Value Stream Mapping Training


Value Stream Mapping

Training for value stream analysis and value stream management (not just drawing)
using the Systems2win value stream mapping tools


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Value Stream Mapping Symbols

Get all of these Excel value stream mapping shapes →
free when you download your free trial...

To get Help for any Systems2win shape
RIGHT-click edge of shape > Size and Properties > Alt Text

value stream mapping symbols - flow
value stream map symbols - kanban
value stream mapping symbols - Lean healthcare

Bookmark = LearnVSM

Learn Value Stream Mapping

Self-paced Learning Quiz

Learn Value Stream Mapping

Whenever a new member joins your value stream team,
email them the 2LearnVSM.xls template with the instructions to “bring it back green”.

The self-paced learning quiz contains questions about vsm,
and has links to online training & videos where the learner can find the answers.

Then when they “bring it back green” — with one glance,
you can have confidence that you now have a more valuable team member

and you didn't spend your valuable time training them.

Bookmark = WhatIs or Purpose

What is Value Stream Mapping?

A value stream map is a special type of flow chart that is used to depict and improve:
    a) the flow of the thing being processed, and
    b) information that controls the flow of the thing being processed

Use this popular Lean tool to design any process
to be as free as possible from the 7 deadly types of waste

Purposes of a Value Stream Map

  1. to graphically illustrate and analyze the flow of the thing being processed and the information needed to process it
  2. to highlight problems and proposed countermeasures — in highly visual ways
  3. to focus direction for your lean transformation teams
  4. to serve as a dashboard to monitor and continuously improve


“The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.” ~ Shigeo Shingo

Bookmark = Process

The Value Stream Mapping process

More details for each of these steps can be found in the Help worksheet in your Systems2win Value Stream Mapping template           Download free trial

Preparation — Before forming your Value Stream Team

  • Use the Product Family Matrix template to define your product and
    service families
  • Define the segment of the value stream that you will be mapping
  • Form your Value Stream Team
  • Define your units of measure
    (in the
    UOMs worksheet of your template)

First pass — Understand the Current State

  • Train your Value Stream Mapping team
  • Physically walk the path of the thing being processed —
    documenting process steps
  • Create your As Is value stream map
  • Choose the metrics you want to measure
    (hide and unhide rows as needed)
  • Enter your data
    (start with your most common scenario)

Second Pass — Analyze and Reflect

  • Analyze and gain consensus for your value stream analysis
  • Identify problems and root causes
  • Reflect, ponder, and think...
  • Play catchball

Third Pass — Improve

  • It is common to improve your value stream in phases:
    (See the Help page of your Value Stream Mapping template for help with each phase)
    1. Meet customer demand (immediately)
    2. Organize for continuous flow
    3. Level the work flow
  • For each phase, create a Value Stream Plan, with specific assignments and deadlines
  • Each "next phase" should have a timeline of no more than six months to have everything on that Value Stream Plan completely implemented.

Continuously Improve





Product Family Matrix for value stream mapping
Product Family Matrix
The first step
in the process of
value stream mapping















Value Stream Plan
Value Stream Plan
The last step
in the cycle of
continuous improvement

Bookmark = Sections

Sections of the Value Stream Map

value stream map example

Sample Value Stream Map Example

Section 1: Header Data

Section 2: Information Flow
     The flow of the information that drives the flow of the thing being processed

Section 3: Flow of the thing being processed

Section 4: Lean Metrics — within each process

Section 5: Lean Metrics — between processes

Section 6: Simultaneous processes
     Unhide this section if needed

Section 7: Bottom Line Analyses

Section 8: Old State Comparison
     Click the button to Import Old State Comparison

Section 9 : Hide/Unhide Rows
     There are many rows of pre-programmed Lean metrics that can be quickly hidden or unhidden as needed


Bookmark = ProcessBox

Continuous Flow Process Box

Process box symbol for value stream mapping
Continuous Flow
Process Box
is the holy grail
of value stream mapping

The Continuous Flow Process Box is used to depict any process that has continuous flow.

