Value Stream Mapping and the Dentist

We all know that good oral hygiene is essential to healthy living. Even though we brush our teeth daily, visiting your dentist twice a year is still important. Unsurprisingly, the dentist will often find plaque, an occasional cavity or other serious issue regardless of prevention during the visit. Similarly, good operational “hygiene” is essential to business success. Conducting a value stream map (VSM) on your various operational processes should be performed regularly. 
Value stream mapping provides a structured visualization of the key steps, interactions, involvement and corresponding data to intelligently identify opportunities for process improvement. A value stream map should never be done by a single person or just management. To achieve the best results, include anyone who interacts with the process – those who know the steps, interactions and involvement, and those who do it daily.
Honestly, they are the subject matter experts and will know how to best improve the process.
Often, I hear, “We did a VSM a few years ago, why do it again?” The simple answer is everything is fluid. Maybe a recent hire has a unique approach that hasn’t been considered before. Or a few years ago, you might have been in a position where finding employees wasn’t a challenge for you. But now, technology and automation might be a legitimate path for improvement whereas it could’ve been cost-prohibitive in the past. Lastly, maybe a significant change occurred within the organization (project volumes increased, changed supplier, etc.) but this change was not fully communicated down the value stream. Overall, things change, so a routine VSM can keep you on a path to success. 
This brings me to one of my favorite stories as an outcome of conducting a value stream map.  Our client, a metal fabricator, altered machined parts from a specified supplier and sent them to their customer. They had been doing this project for years. Recently, the client started experiencing random bottlenecks in their shipping and receiving department. They asked The Center to lead a VSM engagement.
We included everyone who engaged in the process. We discovered that earlier in the year their client switched to a new supplier of machined parts. Why was this switch important? Our client used their own trucks to pick up machined parts from various suppliers around the state and no one informed the driver that he no longer needed to go to XYZ company any longer. For the past six months, every other Monday the driver drove to the former supplier expecting a load of these components. This was the root cause of the issues in shipping and receiving.     
Next time you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair deciding between mint or bubble gum polish, ask yourself if it’s time to have an expert help check your facility’s processes. 
Create an effective Lean value stream mapping process to eliminate waste and reduce costs. Our experts will help document and analyze the flow of information and/or materials using a fast digital method. Contact us to help your organization achieve the most from manufacturing processes.
MEET OUR EXPERT: Dave Nelson, Senior Business Solutions Manager
Nelson_D.jpgDave Nelson is a Senior Business Solutions Manager with the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. Joining The Center in 2013, Dave works directly with manufacturers in Wayne and Monroe counties. He is a seasoned professional with expertise at identifying/opening new market opportunities and increasing market penetration in existing markets. Dave also has extensive experience in generating/growing new business and selling intangible services.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Lean Principles, Sales & Marketing