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Value Stream Mapping

Many people find it easier to understand complex processes with some sort of visualization tool. That concept holds true from children learning math skills to those in the business world. Lean manufacturing refers to identifying value and eliminating waste to improve overall efficiency in a manufacturing or business process. You can use different tools to accomplish these things; one such useful tool is value stream mapping.

What Is Value Stream Mapping?

Originally used in manufacturing, value stream mapping is a process that allows you to create a visual map of every step in your workflow, whether it’s a picture of how a single product is created and distributed or a diagram showing how your entire company operates. You can analyze this map to identify waste, areas that need improvement and things that work well and add value.

Several other industries now use this tool as well. Software development, marketing, IT services, healthcare, logistics and supply chain management, service industries and office management rely on value stream mapping to organize and improve workflows and procedures. Businesses can use this tool to visualize any process that includes repetitive steps and multiple transfers of the product or service being mapped. Basically, a value stream map pinpoints things that add value from your customer’s point of view. Highlighting things that don’t add value to your product or service shows you possible steps to cut out or modify to save costs.

What’s the Use of Value Stream Mapping?

Manufacturing a single item and getting it into your customer’s hands includes many steps. From idea to prototype to finished product to customer, you can examine every piece of relevant data in an easy-to-read flow chart using value stream mapping. You’ll see the amount of time each step takes, the costs, lead time, supply chain issues and employee involvement for each map you create. Once everything is laid out for you, look for things that add value for your customers in addition to identifying unnecessary steps. Using the Lean concept, value includes both what your customer pays for and also procedures you implement to deliver quality products or services. Quality control is one example of those procedures.

Value stream mapping benefits include:

  • Encouraging process improvement continuously
  • Enabling multi-party collaboration and communication
  • Creating a visual map showing critical data such as production issues, delays, inventory levels, logistics steps, customer ordering and order fulfillment
  • Providing the framework to automate your workflows

What Are Some Value Stream Examples?

Companies that use value stream mapping may have two types of value streams. The first, operational value streams, focus on maps of current products and processes. Development value streams either show future products in development or an improved version of a current operational value stream. Some components in a value stream might be:

  • The amount and types of inventory on hand
  • Cycle time for that product
  • Changeover time for your lines or machines
  • Production line or machine downtime and uptime
  • The number of employees working on the product
  • The number of units one shift produces

When decision-makers analyze these numbers, they can implement cost-cutting measures as indicated by the value stream map.

How Can You Use Value Stream Mapping for Process Improvement?

TAn efficient, smoothly running process is likely to make more profit. While your current process may work, new information, procedures and strategies could make it work better. Evaluating and re-evaluating your company’s workflows can improve your efficiency, point to better methods and help you to create better products for your customers. For example, say that your company produces different sizes and thicknesses of plastic sheeting using multiple machines. Your value stream map might show that:

  • The changeover time from one thickness to another is too long.
  • One machine operator has much better production numbers than other operators.
  • Two machines often experience a lot of downtimes.
  • Packers often fall behind.
  • The material handlers have too much extra time on their hands.
  • A certain customer orders the same product regularly but in small quantities. This results in having to reset machines halfway through a shift.

Each of these data points identifies issues that, when studied, point towards possible solutions. Potential resolutions for that information are:

  • Assign certain machines to run a specific thickness all the time rather than changing between thicknesses.
  • Gather data from the high-producing operator to identify what he does differently so other operators can use those more efficient procedures.
  • Schedule full maintenance for both machines. Replace or repair parts; don’t put a band-aid on them. Replace the machines if needed.
  • PAssess the cause of falling behind. Are the packers working at a good pace, or are they slacking off? Are there enough packers scheduled to keep up with production? Address the situation accordingly.
  • Find out why the material handlers aren’t busy. Are there too many scheduled per shift? Can you assign other work to them when they’re not performing their job duties, such as helping packers?
  • AHave a sales rep contact the customer to see why it orders in smaller quantities. Try to encourage orders of larger quantities less frequently.

Is Value Stream Mapping Software Available?

While you can do rough value stream mapping manually, using software that is designed to do it for you saves time and frustration; it also increases efficiency by automating your workflows. Fluix software is an easy-to-use solution that helps you map out your company’s current processes in real-time. Before you can automate your business processes, you must create a value stream map using the Fluix workflow builder.

What Is the Value Stream Mapping Process?

You need to gather a lot of data to create your value stream map. Developing your initial map may require talking to the people responsible for each step in your workstream to be sure your information is accurate and relevant.

  • Define the starting and ending points for your map. Many maps start with receiving inventory from suppliers and end with your product’s delivery to your customer.
  • List all the steps involved between your starting and ending points.
  • Notate how each step flows into the next step(s).
  • Add detailed data to each of your mapped steps, including timelines.
  • Analyze your value stream map, looking for areas where waste is present.

Lean manufacturing concepts seek to identify seven areas of waste that decrease your company’s profitability:

  • Unnecessary motion
  • Waiting between manufacturing steps
  • Defective goods
  • Transportation
  • Excess inventory
  • Overproduction
  • Inappropriate processing methods

What Is a Flow Map Example?

Flow maps use easy-to-understand symbols to show how a product progresses throughout the mapped processes, from start to finish. Four categories of symbols are standard: general, information, material and process flows. Lots of variations exist, but using the Fluix platform for all of your company’s value stream mapping flow charts allows you to have consistency throughout your teams. This is useful because the people who analyze the maps only need to be familiar with one set of symbols rather than several varying sets used by individual departments.

Is Value Stream Mapping Inventory Useful?

There’s a delicate balance between having too much and too little inventory on hand. Using value stream mapping and automated workflows with Fluix can eliminate the guessing game where inventory is concerned. Overproduction can cost your company in many ways. The money spent on producing that extra inventory is now in limbo until you sell your products; you’ll have to wait to see a return on investment. You must also store excess inventory. That takes space, time and labor to stow it away and then bring it out of storage when it is sold. Mapping your inventory’s flow rate makes it easier to see where and how you can optimize your inventory numbers.

Why Choose Fluix?

The Fluix platform is available in three levels with pricing starting at only $20 monthly for each user. The consultants at Fluix can help you choose the plan that best suits your company’s needs, and you’ll continue to receive exceptional support after your 14-day free trial. Fluix offers many tools to help you create value stream maps and automate your workflow processes:

  • Mobile and web app, and offline access
  • Advanced workflows
  • Team collaboration and instant file sharing in real-time
  • Integrations
  • Form builder, digitized documents and e-signature capability
  • Monitor for HIPPA, OH&S, NECB and OSHA compliance
  • Task automation
  • Audit trail

Fluix not only delivers a secure process management solution but also helps to power your productivity. Fluix users see measurable results immediately, and you can, too. Ask for more information using live chat on the website or create an account and begin your free trial today.

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