In other words — as long as the thing being processed doesn’t stop flowing,
then a single Process Box appears on the value stream map.

(Even if there are dozens or hundreds of sub-processes — if it doesn't get stuck in a pile of inventory, or put on a truck, or any other stoppage of flow — then it appears as a single "black box")


The Continuous Flow Process Box is the holy grail of value stream mapping symbols.

Why? Because the ultimate goal of value stream mapping is to maximize flow.

Definition of continuous flow = the thing being processed doesn’t stop flowing

Why is flow so important?

Because when your process "flows", you will produce only:

  1. What is needed
  2. When needed
  3. The amount needed

Tips regarding Continuous Flow Process Boxes

If your value stream contains an overwhelming number of flow interruptions — then it is advisable to combine some into a smaller number of Process Boxes — just to improve understandability.

If it is an "As Is" value stream — don't worry too much about capturing every detail, because it will soon change.

If it is a proposed Future value stream — perhaps use Link Icons to drill down to further levels of detail.

If you need to re-align a Process Box, or restore a deleted one, use Snap To Grid to snap it perfectly in place.

What’s the difference between a Process Box
and a Process Step?

also known as a Work Element

There could be immensely complex sub-processes involved, but as long as the thing being processed does not stop flowing for more than a few seconds — the entire process is depicted on a value stream map as a single Continuous Flow Process Box.

A Process Step happens whenever the thing being processed gets handed off, or could be handed off (even if the same person is currently switching hats to perform several different processing steps).

process steps for value stream mapping

One of the early steps in the value stream mapping process is to itemize Steps
using either pencil & paper, or the special section of your Systems2win Value Stream Mapping template illustrated here

All that a person sees on the value stream map itself, however, are 2 summary numbers per Process Box:

1) Number of Steps (the orange numbers in row 33 in the screenshot below)

2) Value Add Steps (the red numbers in row 33 in the screenshot below)

slice of value stream map

As illustrated in the Machining and Welding processes above, any given Process Box might have Link Icons
to drill down to related documents such as
flowcharts, spaghetti diagram, standard work combination sheet, standard operating procedure, visual work instructions, and other tools for process improvement,
but at the value stream mapping level, we don't really care about many cluttering details. All we need to know for value stream management purposes is that some raw or semi-finished stuff went into the "black box", and some more-finished stuff came out of the "black box" without ever stopping for more than a few seconds along the way.

The ideal goal is to design a process for continuous flow — so that the thing being processed can flow through it without ever stopping.
The absolute ideal Value Stream Map consists of a single Process Box — because the thing being processed would never stop.

All of the following concepts are compromises, because perfect continuous flow is not always easy or even possible.

Bookmark = Subprocess

Sub Process in a Value Stream Map

To create a drill down link to a subprocess —
use Link Icons to insert the international symbol for a subprocess (shown below)
and then right-click that subprocess shape to add a hyperlink
to allow the user to drill down to the related document for the subprocess.

Value Stream Mapping Continuous Flow Process Box

To roll up summary data from a subprocess — use Link Cells.
(so that data in your value stream map is instantly updated whenever the subprocess changes)

Bookmark = SharedProcess

Shared Process

Also known as a Monument

For a process that serves more than one value stream...

  1. Use Shadow Style 13 to visually differentiate a shared process from a dedicated process.
  2. Brainstorm ideas for future state improvement — because a shared process is a big compromise to flow.
    If there is any way that equipment can be dedicated... get creative.

Many people get confused by Shared Processes

  • They don't know how to correctly handle Queue Time for a shared process, so they try all sorts of "get around" math to try to make it work.
  • They get confused by the paradox that the shared process runs to its own takt time (which is the sum of the takt times of all value streams served), and yet still needs to meet the unique takt time for each value stream. Learn more.
  • They mistakenly think that they should be able to drill down to another value stream map for the shared process; not understanding that the shared process will appear on the map for each value stream served, but will not have its own map (because it is not a complete value stream).

