Applying Lean Principles – Value Stream Mapping

In Jeff Miller’s CSIA 2010 presentation, he proposed using the same lean manufacturing principles to their own processes as a system integration company. The first method that he described was Value Stream Mapping.

Adding Value

In Value Stream Mapping, you must first define what is ‘value adding’. Value Adding Activity is an activity that transforms or shapes raw material or information to meet client requirements …. What is the client willing to pay for? And, Non-Value Adding Activities are those activities that take time, resources, or space but do not add value to the product itself. These wasteful activities can be summarized as:

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Non-utilized people
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Extra processing

You can use a flow chart tool to help you visualize the process. It shows each step of the process as well as process times and wait times. Then, determine value add percentage. Keep in mind that you are looking for major improvements … not just trimming minutes. Note that this is not a quick process – plan 1 to 3 days. Be sure to include people that do the work as well as those from outside. And, realize that implementation of corrective actions will take time (months / not weeks). So, make action plans, specific assignments, and follow up to verify completion.

Just to Illustrate the Point

Jeff Miller went on to describe how they had applied value mapping to identify inefficiencies in their accounting process. They found places where the amount of paperwork and check points wasting a lot of time and energy. Just to illustrate the point, they taped the steps on the floor to show how much effort it required to process an order. A bit embarrassing, but it went a long way to emphasizing to their employees that they were serious about improving their processes.

He gave several examples where they were able to cut the number of process steps in half. In some case, they were able to reduce process time by 80-90%.


3 Responses to Applying Lean Principles – Value Stream Mapping

  1. Jim Campbell says:


    Many resources discuss Lean concepts from the perspective of product manufacturing, since Lean arose from the automobile manufacturing world. After reading a couple of these books, I kept wondering if these concepts would apply to a services business. Integrators are, after all, mainly service businesses, although test rack assembly has hints of production concerns. The key is looking for repetitive tasks.

    The one book I like the most is ‘Lean Six Sigma for Service’ by Michael L. George. (Note that most resources and consultants these days discuss Lean in the same breath as Six Sigma, termed Lean Six Sigma.) Another excellent book for newbies is ‘Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook’, also by Michael L. George and co-authored by David Rowlands, Mark Price, and John Maxey.

    Keep up the nice work on the blog!


  2. Jack Barber says:

    Hey Jim – Thanks for the tip on the book. Sounds like it might be very applicable.

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