Lean process brings product to customer

Monday, December 31, 2007

Q. What is value stream mapping, and how can it help my business?

A. A value stream represents all of the steps within a process that are required in order to bring a product or service to the customer. A typical HME business has several value streams including intake/customer service, billing, distribution and equipment management. An intake value stream, for example, would begin with the initial order receipt and end with a printed order or delivery ticket.
A value stream map (VSM) is one on the primary tools used as part of a lean thinking approach to improving quality and efficiency within a business. A value stream map is an important tool to use when working to improve a process because it helps people to “see” and understand the entire, as is process. You have to understand a process before you can improve it. A value stream map not only helps spread understanding of a current process, but it also provides a starting point or foundation for designing an improved, lean process.
Value stream mapping involves visually recreating (drawing and labeling on paper) a process from beginning to end. A VSM identifies each step within a process and it also includes important data such as process time (time it takes to complete a step), wait time (time spent waiting for the next step), first-time-quality (percentage of time a task is completed without requiring rework), lead time (process time + wait time), and technology used at each step.
A VSM helps to reveal instances of excessive waiting, duplication, rework, excessive paper handoffs and poor quality. A VSM can help to establish priorities for improvement efforts and it provides a common language so people can talk about a process. A VSM also provides objective information through the data collected at each key step within a process and it shows the link between information flow and product/service flow.