Bookmark = Repeat

Repeat Process

Also known as iterative process, repetitive process, repeated process, cyclical process, circular process...

The circular orange arrows indicate a repeat process (the thing goes through this process more than once).

To get the math right for a Repeat Process...
you might need to calculate one or more standard fields — by multiplying some user-defined fields.

Repeat process within a value stream mapFor example, using user-defined rows, you might create user fields for:

  • Process Time per Rep
  • Number of Times Repeated

And then in the Processing Time field...
rather than entering a static number,
you would instead enter the formula...
=Process Time per Rep * Number of Times Repeated


Other symbols inside a VSM Process Box

You can optionally include other symbols within a value stream mapping Process Box, including (but not limited to):

  • Warehouse (door)
  • Crossdock (inventory comes in and goes out without ever being stored)
  • Point of Sale Moment of Truth
  • Operator (copy it to visually indicate the number of operators)
  • U-Shaped Work Cell

How to find help for any shape on any Systems2win template.

Bookmark = Queues or Buffer

Inventory and Queues

Also known as delays, annoyances, and lost profits

value stream map shapes

Whenever the thing being processed gets delayed between processes — you will use one of the above shapes
in Section 3: Flow of the thing being processed.

Triangles always highlight some form of waste on a value stream map.
Use a green triangle for inventory, or a yellow triangle for any other form of delay
(for example, in an office environment, you might find piles of paper in someone's In Basket).

In the text label beneath each triangle, you will usually describe what is in the pile represented by the triangle.
For example you would replace the word "inventory" with "widgets", or the word "queue" with "orders".

In Section 5: Lean Metrics — between processes, you will usually enter the quantity in the Inventory (Standard WIP) field.

Buffer and Safety Resources

Buffer or Safety Stock VSM Symbol

If your team has strategically designed your value stream to include strategically placed piles of buffer or safety inventory — to protect downstream operations from being starved due to (currently) out-of-control process variances, then use the Buffer or Safety Resource symbol (rather than a triangle symbol).

Use the Buffer or Safety Resource symbol for ANY form of protection against process variance — including (but not limited to):

  • Inventory
  • Overtime
  • Cross-training and departmental borrowing
  • Temporaries
  • Outsourcing
  • Pre-trained workers available as needed (seasonal, retirees...)
  • Pre-negotiated availability of overflow facilities
  • Customers that agree (in advance) to accept delay to allow load leveling to non-peak periods
  • Contingency plans
  • Automation
  • Any other form of protection against process variance that might be found in a Lean Manufacturing, Lean Office, or Lean Healthcare environment

Bookmark = CustomShapes or StandardShapes

Transportation shapes

Most transportation shapes need no explanation.

There are so many modes of transportation, however, that you might want to add some custom shapes to depict a mode of transportation used in your unique value stream.
(Perhaps a pipeline? A vacuum tube? A rocket? A horse and buggy?)

Rather than cluttering our standard template with every form of transportation known to man, we make it easy for you to add your own custom shapes.

Custom Shapes
for Value Stream Analysis

In addition to all of the standard value stream mapping symbols that come with your Systems2win template, it is very easy to add your own custom shapes:

  1. Simply paste any image from the clipboard to your current worksheet, or...
  2. You can easily personalize your master Systems2win template — so that your custom shape is always available every time that any of your licensed users open your (personalized) template
value stream map shapes - flow
value stream map shapes - lean healthcare
value stream map shapes - custom

Standard Shapes

In addition to the standard palette
of value stream mapping symbols,
licensed users (not trial) also have access
to the palette of standard shapes.

