Value Stream Mapping and Lean
VSM can be used to great effect as a forerunner to any kind of lean initiative in your business. What it does is reveal, in a visual format, the waste (non-value-added activity) hidden in your process.
The results can be alarming. You might find that the actual value-added activity needed to produce your product is just 15 minutes, but the lead time you’re experiencing is closer to two weeks. Where is all that time being spent? Why is a half-finished component hanging around at step 3 for 2 days? Why is there such a big bottleneck at step 5? These are questions that might never be asked without a good VSM exercise.
Honesty is the best policy
When you have the right people together in one room, each with a unique knowledge of their process, what VSM will doubtless flush out is that what management think is happening, is not what’s actually happening.
However, if the environment doesn’t allow for total honesty, you aren’t going to get the best out of the exercise. Everyone should feel empowered to be open and truthful, without being judged.
The truth hurts
Beware: VSM can be an exhausting process. Prepare to come away from your first session a bit deflated, because what you end up with is a room full of people with a different understanding of how things work.
Expect a few ‘head in hands’ moments at the start as long-standing shortfalls in the process are exposed. But remember; every shortfall exposed is an opportunity for improvement. And if your map seems too good to be true, it probably is – so compare the mapped theory with the physical reality to validate your findings.
Mapping the future
Once you’ve mapped ‘the now’, you can begin to plan how your process can be improved. This should be explored with all members of the group in a methodical and encouraging way; not discounting any ideas (even the most radical suggestions can sometimes end up being real nuggets!).
The original Value Stream Map will act as a useful barometer of progress, allowing you to come back and check how things have improved over time. That in itself is a powerful tool and an excellent opportunity for a welcome back-patting exercise.
How we can help
VSM is often best conducted with an ‘outsider’ – someone who broadly understands what’s going on, but can approach the whole exercise from a fresh perspective that isn’t entrenched in what can often be years of doing something the same way.
That’s where the Lancashire Manufacturing Growth Fund can help. We offer Lancashire-based SME manufacturers grants of up to £8,999 towards the cost of bringing in specialist expertise for eligible projects. This may include funding a skilled consultant to undertake a full VSM exercise and any subsequent action planning and lean implementations.
So, if you think your process could be improved but you’re not sure how or where to start, get in touch today.