Value Stream Map: The Genesis to Process Improvement

Posted by Khris Bhattan on January 8, 2018
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What is a Value Stream Map?

A Value Stream Map is a Lean Management tool that is used to create a baseline measurement or current state of a business process. Although Value Stream Mapping is often associated with the manufacturing industry, it is also prevalent and valuable in service-related industries such as healthcare, software, and product department, administrative and office processes as well as logistics and supply chain. These maps illustrate how your business is running in its current state. The visual layout is beneficial to identify the bottlenecks and the time associated with performing tasks within your business.

A Value Stream Map uses a series of shapes and icons that illustrate the segments or actions within your business. For example, a rectangle illustrates a standalone process step and a triangle identifies a decision in the process. There are many shapes in a Value Stream Map associated with various Process Improvement needs. Choosing the correct shape is critical to clearly identify and illustrate each step of the current state of business or work stream.

Identify, Prioritize and Streamline Process Bottlenecks

During the development of a Value Stream Map, two things are produced as a byproduct of the exercise. The first is the identification of time associated with each process step. This gives the workstream leader, and engaged associates, a clear indication of approximately how long it takes for an individual or team to perform a specific task.

The second key source of information that is a result of creating a Value Stream Map are the bottlenecks or improvement opportunities within the process. The time associated with the steps within the process will inherently be reduced if the bottlenecks or improvement opportunities are identified, prioritized and streamlined.

Next Steps: Identify and list out all the bottlenecks as outlined in each of the Value Stream Maps. Create a Project Plan for the identification process so that all of the bottlenecks and improvement opportunities can be housed in one central location for review and status updates. Prioritize the identified bottlenecks by using some basic and fundamental business prioritization rules.

ROI, Ease of Implementation and Cultural Fit

Return on Investment tools should be used for nearly every identified improvement opportunity. In a process improvement investment, it is critical for business leaders to outline the benefits for financial and resource investment. Return on Investment tools assists in justification in moving forward with prioritizing the improvement opportunity.

Ask the tough questions. Are the bottlenecks or improvement opportunities easy to implement? Is the team that is impacted by the process improvements able to implement it based on current resources and funding?

These are some of the questions to discuss in determining the ease of implementation and if it is within the means of the team to plan and execute upon. Often, team members contribute terrific ideas to improve the process. However, due to the scope of some improvement opportunities, unfortunately, not all ideas are easy to implement in a timely manner.

Cost of implementation may be another significant factor when ease of implementation is reviewed. Even if there is a positive Return on Investment, the cost of implementation may not always be available for smaller businesses. This will further define the prioritization of improvement opportunities.

Based on the culture of an organization, it may be pragmatic to review the process improvement opportunity to ensure it fits the organization’s culture. Ensure that improvements align with fundamental business best practices. Sometimes, teams change for the sake of changing. However, this may not benefit the overall business goals and objectives.

Communication: Critical to Streamlining Processes

Once processes are identified and prioritized, it is now time to streamline the process. Communication is key to ensure everyone is informed in all details related to the improvement opportunity. The teams that are engaged in the work should those who are directly involved in streamlining the process.

Team engagement will greatly contribute to streamlining the process in a timely manner. Following the process implementation, the team should pay close attention to the results of the improvement opportunity. The first 30 days following any process improvement are critical to the overall success and anticipated outcomes. Team engagement and measuring outcomes contribute significantly to create a culture of continuous improvement in an organization.

Measure Everything in Process Improvement

A culture of Continuous Improvement is a tremendous asset for an organization. Note that a process that is not measured leads to continuous change, rather than continuous improvement. Always measure a new process before and after the new improvement is implemented. Measurement will ensure changes are benefiting the organization and highlight if and where additional updates are needed.

Measure Key Performance Indicators to confirm process improvement adoption, associate engagement and buy-in. This information will provide evidence that the process is working as intended. If there is a processing reduction time associated with the improvement; measure it. If there is a cost associated with the improvement; measure it. If there is an increase in revenue associated with the improvement; measure it. If there are business efficiencies in production or customer relations; measure it.

When an improvement is made by the team and it is proven out, then that becomes the new standard to measure against. When this measurement and adjustment occurs on a regular basis, an organization is effectively creating and operating in an atmosphere of Continuous Improvement.

Do you have process improvement opportunities in your organization?

RTG Solutions Group can assist your team with on-site consulting, assessment and process improvement implementation. Looking to have team members learn about lean tools to streamline business processes? On-site and customized workshops, specific to your organization’s needs, is also available. Drop us a line to discuss!

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