These can be used in ANY Excel document
(not just a Systems2win template)
by selecting Systems2win menu > Copy AutoShape

To get help for any Systems2win shape:

RIGHT-click edge of shape > Size and Properties > Alt Text

Standard Shapes

Bookmark = Arrows

Types of Connector Lines and Arrows

used in value stream mapping and other types of lean process flow charts

Tip: Right-click > Format any line to change arrow head, color, thickness, dash, elbow, straight, or curved.

value stream mapping arrows

Red dashed arrow = message flow arrow — indicating the flow of information.
Every message arrow should have a text box to explain the type and frequency of information,
and can optionally have a shape indicating the mode of information transfer (e.g. phone, FAX, email, etc.)

In these days when almost all information is in some electronic form — we do not suggest attempting to differentiate between electronic and non-electronic information. (Is a FAX electronic? Isn't a telephone electronic?) If you (or your boss) find it valuable to attempt to differentiate electronic from non-electronic information, then you can change the "dash" property of any arrow line — perhaps using a solid red line for non-electronic information. Or simply spell out the mode of communication in the red text box.

Red dot-dash arrow = Expedite information
Example: The expedite arrow containing the telephone — between Process 3 and 4
To change the "dash" property of any arrow, right-click > Format AutoShape > Colors and Line > Dashed.

Broad white arrow = Shipment to Customers or from Outside Sources
such as suppliers and third-party logistics providers.

Thick black dashed arrow = Push Arrow
Example: Between Process 4 and 5
The thing being processed is being produced according to some predetermined (non-Lean) schedule — and then is "pushed" downstream — whether or not the next downstream process has any need for it.
There is almost always a pile of inventory or a backlog queue of whatever is being processed — which is why you will almost always see the triangle symbol on top of a push arrow. (Green triangle for physical inventory. Yellow triangle for a queue of something non-inventory that is being processed.)

Thin black arrow = Flow Arrow
Examples: Between Processes 2, 3, and 4
This is the most common arrow to indicate the flow of the thing being processed.

Dotted black arrow = Expedited Flow
Example: The dotted black arrow containing the airplane — between Processes 3 and 4
In this example, there are usually daily shipments between Processes 3 and 4, but about twice a year, the production manager for Process 3 gets a phone call requesting an urgent plane shipment.

kanban withdrawal

Dashed blue arrow = Kanban flow
Kanbans are a simple way to authorize release of work or materials.

Circular black arrow = Withdrawal
The circular arrow between Process 1 and 2 conveys the exact same information as the symbols between Process 2 and 3 — using one simple symbol as a shorthand shortcut.

Bookmark = Supermarket

Lean Supermarket

A lean supermarket is a place between processes where a standard amount of inventory is stored — in order to supply a downstream process without interruption due to product variations and/or batch sizes.

Keep in mind that the "inventory" in your supermarket might be paperwork forms,
or medical supplies, or anything else that can be stored.

Longhand illustration
of what is really happening
in a lean supermarket

Value Stream Mapping supermarket

A value stream mapping supermarket is often the best way to control the flow of production between two processes that can't be integrated into a single Continuous Flow Process Box, for reasons like:
  1. Cycle times are very different between the two processes. (A process might be very fast
    or very slow.)
  2. A process might have very long change-overs
  3. A single process might serve multiple product variations or product families
  4. A process might require transportation to another location or sub-contractor
  5. A process might have unreliable yields or quality

Even though some of the above things might be changed in the long term, we often need to work with "the way things are now" — and a Supermarket is a great way to create a relationship that is close to flow between two decoupled processes.

Common abbreviated notation for a Supermarket

Value Stream Map supermarket

Or even more abbreviated

VSM supermarket

Notice that the open slots of the VSM supermarket always face the upstream supplier — to whom the supermarket belongs.

Bookmark = kanban

What is a kanban?

value stream mapping kanban symbols

A kanban is any signaling device that gives authorization and the minimal instructions needed:
a) for a supplying process to know what to produce, or
b) for a material handler to know what items to replenish

Most commonly, a physical paper card physically placed in a container of parts. When stored items are actually used, the kanban card gets "freed" (perhaps it was in the bottom of the container), and gets put back into a kanban stand where the kanban "requests" are fulfilled in First In First Out (FIFO) sequence.

