Best Practices 101, Part 2

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A few months ago, Best Practices 101, Part 1 (May, 2014) was rolled out, focusing on process analysis as the first step in this process. This issue will discuss another powerful tool at our disposal: Value stream mapping.

“But we already made a process flowchart--isn’t that good enough?”

In a word, no. Process flow diagrams are a great first step, but they don’t tell the entire story. Value stream maps add one critical ingredient that standard process flowcharts don’t have: Time. Process flowcharts, whether drawn by hand or electronically, do not capture this important element. They simply present a snapshot of the sequence of steps in the process. Time is essential to understanding how one operation affects another and where your resources are being spent.

Value Stream Mapping

A value stream map (VSM) takes the basic flowchart to the next level, kind of like a process flowchart on steroids. In addition to the basic action boxes with arrows showing the flow of work, a lot of other information is added, including material and information flow, operating parameters, process lead-times, inventory, a timeline depicting value-added time relative to non-value added time, and so on. Value stream mapping is the single most effective major process analysis step to identify the value stream, and conversely, the non-value waste in your processes. The value stream is the set of all of the specific actions and activities required from the beginning of a process to the end of a process. Imagine a long and winding deep blue stream flowing through cities, counties, and states. Next, visualize all the things that the river carries within it: water, fish, minerals, plants, and a thousand other elements that combine to form the stream. Processes are very much like a stream; they flow in a natural direction and carry materials and information within them from one point to another.

Read the full column here.

Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of The PCB Magazine.


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