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Manufacturing Tomorrow

Manufacturing Tomorrow


How Can Value-Stream Mapping Improve Operations?

Jan 12, 2016
By: Mark Stevens

Value-stream mapping is vital to helping organizations truly understand their operations and implement lean manufacturing principles.

People need to see how decisions are made and materials flow from one workstation to another. A good value-stream map should be bigger than life — and that’s no exaggeration. Such maps can easily be 6 feet tall and 15 feet long with circles identifying where lead times are occurring and where the greatest labor costs happen. You must be able to see the root causes of why time is being lost; it’s a resource that you never get back once it’s gone.

In the end, you should be able to map out a process that clearly outlines what needs to happen not on a weekly basis, but on a minute-by-minute basis. You’ll probably find a lot of variability in processes and that people aren’t operating as efficiently as possible.

Look no further than FLEXcon, a global manufacturer ISO-certified in the production of pressure-sensitive film and adhesive products, as an example of how to effectively leverage value-stream mapping. FLEXcon’s success was highlighted in a recent article on the Manufacturing.net website  showing the power of lean principles.

Since its lean program began 10 years ago, FLEXcon realized on-time delivery improvement of 90 percent, cut waste by 20 percent and increased productivity by 35 percent. Value-stream mapping was critical to FLEXcon’s success as it eliminated bottlenecks and identified inefficiencies.

One team evaluated the process for preparing film products for shipment. Employees were frequently faced with backlogs in packaging, which caused machine downtime, lower productivity and delivery delays. FLEXcon ended up installing new equipment that takes film from the slitting machine to the packaging area, and the products are then automatically wrapped and packaged. “This not only saved time and effort, but also reduced manual labor efforts,” the article notes.

This is just one example of how value-stream mapping can be used to improve operations. In lean manufacturing, everything has a place, but it takes a high level of rigor and discipline to ensure that everything is in the right place.

Oftentimes, structure is lacking in manufacturing environments, which can be frustrating. That’s why you should outline a value-stream map to help create a structured process that people can trust.

Source: Manufacturing.net, December 2013


Mark Stevens
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