VSM differs significantly from tools such as process mapping or flow diagrams because this methodology enables the capture of both process and material flows and in doing so allows for the clear identification of the value-added steps and the non-value added wastages which can occur in any product group's value stream.
Mapping should be seen as the 1st and most critical step for those wishing to embrace Lean Six Sigma methodologies because their use enables an organisation to gain great clarity of the inefficiencies within their processes.
With this greater visibility the application of Lean Six Sigma methodologies such as the 5S and Kaizen Blitz can be conducted in a manner which ensures that any efforts are directed at areas which will have direct impacts. This in turn ensures that the maximum benefits are gained from these efforts.
The most widely recognised benefits gained from conducting VSM exercises are that they:
- Build the foundation for an effective Lean Six Sigma implementation plan by identifying how the various material and information flows interact, both in their current and possible future state;
- Allow an organisation to establish a clear, consistent and measurable direction for its process improvement efforts;
- Ensure planned improvements are focused upon the entire production process flow instead of changes occurring which are adhoc and focused upon single state process areas only;
- Assist with the identification of inventory and other non-value added activities.
When conducting a VSM exercise it is important to always start the improvement project by gaining a clear understanding of what your customer's expectations are in relation to the product group to be mapped. Failure to undertake this crucial step may result in an improvement project that efficiently delivers to your customer something other than what they want.