The big picture
Let’s take another look at the importance of value stream mapping your business. The principle idea of generating a value stream map being to keep it simple and capture valuable information about your process.
How to perceive a challenge
When looking to identify consistent data around your processes in the absence of a repeatable product, value stream mapping can appear to be quite challenging. A highly customized product or service can introduce challenges to value stream mapping such as understanding where the labour is. If you’re in a project style or job shop style kind of environment where it’s not a repeatable product or service quite often your labor might move around with the job as it progresses through the different stages of production. That can make it very hard to understand things like how much labour is where at each stage of the process. In these circumstances, it’s important to recognise that any mature business will at the least have some information around defect rates, cycle times and lead times, those kinds of things.
My advice here is, that as your product gets more complex or more varied it’s more likely you’re looking at a high level of the value stream to get a broad understanding of what’s going on. This isn’t a bad thing! There are still a multitude of opportunities for identifying the constraints in your process. Don’t be too concerned about the accuracy of information that is not available from a reliable source. Just acknowledge and document what is accurate data and what is an opinion or estimated data. What’s most important is that you develop a broad understanding of what’s going on- a big picture view.
Generating the wins
While it’s great to have a nice printed value stream map at the end of the day, write it out on paper first. This is a part of the process of creating a value stream map that I really like. What you want is to capture information, a lot of which is probably in the heads of your team members, the heads of your employees. So getting out there and walking in the Gemba, having a look around, talking to people, asking questions and writing it all down on a piece of paper is a really important place to start.
A lot of the calculations should be done by hand initially. Take an eraser along with you and rub out the things that don’t work while you pencil in those that do- this is the way to create it. Taking an attitude towards the development of your value stream map as an organic process will only benefit your business: approaching it with an open mind as something that will grow and change will help you better understand what is going on.
And finally, take advantage of someone in your business who has experienced with value stream mapping. It’s worth having them lead the process as they are going to help the process run far more smoothly for you. Get them to train up other people who can also assist in the facilitation of the process. Value stream mapping is an excellent tool for identifying the next constraints, barriers to flow and areas of waste in your business. Ideally, it will be carried out every six months. These experienced and newly trained people are going to enable you to keep on top of diagnosing and chasing the constraints out of your business.
A text I consistently refer to and would recommend for anybody who’s starting out is ‘Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate Muda’ by John Shook and Mike Rother. It’s a fantastic read that makes a strong companion book to many other books written on the concepts of flow and eliminating waste out of your process. Do yourself a favour and get a copy!
One place where you can find the book online is here.
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