In most modern industries, productivity and efficiency depend on effective communication and collaboration. Teams and individuals may have to work together across broad geographic areas, managing and overcoming distance, communication tools, time zones, and language barriers. One tool that can be useful to improve the collaborative process is value stream mapping.
What Is Value Stream Mapping?
Value stream mapping involves identifying, defining, and optimizing each step involved in producing a product, providing a service, or completing a value-adding project from start to finish. In its simplest form, it typically involves making a visual flowchart of each step, from conception to realization, to identify potential bottlenecks or sticking points. Value stream mapping software can be used for advanced analysis, identifying subtle inefficiencies in the process that may not be immediately apparent. The goal is to detail each significant process step and evaluate how it adds value—or fails to add value—to your product or service from the customer or end user’s perspective.
How Does It Work?
Many products or services have discrete component steps, each of which must be performed by an individual or team before that team “hands off” to the next group. Separating out each link in the chain allows you to examine each individually, addressing issues and directing additional resources with pinpoint precision for maximum efficacy.
Benefits of Value Stream Mapping
Improving the efficiency of the hand-offs helps reduce delays, improve productivity, and reduce waste. In addition to the direct economic benefits, reducing inefficiency and redundancy in the collaborative process can also reduce frustration and improve morale. Showing a team the “big picture” of how interdependent their individual activities are can also help foster a culture of collaboration and accountability.
What Industries Can Use Value Stream Mapping?
It’s easy to see how value stream mapping can apply to industries that physically manufacture or produce a product. On an assembly line, for example, it’s easy to see where a bottleneck is occurring that slows down the overall production speed; similarly, a distributing company can easily identify delays caused by a slow shipping carrier.
What’s less obvious is how well this system applies to today’s knowledge workers. In fact, many projects have sequential components, each step dependent on successful and efficient completion of the previous steps. Industries like software development, website creation, architectural design, product development, and others have easily discernable patterns for typical projects. Much of the waste and frustration in knowledge work occurs in the handoffs (or delays between the handoffs) between each link in the chain. Value stream mapping can help improve the efficiency of the progression and the overall quality of the product or project.
How Can I Implement This in My Business?
You can assess whether value stream mapping could be a good tool for your organization by gathering your team and whiteboarding the various steps involved in making, developing, or providing your product, project, or service from concept to delivery. If you believe it may be appropriate, an operations consulting expert can help evaluate your business to determine how to implement more advanced value stream mapping tools. These can help you analyze deficiencies and improve each identified step of the process and the connections between them.
Cornerstone Consulting Organization’s operations and engineering consulting experts can help your organization explore the benefits of value stream mapping and other Six Sigma tools. Contact Cornerstone today to learn more about our industrial engineering services.