Value Stream Mapping identifies gaps of strategic importance to a business

Attendees at a recent Mid-West Lean Network webinar, which focused on utilising a strategic lean tool known as Value Stream Mapping (VSM), or information-flow mapping, learnt of its value in identifying gaps of strategic importance to a business.

This message was delivered by Claude Costelloe, site Director of Zimmer Biomet’s Ireland manufacturing facilities and a Shannon Chamber director, who said that the real advantage of VSM is that it takes an end-to-end approach and allows companies to identify what’s right for their business as opposed to what’s right for a particular function within an organisation.

“It’s a powerful lean tool,” he said.

This sentiment was endorsed by webinar presenters, Michelle Holland, enterprise excellence manager with Cara Partners, a bulk pharmaceutical manufacturer based in Little Island Industrial Estate in Co. Cork and Jennifer Stratton, lean specialist with Shannon Free Zone based Reagecon, a global supplier of chemical and physical standards, consumables and equipment, and chemicals.

Established over forty years ago, Cara Partners, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Schwabe Group in Germany, manufactures a standard extract of Ginko Biloba, an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API). Its herbal extracts are used to treat circulatory disorders and age-related physical and mental deterioration. The company is vastly experienced in continuous improvement and in VSM.

Cara Partners started using the VSM lean tool in 2015 and attained isolated areas of improvement initially before bringing the leadership team on board a year later, which resulted in an aligned approach to excellence throughout the entire site.

Sharing her experiences of using VSM, Ms Holland said that leadership alignment is critical: “Without it, you won’t get the output required,” she advised attendees.

Outlining the benefits attained from using VSM to understand the impact of the company’s sales shifting from its legacy product to a new variant and to identify the investment required to change operating hours, Ms Holland said the VSM allowed the company to explore potential investment solutions and identify the optimal one for Cara to begin engineering concept designs.

“VSM generated agreement at site level for capital investment projects, gave us detailed knowledge of the current state of process and equipment, and key areas of opportunity for improvement. We reduced our deviations by 50%,” Ms Holland added.

Reagecon have more recently started their VSM journey and are nevertheless seeing benefits of using the tool.

“Like any new lean initiative, we have had some early challenges but despite this we are already seeing benefits,” stated Ms Stratton.

Reagecon is using VSM to improve efficiencies on the production floor prompted by growing sales and commenced its journey by brainstorming on issues being experienced on the production floor, measuring them out, and focusing on improving high-impact problems.

“Our project focused on filling and automation. To date, we have mapped out the current state and will now move on to assessing the future state using lean principles. The real benefits of VSM are that it enables companies to get employees involved in projects they might not otherwise do and it makes the value-added time more visible. Being part of the Mid-West Lean Network and attending the workshops has been a hugely beneficial element of our training. We have also benefited from linkages with the University of Limerick (UL), LBS Partners and Grianan Consultancy, who have all helped us introduce and implement lean principles.”

Imparting some additional words of advice to attendees, webinar sponsor Maria Ryan, owner, Crystal Lean Solutions, which helps companies in diverse sectors attain their lean goals, said: “Any lean undertaking must have a purpose and be linked to a company’s overall strategy; it must have people engagement so that everyone on-site understands the heart and soul of the process and, there must be a crossover of the processes where improvement is needed. Lean is not a tool on its own; it in an integral part of corporate strategy.”

The next Mid-West Lean Network workshop, which takes place on 29 July from 3-4pm will focus on how technology is enabling business as usual during COVID-19.

Bookings for this webinar can me made via