Improve Manufacturing Functions with Value Stream Mapping

7/7/16 3:00 PM

Value stream mapping (VSM) taps into the visual aspect of planning and improving manufacturing work flows. Bottlenecks and other constraints can easily be identified with a graphical representation of information and material flow, process time, and the lag between each task.shutterstock_81313021_preview.jpeg

What is Value Stream Mapping?

VSM, a lean management method and operational analysis tool, is crucial to the reduction of waste within an operation. Because it relies heavily on a graphical representation of a work flow, it is useful when illustrating and analyzing how the material flow could be improved. Essentially, VSM identifies waste. It maps each process in a way that incorporates interactions, communication, and ancillary functions like planning, scheduling, etc. Information gathering for VSM can involve looking into data driven spreadsheets, floor layouts, etc. Another vital piece of information are time samples, or the amount of time it takes an employee to complete a certain task. With automated production, it is sufficient to analyze a small sample size since the operation continues at a consistent rate. However, a larger time sample size is needed for operations where time to complete a task varies drastically.

Assessing the Current State

In the beginning, companies will need to invest in training their teams to not only understand the VSM process but also buy into it in order to reap maximum efficiency. The cross-functional team will consist of every team member involved in the making of a specific product or a specific process. Everyone from operators to maintenance workers who understand the ins and out of the process will be involved in the mapping of the process. At the onset, the team will often physically walk through the work flow. They will start from the source of the materials all the way through the manufacturing and production process. As they go through the material flow, they will physically document every step including communication points. The purpose is to map out all the painstaking details of the "current state" process.

Analysis and Reflection

Once mapped, the team will analyze the information and reach a consensus that the VSM accurately reflects the current state of operations. If captured correctly, it will be possible to identify certain constraints, deficiencies and areas of waste in the current state process. It is not enough to merely identify these limitations, but it is also important to quantify the effect they have on the process in terms of performance and cost. After potential shortcomings are assessed, it is time to look into the root causes of the waste. Each limiting factor will lead to an analysis of a cost-effective way to eliminate waste and improve process efficiency. The end result will consist of a revamped VSM that takes into consideration the proposed solutions that look to reduce the limiting factors as much as possible.

VSM is not only a methodology that alters current state processes, but also creates a lasting culture change using visual modeling. Because it is so detail-oriented, it actively involves all stakeholders within the process, giving employees more incentive to contribute. Since the VSM process can always be improved, all stakeholders are able to actively collaborate on ongoing enhancements.

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Topics: manufacturing, Lean Manufacturing, Implementation, APS, APS, value stream map, manufacturing technology, APS benefits


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