Today’s post is a guest post from Jack Perry. Jack is Vice President of Product Management at Onpoint On Demand. Jack’s role is to help commercial print companies become POD profit leaders through practical application of JDF-enabled technology.

Value stream mapping is a great way to find the waste in any manufacturing process. It provides an illustration of your current workflow along with important data about customer value-added steps, business value-added steps, and customer non value-added steps. Let’s define each of these categories. The best way to categorize the steps in your process is to ask a series of questions for each category. We’ll start with customer non value-added steps because that is typically where most of the waste is.

Customer non value-added steps (CNVA):
Does our process include any of the following: wait time, re-keying of job information, temporary storage, unnecessary movement, redundant inspections or rework, counting or inventory analysis, rushes due to poor planning?
By removing some of these steps, how much lead time (total time to deliver finished goods) could we eliminate from our process?
If we reduce our lead times, how much increased capacity do we yield from existing equipment and personnel?

Ask yourself why you take the non value-added steps you currently take in your workflow. Then ask yourself if each step is really required. Does it contribute to reduced risk? Does it make your company more competitive? Or, is it likely that these superfluous steps simply make you feel better? A common theme I see at commercial print facilities is redundant steps in an effort to quality control the process. Rather than add more steps to the QC effort, error-proof it by applying lean manufacturing disciplines.

Business value-added steps (BVA):
Does this process include any of the following: steps required by regulation, certification or program compliance, steps that reduce business risk, steps that include management visibility into the process, steps that keep the process flowing?

Recognize that these steps are really non-value added, but may be necessary. Do your best to reduce the costs associated with these steps.

Customer value-added steps (CVA):
Does this process include any of the following: steps that add features or functions to the product, steps that contribute directly to manufacturing and delivery, steps that reduce price?

Ask yourself if your customer expects to pay for this step. Often in a manufacturing environment we tend to over produce. In other words, we try to deliver more than the customer expects or will pay for in an effort to please the customer. This is nothing more than waste. Ask yourself is your customer willing to pay extra for the steps you take to over deliver. If the answer is no, stop doing it. Good quality is what the customer expects and nothing more. Having a good understanding of what the client expects is an easy way for your company to be more competitive. By asking simple questions up front, you can eliminate over production and unnecessary cost which will make your pricing and margins better than the printer down the street who hasn’t asked the questions.

How to build a value stream map:
There are different methods of doing this. I like to start with a simple list of steps in the process. It is also standard practice to start building your map from delivery to customer working backwards through the process. But because our industry is so reactive – we jump into action when an order shows up – I like to start from the beginning of the process. Build a simple list of the foundational steps of the process. Here is an example of a list for workflow associated with a web2print production process:

  1. receive order notification via email
  2. retrieve job ticket and production file
  3. re-key job ticket into MIS system
  4. schedule job
  5. send job ticket and production file into production
  6. impose production file.
  7. print job
  8. finish job
  9. ship job
  10. update systems
  11. invoice

These are just the high level steps in the process. Each step has a number of customer value-added steps, business value-added steps, and customer non-value added steps that must still be identified and documented.

Convert your list to a basic diagram:

Begin to add workflow details to each step:
Example 1: Receive Order Step

  1. view email notification
  2. click link to job ticket and asset

How long does each step take? Which category does each step belong in? CNVA, BVA, CVA? Is it task time (time it takes to add value to the job) or is it lead time (time it takes to deliver the job but no add value to it)?

Example 2: Retrieve Job Step

  1. log into dashboard
  2. open job
  3. download job ticket
  4. download production file
  5. log out of dashboard
  6. close browser

How long does each step take? Again, which category does each step belong in? And so on…

Begin to add workflow data to your value stream map:

view email: (task time: 15 seconds) CNVA
click link to job ticket and asset: (task time: 3 seconds) CNVA

log into dashboard: (task time: 8 seconds) CNVA
open job: (task time: 15 seconds) CNVA
download job ticket: (task time: 30 seconds) CNVA
download production file: (task time: 1.25 minutes) CNVA
log out of dashboard: (task time: 3 seconds) CNVA
close browser: (task time: 2 seconds) CNVA

For each step, document the wait time, waste, unnecessary movement and effort, rework, counting of inventory, etc. All these items contribute to the total lead time it takes to get the job from receipt to delivery.

You begin to get a visceral understanding of the waste in your workflow. Just in two steps of a very basic process we have found 2.5 minutes of task time and perhaps hours of lead time depending on when the order came in. And none of the time spent contributes to value-added time the customer expects to pay for. Value stream mapping is a great tool for illustrating waste in the process. It also provides wonderful data that can be used to measure costs.  Assume that you process 2,300 web2print orders for 8.5X11 sell sheets each year. In your current process you identify 11 minutes of waste. That’s 421 hours. And at $30 per fully-burdened hour it adds up to $12,630 per year. Ouch! Remove the waste and put the money into your pocket.

How to Improve:
Begin to build a new value stream map that reflects your future state goals. Follow the same steps. Begin with a list of the new steps in the process. Map them at a high level. Fill in the details. Now compare the data for the two maps and you have what you need to begin your process improvement initiative.

Great questions to ask yourself while building a future state map:
Does our customer expect to pay for this step?
Are we overproducing?
Do we really need this quality control step or is it redundant?
How can we error-proof this step so we don’t have to check it again downstream?
Can we use technology to automate what humans do over and over again?

Use value stream mapping often in your lean initiative. You’ll be glad you did.