Lean Value Stream Mapping

Reasons To Use Value Stream Mapping To Succeed At Lean

In our series on lean manufacturing, we discussed two versions of “lean”—the overall concept and lean combined with “Six Sigma.” The aim of both is to make manufacturing more efficient and, of course, profitable. Now we are going to look at a number of tools that are part of lean that could be of interest to New Jersey manufacturers. You can use these alone or as part of an overall lean program to reduce waste and increase productivity in your New Jersey manufacturing facility and processes.


In this blog post we’re going to look at “Value Stream Mapping.” That’s an engineer’s term for something quite simple: a way to analyze your manufacturing process from beginning to end.

A Variety of Uses for Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping can be used in a variety of ways. The broadest usage is analyzing the current state of your entire manufacturing process, that is, how you produce your products or services, including both the overall process and physical layout of your workplace. But you can also use it for a more narrow focus such as revamping and improving the work space in your manufacturing facility. Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is frequently used with another lean tool called “5S” to do this. We will discuss “5S” in a future blog post.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) can give you a base line

But let’s go deeper into Value Stream Mapping (VSM) itself. You may be very aware that your manufacturing process is not as efficient as it could be. That would make it a good time to use VSM. The core of VSM lies in creation of a flow chart of your actual manufacturing process. Your Value Stream map will include a number of things. It will start with what your workflow process looks like now and what seems ancillary to your process. The snapshot of what your process looks like right now will give you base line for improvement in all aspects of your manufacturing process. You will use it to create a map of a better process.

 You need a good team to start the process

How can you get started on Value Stream Mapping? First, you need to pull together a team that will manage the process. This team will identify the product, products and/or service you are targeting, define the problem, and set goals and objectives. This document will be your charter.

Once this is done, the team members may want to hand draw a current-state map of the process in pencil. You can use those maps for discussion and comparison and begin the mapping process. To move formally to that stage, you have several choices. Here are the two that are used most often:

In-House Analysis. With this approach, you ask your team to work together in a conference room to come up with the map. They will probably cover the wall with white paper—such as butcher paper—and then attach adhesive notes for individual tasks in color-coded paper for the essential steps to indicates work flow. These notes can easily be moved around for accuracy, or put in a spot where they represent ancillary and/or possibly non-essential functions.

Typically, the lefthand side of the chart is used for original notes representing the present work flow. After lean principles are applied, the team can put new notes (or move the present ones) to the right hand side of the map to represent the new, more efficient work flow.

How Value Stream Mapping Works:


Current state of your manufacturing process and facility floor


Analysis and brainstorming

Add in


Equals (=)


Future state of your manufacturing process and floor


The software solution. A second option is to use software tools to create this map. Today a wide variety of these tools are available either as stand-alone software or addons to products you may already have.

Your Value Stream Map will analyze and examine flows at both a physical level and system level. When done right, it will show you the “essential” aspects of your process versus the “non-essential” portions.

You can use the map of your existing process as a starting point for how to make the manufacturing process itself—or your manufacturing floor itself— more efficient. For more information on how to achieve the latter, you may want to use the “5S” lean tool which we will discuss in the next blog post!

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