God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. (Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr)

Process & Value Stream Mapping

Process Mapping

Business process mapping refers to activities involved in defining what a business entity does, who is responsible, to what standard a business process should be completed, and how the success of a business process can be determined (Wikipedia). The basic type of process map is a process flowchart, which shows the steps as boxes of various kinds, and their order by connecting the boxes with arrows (Wikipedia).

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) set standards for flowcharts and their symbols and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted the ANSI symbols. The common symbols for flowcharts include:

ANSI/ISO Shape Name Description
Flowchart Line.svg Flowline (Arrowhead)[15] Shows the process's order of operation. A line coming from one symbol and pointing at another.[14] Arrowheads are added if the flow is not the standard top-to-bottom, left-to right.[15]
Flowchart Terminal.svg Terminal[14] Indicates the beginning and ending of a program or sub-process. Represented as a stadium,[14] oval or rounded (fillet) rectangle. They usually contain the word "Start" or "End", or another phrase signaling the start or end of a process, such as "submit inquiry" or "receive product".
Flowchart Process.svg Process[15] Represents a set of operations that changes value, form, or location of data. Represented as a rectangle.[15]
Flowchart Decision.svg Decision[15] Shows a conditional operation that determines which one of the two paths the program will take.[14] The operation is commonly a yes/no question or true/false test. Represented as a diamond (rhombus).[15]
Flowchart IO.svg Input/Output[15] Indicates the process of inputting and outputting data,[15] as in entering data or displaying results. Represented as a parallelogram.[14]
Flowchart Annotation.svg Annotation[14](Comment)[15] Indicating additional information about a step the program. Represented as an open rectangle with a dashed or solid line connecting it to the corresponding symbol in the flowchart.[15]
Flowchart Predefined Process.svg Predefined Process[14] Shows named process which is defined elsewhere. Represented as a rectangle with double-struck vertical edges.[14]
Flowchart Connector.svg On-page Connector[14] Pairs of labeled connectors replace long or confusing lines on a flowchart page. Represented by a small circle with a letter inside.[14][18]
Off page connector.png Off-page Connector[14] A labeled connector for use when the target is on another page. Represented as a home plate-shaped pentagon.[14][18]

A swim lane flowchart (or diagram) differs from other flowcharts in that processes and decisions are grouped visually by placing them in lanes. Parallel lines divide the chart into lanes, with one lane for each person, group or subprocess. Lanes are labelled to show how the chart is organized. When used to diagram a business process that involves more than one department, swimlanes often serve to clarify not only the steps and who is responsible for each one, but also how delays, mistakes or cheating are most likely to occur.(Wikipedia).


Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping is a lean tool that employs a flow diagram documenting in high detail every step of a process. Many lean practitioners see value stream mapping as the fundamental tool to identify waste, reduce process cycle times, and implement process improvement (ASQ). 

value stream focuses on areas of a firm that add value to a product or service, whereas a value chain refers to all of the activities within a company. The purpose of value stream mapping is to identify and remove or reduce "waste" in value streams, thereby increasing the efficiency of a given value stream. Waste removal is intended to increase productivity by creating leaner operations which in turn make waste and quality problems easier to identify (Wikipedia).

Types of Waste

  1. Faster-than-necessary pace: creating too much of a good or service that damages production flow, quality, and productivity. Previously referred to as overproduction, and leads to storage and lead time waste.
  2. Waiting: any time goods are not being transported or worked on.
  3. Conveyance: the process by which goods are moved around. Previously referred to as transport, and includes double-handling and excessive movement.
  4. Processing: an overly complex solution for a simple procedure. Previously referred to as inappropriate processing, and includes unsafe production. This typically leads to poor layout and communication, and unnecessary motion.
  5. Excess Stock: an overabundance of inventory which results in greater lead times, increased difficulty identifying problems, and significant storage costs. Previously referred to as unnecessary inventory.
  6. Unnecessary motion: ergonomic waste that requires employees to use excess energy such as picking up objects, bending, or stretching. Previously referred to as unnecessary movements, and usually avoidable.
  7. Correction of mistakes: any cost associated with defects or the resources required to correct them.

