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Copyright 2003 Strategos, Inc.

03 March 2004                       www.strategosinc.com

Process and Value Stream Mapping

Maps, in various forms, visualize a complex process. They help us understand shortcomings and often bizarre behavior.

By now, almost everyone has heard about Value Stream Mapping, a valuable tool for Lean Manufacturing. Process Mapping (or charting) is an older, far more useful technique that is all but forgotten in the VSM hoopla. Process Mapping was invented about 1913 by Frank Gilbreth, an early Industrial Engineer and the father of "Cheaper By The Dozen."

Gilbreth's system is simple, visual and intuitive. With an experienced facilitator, teams do not need training. Yet the technique gives deep insight and brings order of magnitude improvements. Process maps are indispensable for workcell design, plant layout, kanban and other process improvements. They are especially valuable with teams.

So, why has this basic tool been so forgotten and neglected? I suspect there are several reasons:

  • Its simplicity belies its value

  • While the map is simple, construction, interpretation and usage is subtle.

  • There has never been good documentation. As a result, many process maps are not done well.

  • It has not had the advantage of a talented wordsmith and slick publicity.

We have a large new series of web pages that detail the construction and use of Gilbreth's method. They include examples, procedures, hints and how to's. They have step-by-step instructions for group facilitation. I suggest you start at Value Stream & Process Mapping.

This has been a major project for me and may be the basis for a short book. I hope you find it as useful as I have over many years.

Our next issue looks at Value Stream Maps and how they complement Process Maps. We will show where and how to use these powerful, paradigm-shifting tools. See you then.

Quarterman Lee

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