When analyzing processes its often the case that the emphasis can be on the material flow. After all the materials used to create the products and goods can often be seen as the area where most resources are targeted and therefore they are seen as the ‘sexy’ area, where waste can be identified and consequently, savings can be made.

But the two are interdependent. Without the information flow, there can be no VSM, so it is vital that it is given adequate time and attention. The information flow actually creates the VSM, since the process of mapping the material flow only is only one side of the picture. Information is critical to ensure that there is a complete analysis, not just an assumption that physical production is king.

Manual Versus Electronic

Basically, there are two types of information. There is manual information, which includes verbal communication or discussions, but can also include reports, memorandums or cards that indicate when stock needs to be replenished etc.

Prior to the widespread use of technology, most of the information was manual information, with very little electronic means of communicating. All orders and information supplied by the customer etc were in manual form, but currently, there is much more electronic information available.

This can include emails, whether internal or external. Orders, work schedules, triggers that can ensure that repeat orders are placed and so on; all of these form part of the information flow.

Software applications are integral to the information flow. These support the functions within the production process, which makes them quite important and they should not be ignored.

People and Information

The information that people have, whether in the back office or on the shopfloor is also a fundamental aspect of the information flow. Without those involved in production having adequate information there is a risk that the production process will be wasteful and less efficient.

However, there is also a need for operators and staff not to have too much information. There is a fine balance to be struck and this is one of the purposes of the VSM; ascertaining who has what information and whether they have enough information or indeed, too much!

Different Information Sources

There are different sources of information, all of which need to be included within the VSM. Customers will provide information they will also have a need to have information from the company itself. It is in essence a 2-way project. Companies who supply the raw materials will also supply and need information. In addition those involved in transporting finished products will be involved in both receiving and distributing information.

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