Symbols (from lucidchart.com)

VSM process symbols

Symbol Name Description
customer supplier icon Customer/Supplier When placed in the upper left corner of a value stream map, the typical starting place for material flow, this icon represents the supplier. When placed in the upper right corner, it represents the customer.
dedcated process Dedicated Process Flow

This icon represents a single department, process operation or machine with a fixed and continuous internal material flow.

shared process icon Shared Process

This icon indicates a process, department, operation or workcenter that is shared by other value stream families.

data box Data Box The data box is placed under other icons that require data to analyze the system. For example, a data box could go below a factory icon to show shipping frequency, product handling data, batch size or other information.
workcell Workcell Use this icon to show that multiple processes are integrated into a manufacturing workcell.

VSM material symbols

Symbol Name Description
inventory icon Inventory Inventory between two processes is represented by these icons. If you need to include an inventory count, add it below the triangle icon. This symbol can also represent stored inventory.

Shipments This symbol shows materials coming from suppliers or finished goods going from factory to customers.
Push arrow Push Arrow This icon shows material being pushed downstream from one process to the next.
Supermarket Supermarket This icon represents a Kanban stockpoint where downstream customers can get the inventory they need as it is replenished by the upstream supplier.
Material Pull Material Pull This pull symbol represents physical removal of stored inventory from supermarkets.
FIFO Lane FIFO Lane This icon represents a First-In-First-Out system that limits inventory input. The maximum inventory capacity can be written below the lane.
Safety stock Safety Stock Rather than permanent storage, this icon indicates temporary safety stock to prevent problems in the event of system failures or other issues.
external shipments External Shipment The truck icon represents external shipment to customers or from suppliers.


VSM information symbols

Symbol Name Description
production control Production Control A centralized production scheduling or control department is represented by this simple box symbol.
manual information Manual Info Manual information flow from memos, reports or conversation. Indicate the type of information if needed.
Electronic information Electronic Info Digital information flow, such as the Internet, Intranets, Electronic Data Interchange, etc. Frequency, type of data and the media used can all be recorded.
Production Kanban Production Kanban Indicates the production needed to supply parts to a downstream process.
withdrawal kanban Withdrawal Kanban This symbol represents a card instructing an operator or material handler to move parts from a supermarket to a process.

signal kanban

Signal Kanban This Kanban symbol is used when inventory levels in a supermarket drop to a minimum, and signals the production of a specified number of parts.
kanban post Kanban Post This icon indicates a location for collecting Kanban signals, typically located near a supermarket. In a two-card system it can be used to exchange withdrawal and production Kanban.
sequenced pull Sequenced Pull This pull process removes the need for supermarket storage of inventory between processes by providing instruction to a subassembly process to quickly produce a specified customer order.
load leveling Load Leveling A tool that batches Kanbans in order to level out the variety and volume of production.
mrp erp MRP/ERP Scheduling using an inventory control system such as material requirements planning (MRP).
go see Go See Sometimes information is collected through observation, such as when a supervisor makes a production decision after visually checking inventory.
verbal information Verbal Information This represents information flow that is passed verbally.


VSM general symbols

Symbol Name Description
kaizen burst Kaizen Burst This icon is designed to stand out and highlight problem areas. It identifies critical processes for developing a successful future-state map.
Operator Operator This icon is used to show how many operators are needed to process the VSM family at a particular workstation.
other information VSM Other Information Other useful information.
timeline vsm Timeline On a value stream map, the timeline is placed at the bottom and shows waiting times and processing times. This can be used to calculate Lead Time and Total Cycle Time.
rail transportation Transportation Symbols These symbols are straightforward, showing rail shipment as a train, air freight as an airplane, and boat shipment with a boat icon.
forklift vsm Forklift Used when something needs to be moved via forklift.
expedited Expedited Indicates product or information deliveries that are expedited.
milk run Milk Run This icon refers to a vehicle that picks up or delivers items at multiple locations, often following a fixed route.
warehouse Warehouse This symbol indicates an internal or external warehouse.
Cross-Dock Cross-Dock This refers to closely coordinated trucks, allowing materials to go directly from inbound to outbound trucks.
orders Orders Sales or purchase orders can be represented by this icon.
Phone Phone Telephone orders or other communication by phone.
batched kanban Batched Kanban This icon represents Kanban cards arriving or being sent in batches.
control center Control Center Centralized Kanban control.
Quality Problem Quality Problem A quality problem can be indicated at any point on the VSM chain.
solution improvement Solution/Improvement The cloud symbol is used to highlight proposed ideas, solutions or suggestions.