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What Is Value Stream Mapping?

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Last editedJuly 20212 min read

A quality product doesn’t just happen overnight and adequate planning is required to ensure delivery. This is where value stream mapping shines! Value stream mapping is a type of flowchart, originally designed at Toyota, that is used to illustrate and analyze the steps required to fully deliver a high-quality product or service. The use of value stream mapping is to improve those steps through reviews of the process flow from inception to customer delivery.

Elements of value stream mapping

The value stream mapping technique can be used to highlight where problems are in the process flow, and it can capture the process as an easy-to-understand snapshot. There are four elements of value stream mapping that cover everything from customer orders to the full product/service delivery. Customer, Supplier, Product Flow, and Information Flow are the four elements of value stream mapping.


This is where value stream mapping begins. It’s good practice to start value stream mapping at the shipping department and move up from there. Typically, this will include a data box to understand the customer's demands and requests. Of all the elements of value stream mapping, you’ll want to get as much initial information as possible since the customer's specifications will drive the final product or service.


The next element of value stream mapping is the suppliers. You don’t have to note every single supplier – perhaps you’ll only need to specify the geographical regions to depict the major supplier routes.

Product flow

What about the use of raw materials to create a product? Or how purchased components will move through the various production phases? This is what the product element is for. Using data boxes once again, product flow contains information such as shifts, change over time, and cycle time.

Information Flow

Information flow value stream mapping is the last element of this technique. This element will govern the product flow and document how the entire process is controlled. This element addresses issues in areas such as supplier scheduling, production processes and even generating customer demand.

Value stream mapping examples

The use of value stream mapping can be seen in almost every industry you can think of – from health care and manufacturing all the way through to finance. In fact, value stream mapping can even be used when following the agile methodology. An agile value stream mapping example would be most prominent in the retrospective meetings of tech development companies. Another agile value stream mapping example would be its use when implementing Scaled Agile Frameworks.

Some of the biggest finance firms in the world make use of value stream mapping to outline ways of reducing waste and identify how to use new technologies to increase efficiency. This is achieved by identifying process costs, thereby removing unnecessary costs by leveraging value stream mapping.

One of the best value stream mapping examples is its use in the healthcare sector. As you can imagine, lead time and costs are critical to treating patients and delays can be deadly. Value stream mapping is used to increase cost-effectiveness by identifying inefficiencies in different types of hospital operations.

Let’s consider the manufacturing industry for a moment – the industry in which value stream mapping really took off. Toyota uses value stream mapping to detail every single step of their vehicle manufacturing process – that means the supplier all the way to the customer driving the vehicle off the showroom floor.

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