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Inside Dental Technology
September 2021
Volume 12, Issue 9

Map Your Process and Improve Your Profits

Value Stream Mapping to produce definitive and sustainable change

Bob Yenkner

Making more money is always a good idea, especially if it can be done on a low-cost/no-cost basis. More often than not, laboratories struggle with a methodology that produces definitive and sustainable change. Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is the easy-to-use methodology that produces definitive and sustainable change on a low-cost/no-cost basis in a very short period of time. It is easily learned and can become part of the culture of improvement in relatively short order.

The purpose of VSM is to identify and eliminate or reduce the eight wastes in a process, thereby increasing the productivity of the process. VSM is a visual tool that displays all the steps (both value added and non-value added) in a specific process and quantifies the time, labor, and inventory required to bring a specific product or service from raw material through to the customer. While most people associate VSM with the manufacturing process, VSM can be used to document the "transactional" steps (eg, order entry, employee hiring, sales, accounting, purchasing) as well.

Why utilize VSM? There are a number of excellent reasons:

• It helps us to see waste in the current system.

• It helps us to visualize the product flow and understand the information flow.

• It forms the foundation for creating a lean production system.

• It provides a common understanding of the current state and commitment to the future state vision.

It is a fact of dental laboratory life that technicians know a lot more about the process than we give them credit for. Most laboratories (if not all) have experienced employees who are very knowledgeable about the products they produce. The VSM process details are collected through the input of the employees via the Kaizen process, and the written version is what drives the improvements, or what is called the Future State.

A VSM event is a complete turnkey training and implementation engagement with a small team of selected associates from the selected process. The event is configured so as to minimize the impact on the working hours in the laboratory; it typically requires a half-day for training, and the equivalent of two-and-a-half days for the project (actual timing and schedule is part of the event planning). The training consists of teaching the participants basic lean principles, VSM techniques, and the specific tools that will be utilized in the improvement effort. Also important is the identification of measures as a baseline so implemented changes can be linked to improvements. After the completion of the event, the team is responsible for implementing the improvement objectives in a priority that fits the business's needs.

How do you know your profits are being favorably impacted? VSM typically shows 80% to 90% of the total steps within a process are waste from the standpoint of the end customer. Just as scary is the realization that 92% to 95% of cycle time is wasted time as well. Let's go back to the baseline measurements, and compare to the now-improved process. Typically, impacts such as reduced remake rates, increased output per technician, and shorter dwell time (time-in-process) will be readily visible. As the Shingo Institute says, "All outcomes are the consequences of a process. In reality, an issue is usually rooted in an imperfect process, not in the people involved. It is nearly impossible for even good people to consistently produce ideal results with a poor process."

About the Author

Bob Yenkner is the owner of Practical Process Improvements in East Hampton, Connecticut.

*Learn more about Value Stream Mapping, including step-by-step instructions, from the American Society for Quality at

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