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Value Stream Mapping: A key methodology for a simple waste elimination in Product Development


Value Stream Mapping: A key methodology for a simple waste elimination in Product Development

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is one of the key methodologies used to start a lean journey. It has been successfully applied in manufacturing processes and is now becoming increasingly used in the innovation and product development processes to reduce cycle time and identify improvement opportunities. It also provides a simple and quick way to visualize all activities that deliver value and eliminate those that generate waste.

Our 4 stage methodology will help you to create your own Value Stream Map and harvest the benefits it has to offer. But first, let’s have a look at the stages.

VSM methodology

The first task in any VSM methodology is to identify and document the problem that needs solving. Usually, this is identified by the top management or the responsible team. Once the first description of the problem, scope and goals are finalized, the cross functional core team, process owner and stakeholders are identified. In most cases, the process owner and the lean coach or facilitator will plan and carry out the data gathering process. They will obtain input data of the product development process, such as cycle time, bottle necks, frequent challenges, etc. It is highly recommended to perform Gemba walks and interview the engineers and designers on the workplace to obtain their insights, pain points and improvement ideas or recommendations. Gemba is a Japanese term meaning a real place or a place where the truth can be found and Gemba walk represents activity of going to the development department and seeing processes happen (Grier, 2008).

VSM_02_Training_31Oct2015All these findings are then integrated, documented and shared to the core team to be validated prior to the Kaizen event. This initial step varies from company to company, but it usually takes from 1 to 3 months, depending on the complexity of the problem identified. The “Preparation Stage” is critical for the following three stages to be successful, as the data obtained will ensure the understanding of the baseline and discovery of the current steps, usually unknown to the core team.

The following three stages (development of the current state process map, future state process map, and definition of the action plan) are usually completed at Kaizen event.

Kaizen means continuous improvement and a Kaizen event is a rapid focused event with pre-determined duration in which the advantages of continuous improvement could be obtained within a limited period of time (Marin-Garcia et. al., 2009). Kaizen events can take from one to several days depending on the complexity of the process and availability of the core team and stakeholders. The recommended length is 2 to 3 days.

During the Kaizen event, the facilitator engages the core team and stakeholders to collaboratively create the current state process map. Once the team is aligned, the created map visually represents the current product development process (end-to-end) and it allows the team to assign the ownerships to different process steps. The process map also enables them to understand which activities do not add value. LAA’s approach proposes to start from a high level process map with 5 to 7 steps which covers the complete product development process. Afterwards, based on the baseline data and challenges, the more detailed process flows is generated to uncover the wasteful activities and identify the root causes of their existence as the key input for the action plan.


During the second stage it is important to ensure the participants understand what is value and is waste. These could be defined as:

  • VALUE: To produce the requested outputs, without defects, as efficiently as possible, and at the right time for the customer.
  • WASTE: Any activity that does not create value and can be eliminated without affecting the product.

The wheel of waste for product development is used as a tool to create the future state process map. This map is a result of waste elimination and value creation exercise. The final step of the methodology is aiming at the creation of the action plan and implementation process together with measures to track its performance.


Some of the main benefits of applying Value Stream Mapping in the product development are:

  1. Visualize the product development end-to-end process, identify owners of different tasks and workloads
  2. Collaboratively map the process to visualize value-added and wasteful activities
  3. Enable team engagement to agree on a common vision, future state and commit to an action plan
  4. Provide the foundation to develop an action plan to optimize the process and reduce cycle time
  5. Simple and inexpensive methodology to introduce in any organization small or large

To know more about successful Value Stream Mapping implementations to product development process in organizations worldwide, get a copy of the Best Practices Discovery Project 2015 cases available for free to our members.


Lean Analytics Association offers:

Trainings and workshops with hands on simulations and industrial to enable your cross-functional teams to learn how to immediately apply Value Stream Mapping to your product development and innovation process.

We also offer in-house trainings that can be customized according to your specific needs.

Facilitation of Kaizen events tailored to your organization needs.


For any enquiries or event facilitation



“All we are doing is looking at the time line from the moment the customer gives us an order to the point when we collect the cash and we are reducing that time line by removing the non-value-added wastes.”

Taiichi Ohno,
Father of Toyota Production System



  • Marin-Garcia, J.A., Garcia-Sabater, J.J. and Bonavia, T. (2009), “The impact of Kaizen Events on improving the performance of automotive components’ first-tier suppliers”, International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp.362–376.
  • Grier, S. (2008) “Why Management Should Go to Gemba. IT Managers Inbox“, Available at here.

Recommended reading:

  • Locher D.A. (2008), Value Stream Mapping for Lean Development: A How-To Guide for Streamlining Time to Market. Productivity Press, New York.
  • Rother M. and Shook J. (2003), Learning to See: value-stream mapping to create value and eliminate muda. Brookline, MA: Lean Enterprise Institute.



Doroteja Maklin
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