Study Guide – Toyota Way Fieldbook – VSM

Starting the Journey of Waste Reduction

By Swati Jadhav

Recently I had a chance to read the book called The Toyota Way Fieldbook, by J. Liker and it changed my viewpoint towards Lean methodology. I used the guidelines provided by the book for the Value stream mapping in one of my project and yes! I received amazing results. Here are some bullet points to achieve best results for Value stream mapping.

What is Value stream mapping?
VSM, in simple words, a comparison between the current state of processes and material flow with the ideal or desired state of the same. Though the book doesn’t teach VSM, it surely tells us how to utilize VSM by using it as more than a technical tool, depicts a philosophy on how to approach the problem and improve any specific process.

How does VSM work? Draw a current state map (it must show processes and material flow in detail), Calculate value added ratio and draw a future step map using material flow and Takt time. You can easily develop the action plan to improve the process. Is it so easy? Not at all! It’s much more than that!

Taiichi Ohno discovered that if processes get connected, all problems/waste become visible which force people to think and the easiest way to organized your process is to get rid of the waste of it. He also discovered that investment must be made in the learning system instead of Reinvention. If not, it would be short term investment for an organization. This exact theory has been used in the Value stream mapping.
The approach to perform VSM is exactly opposite to the traditional way of the flow chart as the lean experts always incline to study the material flow from customer’s point of view. Lean experts focus at the point where customers start. They also consider value added tools i. e. assembly operations, internal customers as contributing factors.

Some important aspects while doing VSM
1. Tackling the problem in current value stream itself is a low hanging fruit. The power of lean is in the future state system.
2. Don’t try to make current state map “right”. The map should always deliver the process which gives discomfort.
3. The future state system expresses the desired lean concept which can be different from the actual scenario.
4. Developing the detailed action plan is similarly important as doing VSM which Toyota system called “creating value stream mapping wallpaper”.
5. Mapping is like a chain. Step by step mapping is always recommended instead of developing a map for the whole organization at once as the primary purpose of the VSM is an improvement of the Individual process.

The objectives of mapping of the current state are to stabilize the process and create the connected value stream.

Ask Questions

While mapping the current state, observe and ask questions; Does this process satisfy desired objectives? Dose this process have shorter response time so that we can deliver the product on time? Is the process capable of satisfying customers?”

Find Improvement Areas

Inventory is the area where we can always find a lot of scope for the improvement. While developing the VSM, focus at what point customer enters and Takt time required to reach the product at the end. Look for multiple scheduling points. It indicates push system. Check if informal scheduling methods are being used.

Seven Aspects to Achieve Best Results
1. flexibility 2. Short lead time 3. Connected processes 4. Flow loops 5. Simplified information flow 6. Awareness of customer requirements 7. Pacesetter

Continuous Improvement Spiral

Continuous improvement spiral also contributes in VSM which includes steps as Stabilize, create flow, Standardize and level incrementally. Extensive Changes done in the process can make the product unstable with more variations. Therefore, if we compress the process time frame gradually, we can see a greater extent of waste.

To summarize, the purpose of VSM is not just to create aflow chart and identify the remedies to eliminate waste, but to create the process flow in which all individuals are forced to think, solve problems and eliminating the waste. Value stream mapping is the critical starting point of the Lean process and the book establishes the roadmap to achieve optimum results for it.

In my opinion, Toyota’s philosophy of the VSM can definitely be implemented in our real life. We can eliminate most of the unnecessary activities just by using this methodology. We can be successful in any goal if we adopt Toyota’s philosophy in our life, can’t we?


Swati Jadhav is an accomplished Engineering Student with a bright future.

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