Value Stream Analysis: The key to leaner operations


Any lean practitioner knows that designing the future state is as important as understanding the current state. As there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, a deep dive into the process’s current state is vital to kicking off any transformation, and that’s why the concept of Value Stream Analysis appeared.

What is a Value Stream Analysis?

A Value Stream Analysis (VSA) is a lean management method used to help businesses identify sources of inefficiency, waste, and unnecessary costs within their operations and develop strategies to improve the overall performance of their value streams.

A value stream refers to the set of activities required to bring a product or service from the initial request to the realization of value by the customer. By analyzing value streams, businesses can better understand how their operations function and identify areas where improvements can be made to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This should ultimately converge into an implementation plan for getting ideas off the ground.

A VSA is only successful when seen as a multidisciplinary teamwork. It’s crucial to involve key people in the process of developing and implementing solutions to ensure that they are fully committed to the changes to make in the future.

What are the benefits of a Value Stream Analysis?

1. Identify bottlenecks and constraints

One of the VSA’s key benefits is that it allows businesses to identify bottlenecks and constraints that prevent them from achieving their desired level of performance. These can occur in several different forms – including overproduction, waiting, handling, defects, and excess inventory – and by spotting them, value stream managers can then outline strategies to reduce the amount of time and resources needed to produce products and services, which in turn leads to lower costs and higher profits. Although this is the most common focus, VSA can also help companies improve satisfaction by reducing delays, defects, and other issues that can negatively impact the customer experience.

2. Impact all areas of the organization

The VSA can be used in any industry, organization, or business area. Whether in a manufacturing company, a service provider, a government agency, or a commercial department. This approach can help identify and reduce waste in any process. Additionally, the VSA can even be used more broadly to improve the overall performance of an organization. In fact, this is how several continuous improvement journeys began, evolving into more significant and focused projects.

3. Track performance

Lastly, the Value Stream Analysis uses metrics to track performance. Metrics can be used to measure a wide range of performance indicators, such as lead time, cycle time, and throughput . By tracking these metrics over time, businesses can better understand how their operations are performing and identify areas for improvement to achieve maximum benefits, ultimately leading to greater success and profitability.

What are the steps of a Value Stream Analysis?

The VSA steps can be as follows:

  1. Scope and objectives statement
  2. Current state analysis
  3. Opportunity hunting
  4. Future state vision
  5. Cost-benefit analysis
  6. Implementation planning

As with any continuous improvement method, the process should start with setting the purpose. The first step must be defining both the scope – which value stream? which product(s) or service(s)? which business unit(s)? – and the objectives – what to improve and by how much?

Two important tips: firstly, defining not only in-scope topics but also out-of-scope topics may help with the following steps; secondly, using the GQCDM (Growth, Quality, Cost, Delivery, Motivation) classification ensures an smart selection of targets.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

One of the most effective ways to conduct a VSA is by using Value Stream Mapping (VSM). This visual tool represents the entire value stream, including all the actions carried out from the initial product or service concept until its delivery to the customer. The value stream map is typically divided into three main sections – the material flow, the information flow, and the process data – giving a full picture of the value stream under analysis and raising awareness about existing waste throughout the entire system. A common mistake to avoid is to fight the urge to jump to solutions before deeply understanding the problem, as this fast track often leads to missed opportunities.

The current state mapping is followed by discovering areas of improvement, where the team reviews the VSM to identify the potential to eliminate waste, reduce delays, and improve efficiency. Some common areas for improvement that may be identified during the opportunity hunting step include excess inventory, waiting, defects, unnecessary transportation, and overproduction. When evaluating potential improvement opportunities, the VSA team may also consider other factors such as safety, quality, and environmental impact.

The team will then brainstorm potential solutions to address these issues, considering various factors such as cost, feasibility, and potential impact on the overall value stream. The goal at this stage is to build a vision for the value stream of the future – also known as Value Stream Design (VSD). Once potential areas for improvement have been identified, they will be prioritized based on their impact on the overall value stream, as well as other factors such as the ease of implementation and the costs and resources required. This prioritization helps to ensure that the most significant improvements are addressed first, maximizing the overall impact of the VSA process. The output of the exercise is a detailed implementation plan with the scheduling of initiatives, an identification of the project team, and a clear definition of metrics and targets.

To implement the findings of a Value Stream Analysis, businesses will typically need to make changes to their operations. These changes can include the introduction of new processes, the elimination of unnecessary activities, the reorganization of departments, the implementation of new technologies, and the investment in people training and require, above all, accurate planning and great teamwork.

What are the main applications of Value Stream Analysis?

The most traditional applications of Value Stream Analysis (VSA) are in the manufacturing industry, where production processes are involved. However, it can also be applied to other sectors, such as service, healthcare, government, and retail, where similar processes are involved.

Some of the main applications of VSA:


VSA is widely used in manufacturing to identify and eliminate waste in production processes. It helps to identify bottlenecks, delays, and other areas of inefficiency in the production process and helps to improve communication, coordination, and efficiency.

Service Industry

VSA can be applied to the service industry to identify and eliminate waste in service delivery processes. It helps to streamline service delivery and improve customer satisfaction by identifying areas for improvement.


VSA can be used in healthcare to improve patient care processes, reduce wait times, and eliminate waste. It can help to identify bottlenecks in patient flow and improve the efficiency of the healthcare delivery process.


VSA can be applied to government processes to improve efficiency, reduce waste, and improve service delivery. It helps to identify inefficiency in government processes and find ways to eliminate them.


VSA can be used in retail companies to boost store efficiency and grow margins. It helps retailers detect losses across their processes to deliver a seamless customer experience at the lowest cost.

Supply Chain Management

VSA can be used in supply chain management to identify inefficiencies in the flow of materials and information throughout the supply chain. It helps to optimize the supply chain as a whole and improve the flow between all links.

Therefore, whether the flow unit is material, information, or people, the VSA is a versatile tool that can be applied in many industries and business areas.

Key takeaways

In conclusion, Value Stream Analysis is a powerful tool that can help businesses to identify areas of inefficiency within their operations and develop strategies to improve their overall performance and increase the value delivered to customers. It is a systematic approach to understanding and optimizing the flow of materials and information that allows companies to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase customer satisfaction.

This lean management method can help any industry, organization, or business area change for the better and start a continuous improvement journey. However, it’s essential to remember that implementing VSA findings requires significant planning and coordination to achieve full process optimization and impact the bottom line.

At Kaizen Institute, we strongly recommend that our customers perform one or multiple Value Stream Analysis exercise(s) to gain an end-to-end perspective on their business and draw a sustainable, breakthrough vision for the future supported by an attractive business case.

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