Value stream mapping (VSM) is a technique used to document, analyze and improve the flow of information or materials required to produce a product or service. It is a lean-management method for analyzing the current state and designing a future state for a series of processes that take a product or service from its beginning through to the customer.1

About VSM

VSM is a process improvement tool developed by Toyota, it is known within the Toyota Production System by its employees as “material and information” flow mapping.2

Value Stream thinking can be viewed as a fundamental mindset to achieve business success.  It allows organizations to cultivate customer-driven processes and focuses only on what the customer wants.  It provides a high-level approach to create a lean business model centered on what the customer wants to pay for.

After a team of high-level leaders from all functional areas of the business develop a map using VSM icons for a particular product line, this management team learns to see and resolve disconnects, redundancies, and gaps in how work gets done.  It is a team-based methodology used to discover and experience outstanding performance.

When a map is created, processes are measured for Lead Time, Process Time and Right First Time. After the entire process is developed and the current process is verified and understood as correct, the same management team designs a future state map by discovering better ways to perform the work with less waste.

It is this same management team that has the people and financial resources to determine better methods to perform and accomplish the work. The VSM team collects these ideas and improvements and produces a transformation plan where people are assigned to develop these new processes, linkages and practical approaches to perform work in a simpler and more productive manner.

They work closely with their improvement teams to use lean techniques, technology and smarter tactics to make the product or provide the service.  This team will often pilot and prove out their new method of getting the work done and implements it accordingly.3

VSM at Sharp

Sharp Packaging Services began using VSM in 2016. The tool lends itself well to the overall end-to-end process but can also be helpful in understanding and integrating some of the customized processes our clients use in the front end. This can include demand forecasting, sales order submissions and component changes that require unique understanding and handling by our project managers, account coordinators and support areas.  Therefore, VSM can streamline standard contract packaging processes and incorporate customer-required ways of doing business with Sharp’s operational best practices.

Sharp had mapped the repeat order value streams for Allentown and Conshohocken and has looked closely at how several customers interact with Sharp in packaging their products for blister and biotech product lines. In addition, the Inventory Destruction Request (IDR) value stream has also been mapped for current and future state and a diverse team from various areas is currently working on a transformation plan of its own.  The operation has also carved out a section of the value stream for production where packaging is completed on the floor from batch record and label creation through delivery of finished goods to warehouse waiting for release and shipment.

Sharp Packaging Services is dedicated to use this technique often as it engages the customer with Sharp operations for their products manufacturing in the plant. It fits well with Sharp’s values of providing an excellent customer experience that will continue having the customer come back to perfect their products and advance their relationship with Sharp.


  1. Womack, James P., and Jones, Daniel T., Lean Thinking, 2003
  2. Rother, Mike and Shook, John, Learning to See, 2009, pages 1-8
  3. Martin, Karen and Osterling, Mike, Value Stream Mapping, 2013, pages 1-26