Value Stream Mapping

Value-stream mapping (VSM) is diagraming every step involved in the material and information flows needed to bring a product from order to delivery.

Value-stream maps can be drawn for different points in time as a way to raise consciousness of opportunities for improvement (see illustrations below). A current-state map follows a product’s path from order to delivery to determine the current conditions. A future state map deploys the opportunities for improvement identified in the current-state map to achieve a higher level of performance at some future point.

In some cases, it may be appropriate to draw an ideal-state map showing the opportunities for improvement by employing all known lean methods including right-sized tools and value-stream compression.

Watch an Introduction

Current and Future State Example Maps

Value-Stream Map Zones

Shows the different zones of a value-stream map.

Learning to See Workbook

Learning to See

Learning to See

Value-stream maps are the blueprints for lean transformations and Learning to See is an easy-to-read, step-by-step instruction manual that teaches this valuable tool to anyone, regardless of his or her background.

This groundbreaking workbook breaks down the important concepts of mapping into an easily grasped format. The workbook, a Shingo Research Prize recipient in 1999, is filled with actual maps, as well as engaging diagrams and illustrations.

Having a perfectly drawn current state map is not the point. The main intention of current state mapping is going through the process of trying to understand the dock-to-dock flow. 

Why Value-Stream Mapping Is an Essential Tool

  • It helps you visualize more than just the single-process level. You can see the flow.
  • It helps you see more than waste. Mapping helps you see the sources of waste in your value stream.
  • It provides a common language for talking about a process.
  • It makes the decisions about flow apparent, so you can discuss them. Otherwise, many decisions and details just happen by default.
  • It forms the basis of an implementation plan. By helping you design how the whole “door-to-door” flow should operate, value-stream maps become a blueprint for lean implementation. Imagine trying to build a house without a blueprint!
  • It shows the linkage between material flow and information flow. No other tool does this.

Where to Start

  1. Select a product family
  2. Have one person personally lead the mapping effort
  3. Begin at the “door-to-door” level to capture the complete flow
  4. Consider both the material flow and information flow

Value-Stream Mapping versus Process Mapping

A chart explaining the difference between a value-stream map and a process map.

Examples across Industries

ManufacturingApples & Oranges: Mapping in a Low-Volume/High-Mix Environment 
HealthcareUsing Value Stream Management to Better Care for Stroke Patients 
EngineeringWhy Value Stream Mapping is Essential to Product and Process Development 

Top 5 Articles

  1. 10 Tips for Getting the Most Value from Value Stream Mapping
  2. Keep It Simple: Value Stream Map at the Gemba
  3. Why You Need to See the Entire System
  4. Misunderstandings About Value Stream Mapping, Flow Analysis, and Takt Time
  5. Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes with VSM

Download value-stream mapping icons

Value Stream map current and future examples