In some simple situations, the empty container itself might provide sufficient instruction for the upstream process to "fill it up". (And they know what to fill it with, perhaps because of the unique shape or color of the container, or maybe brief instructions are engraved right onto the container.)

A production kanban will typically include information such as part number, batch size, setup time, run time, container type, upstream producing operation, downstream receiving operation, and any other information needed for the supplying operation to know what to produce, in what quantity, and where to deliver it.

What is a signal kanban?

kanban signal symbol for value stream mapping

When Change Over Time has not yet been reduced enough to produce a single bin at a time
(or when an upstream process requires change overs), then a signal kanban is used to trigger production of a specified number of containers when a reorder point is reached.

A colored metal triangle often serves as a signal kanban.
(Hence the symbol used for any kanban signal is the symbol of the upside down triangle.)

What is a sequenced pull ball?

sequenced pull ball symbol for value stream mapping A sequenced pull ball is a kanban signal used in a special way that eliminates the need for the supermarket storage of items between processes.

The supplying process produces a specified quantity (often one unit) to quickly fill the customer order.

This only works if the supplying process has a VERY short and reliable lead time.

Why the symbol? Because colored golf balls are the most common kanban signal used for this type of replenishment system.

Bookmark = FIFO or SequencedPullLane or push

What is a FIFO lane?

Also known as a sequenced pull lane

FIFO Lane symbol for value stream map

Think of a FIFO lane as a chute that can only hold a specified amount of items. When the chute is full, the supplying process stops producing until the downstream process finishes "digesting" the items in the chute, and there is room in the chute again.

A value stream management FIFO lane could use a kanban card or signal, but more commonly, a FIFO lane is used for more "unusual stuff" that often involves unique work instructions.

FIFO Lanes are used when it is not practical to keep a supermarket full of items between processes. Some reasons might include:

  1. Too many variations (custom items)
  2. Usage volumes are too low
  3. Short shelf life
  4. Too fragile to risk storage
  5. Very expensive

Between two processes there is sometimes both a supermarket and a FIFO lane — for different types of items.

Rules of a FIFO Lane:

  1. Process in First In First Out sequence
  2. When the FIFO lane is full, the supplying process must stop filling it.
    (Perform other activities — most commonly assisting the downstream process)

Sequenced Pull Lane

A Sequence Pull Lane is identical to a FIFO Lane — except that sequencing criteria other than FIFO is used.

Perhaps earliest due date, shortest processing time, largest dollar value of customer order... whatever.

A "Holey FIFO" Lane can be a novel solution to allow for expediting. Leave the front of the queue open for rush orders.

What’s the difference between a FIFO lane
and a simple FIFO symbol?

FIFO - no lane You place a simple FIFO symbol inside a Process Box if it is simply processing things in First In First Out order (with no Lean FIFO Lane that signals the downstream process to stop producing until there is room in the chute again). In other words, you can still have simple FIFO processing in the middle of a very non-Lean "push" system.

What’s the difference between a FIFO lane
and a “push” system?

inventory push arrow for value stream map

Push means that the supplying work center is building to some central "plan" (e.g., MRP, MPS, DRP, or some other usually-wrong forecast), and then items are "pushed" to the downstream customer process — whether or not they are ready for them — and whether or not they even have space available to store them ...

Although there are valid reasons for building to forecasts and central schedules, if there is any way to implement Continuous Flow — you will reap dramatically superior results in every performance objective that you measure.

You should only resign yourself to accepting a push system as the very last desperate acknowledgement of failure to come up with more creative means of approaching Continuous Flow.

Bookmark = pacemaker

What is a pacemaker process?

also known as a Scheduling Control Point or pacesetter

A pacemaker Scheduling Control Point is a process that you schedule.

