Value stream maps are created with a variety of unique symbols, all of which are supported and featured in Lucidchart's VSM diagramming tool. This guide covers the most widely used VSM symbols for representing processes, materials, information, and more.
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Value stream mapping symbols
A value stream map uses symbols to represent the flow of information and inventory within a system and to streamline those processes. It’s a tool for reducing waste and improving efficiency, with the goal of providing optimum value to customers in the form of products or services. Value stream mapping is associated with lean manufacturing but can be applied to various fields, including service-related industries, administrative and office processes, and software development. Creating a map to visually represent the steps involved in producing and delivering products and services to clients can be valuable for any business. A value stream map makes it easier to evaluate the current state of a production process to identify what is working and what issues are causing inefficiency. Once a current-state map has been analyzed, future- and ideal-state maps can be created to provide a clear plan for improving organizational flow. For more information on creating and using value stream maps, read our VSM overview article.
There is a common set of symbols used in value stream mapping, some of which were introduced in the groundbreaking workbook “Learning to See,” published by the Lean Enterprise Institute in 2009. However, VSM symbols are not standardized—it’s possible to modify or create symbols to match the needs of your organization. You may find that some symbols are not adequate for describing the system you’re mapping. Or you may need special symbols to communicate certain aspects of a process. As long as the team working on improving the system understands the symbols used, the map will be an effective tool. Below are some of the commonly used VSM symbols.
VSM process symbols
|When placed in the upper left corner of a value stream map, the typical starting place for material flow, this icon represents the supplier. When placed in the upper right corner, it represents the customer.
|Dedicated Process Flow
This icon represents a single department, process operation or machine with a fixed and continuous internal material flow.
This icon indicates a process, department, operation or workcenter that is shared by other value stream families.
|The data box is placed under other icons that require data to analyze the system. For example, a data box could go below a factory icon to show shipping frequency, product handling data, batch size or other information.
|Use this icon to show that multiple processes are integrated into a manufacturing workcell.
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VSM material symbols
|Inventory between two processes is represented by these icons. If you need to include an inventory count, add it below the triangle icon. This symbol can also represent stored inventory.
|This symbol shows materials coming from suppliers or finished goods going from factory to customers.
|This icon shows material being pushed downstream from one process to the next.
|This icon represents a Kanban stockpoint where downstream customers can get the inventory they need as it is replenished by the upstream supplier.
|This pull symbol represents physical removal of stored inventory from supermarkets.
|This icon represents a First-In-First-Out system that limits inventory input. The maximum inventory capacity can be written below the lane.
|Rather than permanent storage, this icon indicates temporary safety stock to prevent problems in the event of system failures or other issues.
|The truck icon represents external shipment to customers or from suppliers.
VSM information symbols
|A centralized production scheduling or control department is represented by this simple box symbol.
|Manual information flow from memos, reports or conversation. Indicate the type of information if needed.
|Digital information flow, such as the Internet, Intranets, Electronic Data Interchange, etc. Frequency, type of data and the media used can all be recorded.
|Indicates the production needed to supply parts to a downstream process.
|This symbol represents a card instructing an operator or material handler to move parts from a supermarket to a process.
|This Kanban symbol is used when inventory levels in a supermarket drop to a minimum, and signals the production of a specified number of parts.
|This icon indicates a location for collecting Kanban signals, typically located near a supermarket. In a two-card system it can be used to exchange withdrawal and production Kanban.
|This pull process removes the need for supermarket storage of inventory between processes by providing instruction to a subassembly process to quickly produce a specified customer order.
|A tool that batches Kanbans in order to level out the variety and volume of production.
|Scheduling using an inventory control system such as material requirements planning (MRP).
|Sometimes information is collected through observation, such as when a supervisor makes a production decision after visually checking inventory.
|This represents information flow that is passed verbally.
VSM general symbols
|This icon is designed to stand out and highlight problem areas. It identifies critical processes for developing a successful future-state map.
|This icon is used to show how many operators are needed to process the VSM family at a particular workstation.
|Other useful information.
|On a value stream map, the timeline is placed at the bottom and shows waiting times and processing times. This can be used to calculate Lead Time and Total Cycle Time.
|These symbols are straightforward, showing rail shipment as a train, air freight as an airplane, and boat shipment with a boat icon.
|Used when something needs to be moved via forklift.
|Indicates product or information deliveries that are expedited.
|This icon refers to a vehicle that picks up or delivers items at multiple locations, often following a fixed route.
|This symbol indicates an internal or external warehouse.
|This refers to closely coordinated trucks, allowing materials to go directly from inbound to outbound trucks.
|Sales or purchase orders can be represented by this icon.
|Telephone orders or other communication by phone.
|This icon represents Kanban cards arriving or being sent in batches.
|Centralized Kanban control.
|A quality problem can be indicated at any point on the VSM chain.
|The cloud symbol is used to highlight proposed ideas, solutions or suggestions.