Back to Volume 3 | Winter 2018

Operations Science View of Value Stream Mapping

Executive Summary

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a term that describes a family of popular techniques used to analyze production systems. Popularized in the 1980s by Womack and Jones [1] and the Lean movement, VSM is a staple tool associated with lean practitioners. Modern day practice of VSM, heavily influenced by the book by Rother and Shook [2], is to map a current and future state of the flow of production, and to identify ways to eliminate waste or non-value adding activities, leaving only value-adding activities.

Following earlier critiques of VSM, we make the argument that its evolution and current use misses the original intent to understand materials and information flows in a production system. We review the history and original purpose, showing that as it has evolved, the definition and application of Value Stream Maps have become less clear. The historical review allows us to put the Value Stream Map in a more precise and useful setting, reverting to its original historical intent. The critical point is to understand the sequence of transformations of raw materials and information that take place in producing any type of product or delivering a service. With this clarification and corresponding modifications to the technique, the Value Stream Map becomes a valuable tool [2] in the application of Project Production Management to optimize production system behavior.

Author: Todd R. Zabelle, Founder & CEO, Strategic Project Solutions Inc.,

Keywords: Value Stream; Demand; Flow; Transformation; Stock; Production

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