where the power of visualization and analysis intertwine to create a tapestry of improvement.

What Is Value Stream Mapping?

Value Stream Mapping Definition

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a lean management technique that is used to analyze and visualize the flow of materials, information, and activities required to produce a product or provide a service. It is a tool that helps organizations identify and eliminate waste, streamline processes, and improve overall efficiency.

The primary purpose of value stream mapping is to find and understand the current state of a process or value stream and then design and implement improvements to achieve the future state, which is a more efficient and value-added process flow.

Why Use Value Stream Mapping?

Here are some key reasons why organizations use value stream mapping:

Identifying Waste

Value stream mapping allows you to identify and understand various waste or non-value-added activities within a process. These wastes could include excessive waiting time, unnecessary movement of materials, overproduction, defects, etc.

Process Visualization

VSM visually represents the entire value stream, from receiving a request until the product or service reaches the customer. 

Analyzing Performance

Value stream mapping allows you to measure and evaluate the performance of a process, including cycle time, lead time, process time, and various other metrics. By analyzing these metrics, you can identify areas of improvement and set targets for enhancing process efficiency.

Collaboration and Communication

VSM is a communication tool enabling cross-functional teams to collaborate and discuss process improvement opportunities. It brings together individuals from different departments or functions to collectively analyze the value stream, share insights, and brainstorm ideas for optimizing the process.

Future State Design

After analyzing the current state value stream, value stream mapping helps organizations design and visualize a future state that eliminates waste, improves efficiency, and enhances overall performance.

Continuous Improvement

It helps organizations establish a culture of ongoing improvement and encourages teams to regularly review and update the value stream map as new opportunities arise.

Steps of Value Stream Mapping

Below is the value stream mapping process:

Step 1: Identify the Problem or Objective

Clearly define the problem or improvement objective you want to address using value stream mapping. It could be reducing lead time, improving productivity, or eliminating waste.

Step 2: Define the Scope and Boundaries

Determine the specific process or value stream that will be the focus of the mapping exercise. Set the boundaries to identify the starting and ending points of the value stream.

Step 3: Assemble the Right Team

Form a cross-functional team consisting of individuals with direct knowledge and experience with the mapped process. This team must include representatives from different departments or areas involved in the value stream.

Step 4: Map the Current State

Start by mapping the present state of the value stream. This involves visualizing the flow of materials, information, and activities from the very start to the end of the process. Use symbols and icons to represent different process steps, inventory, delays, and other relevant factors.

Step 5: Collect Data

Gather data related to the mapped process, such as cycle times, lead times, inventory levels, and other performance metrics.

Step 6: Create a Timeline

Develop a timeline or process flow chart showing each step’s sequence and duration in the value stream. This timeline will help identify bottlenecks, delays, and opportunities for improvement.

Step 7: Analyze the Current Map

Review the current state map and timeline to identify waste, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement. Look for non-value-added activities, excessive inventory, excessive waiting time, and other forms of waste.

Step 8: Design the Future State

Envision an ideal future state for the value stream. Identify and implement changes to eliminate waste, improve flow, and enhance performance. This may involve reorganizing process steps, eliminating non-value-added activities, implementing new technologies, or streamlining communication channels.

Step 9: Develop an Implementation Plan

Create a roadmap or action plan for implementing the future state. Define specific steps, responsibilities, and timelines for each improvement initiative. Prioritize the actions based on their potential impact and feasibility.

Step 10: Implement and Continuously Improve

Execute the implementation plan and monitor the progress of the improvement initiatives. Regularly review and update the value stream map to reflect the changes made. Continuously seek feedback, measure performance, and make further improvements as needed.

By following these steps, organizations can comprehensively understand their value streams, identify areas for improvement, and implement changes to achieve higher efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Benefits of Value Stream Mapping

  • Waste Identification and Elimination
  • Process Visibility and Understanding
  • Enhanced Collaboration and Communication
  • Improved Lead Time and Cycle Time
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Data-Driven Decision Making

Real-World Examples of Successful VSM Implementations

General Electric implemented value stream mapping to streamline its turbine production process. By mapping out the entire value stream from raw materials to the customer, they identified and eliminated bottlenecks, reduced lead times, and improved overall productivity. This implementation resulted in substantial cost savings and improved delivery performance.

Value stream mapping is not limited to manufacturing industries. Software development teams have also applied VSM to identify and eliminate non-value-added activities in their processes. Organizations have achieved faster development cycles, reduced defects, and improved customer satisfaction by visualizing workflow from requirements gathering to deployment.


What are the 3 types of VSM?

The three types of VSM (Vector Space Model) are:

  1. Binary VSM: Represents documents and queries as binary vectors, indicating the presence or absence of terms.
  2. Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency (TF-IDF) VSM: Weights terms based on their frequency in the document and their rarity in the entire corpus.
  3. Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) or Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) VSM: Reduces the dimensionality of the VSM using singular value decomposition to capture latent semantic relationships between terms and documents.
Which technique is best for value stream mapping?

The “Current State Value Stream Mapping” technique is commonly considered the best starting point for value stream mapping as it helps identify waste, bottlenecks, and inefficiencies in the current process.

Is value stream a process map?

No, a value stream is not a process map. While they are related concepts, they serve different purposes. A value stream refers to the end-to-end series of activities and processes required to deliver a product or service to a customer, including value-adding and non-value-adding activities. 

On the other hand, a process map is a visual representation or diagram that depicts the sequence and flow of activities within a specific process. It illustrates the steps, decision points, inputs, and outputs of a process in a structured manner.

What is the difference between VSM and Kanban?

VSM (Value Stream Mapping) and Kanban are both lean management techniques used to improve processes but have different focuses.

VSM is a visual tool that maps out the entire value stream of a process, including all steps and information flow, to identify areas of waste and bottlenecks. It aims to optimize the system by eliminating non-value-added activities and improving overall efficiency.

On the other hand, Kanban is a visual scheduling system that focuses on managing and controlling the flow of work. It uses a board with columns and cards representing tasks to visualize the workflow and limit work in progress (WIP).

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