Value Stream Mapping

What is Value Stream Mapping?

The flow of materials and products through a manufacturing process.

Value Stream Mapping is a technique used in Lean Manufacturing. Not to be confused with value chain notation, This technique expresses the physical environment and flow of materials and products in a manufacturing environment. At Toyota, where the technique originated, it is known as “Material and Information Flow Mapping.”


Key Characteristics:

  1. Lean Manufacturing Focus:
    • It is an integral part of Lean Manufacturing methodologies, aiming to eliminate waste and optimize the flow of materials and products through the production process.
  2. Visual Representation:
    • Unlike abstract value chain notations, Value Stream Mapping provides a visual representation of the entire manufacturing process. This visual tool enables teams to identify inefficiencies, redundancies, and opportunities for improvement.
  3. Origin at Toyota:
    • Toyota, where the technique originated, refers to it as “Material and Information Flow Mapping.” The approach aligns with Toyota’s commitment to continuous improvement and efficiency in manufacturing processes.

Value Stream Mapping vs. Value Chain Notation

  1. Focus on Physical Flow:
    • While value chain notation may encompass broader aspects of business operations, Value Stream Mapping specifically zooms in on the physical flow of materials and products within the manufacturing environment.
  2. Lean Principles:
    • This technique is deeply rooted in Lean Manufacturing principles, aiming to identify and eliminate non-value-added activities. This focus on efficiency aligns with the core tenets of Lean methodologies.

Application in Lean Manufacturing

Several purposes in Lean Manufacturing:

  1. Waste Identification:
    • By visually mapping the entire production process, teams can identify and eliminate various forms of waste, including overproduction, excess inventory, and unnecessary movement.
  2. Process Optimization:
    • The visualization aids in optimizing the overall flow of materials, ensuring a smoother and more efficient production process. This, in turn, contributes to cost reduction and improved lead times.
  3. Continuous Improvement:
    • It’s a tool for continuous improvement. Regularly updating the map allows organizations to adapt to changing circumstances, embrace new technologies, and enhance overall manufacturing effectiveness.

In essence, Value Stream Mapping is a powerful tool that enables organizations to gain a holistic view of their manufacturing processes, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and efficiency.

Further resources:


Explore more about different process improvement terms in our BPM Glossary.

Louie A

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Louie A

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