In lean theory, the “value stream” refers to all of the actions required to bring a product or service from concept or raw material to finished good. Each action contributes value to the finished product, ideally working together efficiently to create a continuously flowing stream of value. The first step toward creating a lean environment – increasing value and removing waste – is analyzing the value stream. This provides the foundation for creating an improvement plan. By examining the current state of a system, actions that add to value creation can be clearly separated from those that create waste, making it easier to locate opportunities for improvement.

Value stream mapping supports stream analysis by simplifying a complex system into a map. The map illustrates the outcomes of the value stream analysis, providing a visual tool to facilitate understanding and communication. The next section outlines the steps for completing a value stream analysis, creating a current state map, developing future and ideal state maps, and ultimately carrying out a lean plan. These steps are best practices for VSM and provide organization to value stream analysis, hopefully leading to the best possible outcome: an efficient and integrated material and information flow system.

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