Think of your pacemaker as the gas pedal in your car. It regulates the speed of your entire value stream.

value stream mapping pacemaker operation

Objectives for designing the Control Points in your value stream:

  1. You ideally schedule only one process.
  2. All upstream processes are either FIFO Lanes or PULL systems (such as supermarkets, pull ball systems, or simple kanban withdrawals)
  3. All downstream processes are ideally FIFO Lanes (but might also be non-Lean push inventory, and/or a finished goods supermarket)
  4. Both upstream and downstream processes pulse in harmony with the heartbeat production pace of your one pacemaker process
    (this heartbeat production pace is also known as Pitch)
  5. Your chosen pacemaker process is ideally the Continuous Flow Process Box that is located the farthest downstream (nearest to actual customer delivery) that meets the above criteria.
Load Leveling lean icon

Use your pacemaker (and only your pacemaker) to determine the Takt Time, Pitch, Pitch Batch Size, and EPEx  for the overall value stream. (Tip: Your Systems2win Value Stream Map auto-calculates all of these — making it so much easier for your people to really "get it".)

Also see training for heijunka and pitch board load leveling to create a lean schedule for one piece flow.

Bookmark = KaizenBurst

Clouds and Bursts

We suggest that you use our standard shapes (accessible from ANY Systems2win template by selecting Systems2win menu > Copy AutoShape)
to teach all of your users to use the following conventions:

Your As Is State should contain:

  • Bursts to define problems
  • Perhaps some Fluffy Clouds to ponder thoughts

Your Target State should contain:

  • Fluffy Clouds containing your team's proposed improvement ideas
  • Shaded Clouds for approved objectives

Any objective that appears within a Shaded Cloud on a value stream map should have a corresponding line item in the Value Stream Plan with one of the following:

  1. A3 project (Type A3)
  2. Kaizen Event (Type KZ)
  3. Project (Type PRJ)
  4. Just Do It (Type JDI) also known as
    Quick & Easy Kaizen, or mini kaizen


kaizen symbols - clouds and bursts
Clouds and Bursts are standard shapes
that are always available to use in any Systems2win template
by selecting Systems2win menu > Copy Shapes

Watch the training video for the To Do List template
for a demonstration of how to copy bursts and clouds.

Can we use our own shapes and meanings for Clouds and Bursts?

Yes. Simply:

  1. Teach your people your own shapes and meanings
  2. Personalize your shapes.xls file

Thinking we were inventing something new from scratch, our older templates used clouds to identify problems, and bursts for ideas. But when a popular book did it the other way around, we switched to the way "they" did it.

The important thing is that your viewers can differentiate problems, ideas, and mandates.

Bookmark = ValueStreamPlan

Value Stream Plan Excel template

Value Stream Plan

The final tool needed in each round of value stream management improvement
is the Value Stream Plan template.

Bookmark = Reading

Suggested Reading and Resources
for Value Stream Mapping

Suggested books to purchase through our links to

More Suggested Readings

Get all of the Excel templates you need for value stream management — for one low price
as part of the Value Stream Mapping bundle of templates



Use a value stream map
to answer the question

"Where should we focus our attention?"



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Value Stream Mapping Template — Top Ten
Features & Benefits

  1. Visually see your entire process flow using the language of Lean to learn to see and eliminate wastes
  2. Preprogrammed Lean Metrics so you don't have to work late trying to write your own formulas
  3. Answer the question How can we make only what we need when we need it?
  4. Form a blueprint for Lean implementation to rally your team to eliminate wastes
  5. Instant on-line training for Lean concepts and techniques 
  6. Easily customized
    Written in Excel with all of its familiar formulas and charts
  7. Professional deliverables
    easily stored, emailed, and shared
  8. Drill down to swim lane flowcharts and other related documents
  9. Import Old comparison data with the click of a button
  10. Inexpensive
    to easily share & collaborate







Try the simple Value Stream Mapping template
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(that does all of the lean calculations)
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