Value Stream Mapping: Navigating Process Efficiency

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Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a powerful tool for organizations looking to optimize their processes and boost operational efficiency. It lets you visualize the steps of a process, identify any inefficiencies or waste, and discover opportunities for improvement. By understanding how different parts of your organization interact, VSM can help you create an optimized workflow that increases productivity, reduces costs, and improves customer experience. This article explains what VSM is and how to get started. We’ll also discuss the benefits of using VSM and some common challenges that can arise when implementing it. By the end, you’ll clearly understand why and how to use value stream mapping to improve your organization’s efficiency.

Difference Between VSM and Flow Charts:

A common mistake is to confuse value stream mapping with flowcharting. While the two processes are similar in providing an overview of a process, they are different. Flow charts illustrate how one task or process relates to another and help analyze potential problems. On the other hand, value stream mapping focuses on identifying and eliminating any unnecessary steps or delays impacting the overall efficiency of the process. The below table summarizes the key differences between the two approaches.

Comparison Between Value Stream Mapping (VSM) and Flow Charts

Aspect Value Stream Mapping (VSM) Flow Charts
Focus End-to-end process with emphasis on value addition Specific process or sub-process representation
Information Material flow, information flow, and value addition Detailed steps, decision points, and actions
Perspective Holistic view of the process ecosystem Detailed view of a single process
Waste Identification Identifies value-added and non-value-added steps Focuses on process steps, not necessarily value
Improvement Orientation Aims for process optimization across the stream Analyzes a particular process for enhancements
Scope Covers the complete value chain Zooms in on a specific process or activity

Current State and Future State VSM:

VSM comprises two main components: mapping the current process and creating a future state. Mapping the current process allows you to identify delays, bottlenecks, or inefficiencies that may slow down production. You can develop an improved version after understanding how your process currently operates. This future state should include changes that will reduce the time it takes to complete tasks, reduce costs, and improve customer experience.

1. Current State VSM: This mapping provides an accurate representation of the existing process, highlighting inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and areas where value is being lost. It reveals the current flow of materials, information, and resources, serving as a baseline for improvements.

2. Future State VSM: After analyzing the current state, the future state VSM is designed to portray an ideal process flow. It includes improvements, waste reduction strategies, and enhanced value addition. This map serves as a blueprint for transformation, guiding the organization toward its desired state.

Creating Value Stream Mapping:

Select the Process: Choose a process or value stream that requires improvement and aligns with organizational goals.

Gather Information: Collect data related to process steps, cycle times, waiting times, and other relevant metrics.

Create Current State Map: Map the existing process flow, identifying bottlenecks, waste, and non-value-added activities.

Design Future State Map: Collaboratively design the ideal process, incorporating improvements and efficiency measures.

Plan and Execute: Develop an actionable plan to bridge the gap between the current and future states. Implement changes and monitor progress.


Challenges: While VSM can be an extremely useful tool for improving efficiency, there are some challenges that organizations may face when implementing it. One of the biggest struggles is getting accurate data and agreeing on metrics. This requires collaboration between different parts of the organization, which can be difficult when teams have differing opinions or objectives. Additionally, it’s important to ensure that any changes made due to VSM are sustainable and measurable. Without this, there is a risk that any improvements may not be permanent.

VSM Symbols:

Source: Lean Six Sigma Green Belt: Summary Sheets and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Summary Sheets


Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is an effective tool for improving efficiency and reducing waste in processes and organizations. It helps you identify current issues, design an improved workflow, and execute change to achieve desired outcomes. While it can be challenging to implement, it can lead to significant improvement with the correct data, collaboration, and planning.

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