Diagram

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

SymbolNameDescription
Customer/SupplierWhen 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.

Shared Process

This icon indicates a process, department, operation or workcenter that is shared by other value stream families.

Data BoxThe 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.
WorkcellUse this icon to show that multiple processes are integrated into a manufacturing workcell.

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VSM material symbols

SymbolNameDescription
InventoryInventory 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.
ShipmentsThis symbol shows materials coming from suppliers or finished goods going from factory to customers.
Push ArrowThis icon shows material being pushed downstream from one process to the next.
SupermarketThis icon represents a Kanban stockpoint where downstream customers can get the inventory they need as it is replenished by the upstream supplier.
Material PullThis pull symbol represents physical removal of stored inventory from supermarkets.
FIFO LaneThis icon represents a First-In-First-Out system that limits inventory input. The maximum inventory capacity can be written below the lane.
Safety StockRather than permanent storage, this icon indicates temporary safety stock to prevent problems in the event of system failures or other issues.
External ShipmentThe truck icon represents external shipment to customers or from suppliers.

VSM information symbols

SymbolNameDescription
Production ControlA centralized production scheduling or control department is represented by this simple box symbol.
Manual InfoManual information flow from memos, reports or conversation. Indicate the type of information if needed.
Electronic InfoDigital information flow, such as the Internet, Intranets, Electronic Data Interchange, etc. Frequency, type of data and the media used can all be recorded.
Production KanbanIndicates the production needed to supply parts to a downstream process.
Withdrawal KanbanThis symbol represents a card instructing an operator or material handler to move parts from a supermarket to a process.
Signal KanbanThis Kanban symbol is used when inventory levels in a supermarket drop to a minimum, and signals the production of a specified number of parts.
Kanban PostThis 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.
Sequenced PullThis 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.
Load LevelingA tool that batches Kanbans in order to level out the variety and volume of production.
MRP/ERPScheduling using an inventory control system such as material requirements planning (MRP).
Go SeeSometimes information is collected through observation, such as when a supervisor makes a production decision after visually checking inventory.
Verbal InformationThis represents information flow that is passed verbally.

VSM general symbols

SymbolNameDescription
Kaizen BurstThis icon is designed to stand out and highlight problem areas. It identifies critical processes for developing a successful future-state map.
OperatorThis icon is used to show how many operators are needed to process the VSM family at a particular workstation.
Other InformationOther useful information.
TimelineOn 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.
Transportation SymbolsThese symbols are straightforward, showing rail shipment as a train, air freight as an airplane, and boat shipment with a boat icon.
ForkliftUsed when something needs to be moved via forklift.
ExpeditedIndicates product or information deliveries that are expedited.
Milk RunThis icon refers to a vehicle that picks up or delivers items at multiple locations, often following a fixed route.
WarehouseThis symbol indicates an internal or external warehouse.
Cross-DockThis refers to closely coordinated trucks, allowing materials to go directly from inbound to outbound trucks.
OrdersSales or purchase orders can be represented by this icon.
PhoneTelephone orders or other communication by phone.
Batched KanbanThis icon represents Kanban cards arriving or being sent in batches.
Control CenterCentralized Kanban control.
Quality ProblemA quality problem can be indicated at any point on the VSM chain.
Solution/ImprovementThe cloud symbol is used to highlight proposed ideas, solutions or suggestions.

 


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