Value Stream Mapping: Operationalizing Lean Manufacturing


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In the realm of electronics manufacturing services, EMS providers are continuously fraught with pressures from the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to lower the total cost of production.

One of the tools used by EMS companies to achieve this goal is value stream mapping (VSM). VSM is a lean manufacturing technique used to document, analyze and improve the flow of information or materials required to produce a product or service. It provides optimum value to the customer through a complete value creation process with minimum waste in design (concept to customer), build (order to delivery), and maintenance (in-use through life cycle to service). Through VSM, the EMS provider maximizes the customer gains by adhering to a clear vision and implementing a clear plan connecting all improvement activities.

The VSM is a visualization tool that has its origin in the Toyota version of lean manufacturing (Toyota Production System). Through this tool, inherent wastes or losses within an operation are identified. The value stream maps reflect a broad view of the process, usually from external supplier to an external customer at a given facility.

Many of the problems that the VSM exposes reach across organizational lines of responsibility and expertise. The goal of the process is to identify, demonstrate and decrease those activities that do not add value to the production process.

By applying VSM, EMS providers can have a clearer picture of multiple processes involved in a work flow, identify waste and its sources, identify where change is required, standardize the process, and identify potential problems that could be encountered in the future state. It can also be used as a tool for planning as well as for managing changes. The VSM process helps make organizations more efficient by improving their processes. Let’s see how VSM is applied in an EMS environment.

The illustration below is an example of how a VSM project is done. The workshop typically runs for several days depending on the complexity of a certain project under study, while project closure is targeted within six months.

Pre-work is being done prior to the learning session and workshop. This includes gathering and analysis of business operations information, important production details and current performance. The line walk helps in gathering more information and shows the actual scenario of production where team members do line observation in each process and take notes.

This forms part of the actual mapping process. And like any other improvement discipline, the VSM project has its own project charter that states the project timeline, estimated benefits and other project information.

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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of SMT Magazine.

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