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Here is one option. Read A Plant Fast is an approach to factory assessment, first published in the Harvard Business Review in 2002. It provides a structured approach, including checklists and other tools, to assess your production line (and entire factory) in a short amount of time. Going through this process will give you a rich list of improvement opportunities, that you can incorporate into your Master Plan. Note that this assessment is from a Lean Manufacturing perspective.

Copies of this article are available for purchase from the Harvard Business Review’s website. There are also a host of other online resources that were inspired by this article. Google the term “Read A Plant Fast” to learn more.

A Value Stream Map or VSM is a flow-chart that uses specific symbols to document the flow of materials and work for a product or family of products. There are two important differences between VSM and more traditional flow-charting methods. First, the VSM shows all of the steps required to deliver a product to your customer, albeit at a high level. It starts with your outside suppliers, it includes planning and Production Control, and it concludes with delivery to your customer.

Secondly, it documents not only the work that needs to be performed, but also the waiting time or queue time between processes. Reducing or eliminating queue time is the most important tool in reducing Manufacturing Cycle Time or MCT, and the Value Stream Map shows you where this occurs in the production flow.

The VSM shows all of the manufacturing processes needed, and is an important input into a line design tool we’ll discuss shortly, the Process Flow Diagram. The VSM is a preliminary version of the Process Flow Diagram, created at a high level and usually for a family of products, and not only one individual product.

You should consider the creation of a Current State Value Stream Map as a requirement in your line design process. The source book for this topic is titled Learning To See by Rother and Shook.

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