Value stream mapping usually employs standard symbols to represent items and processes, therefore knowledge of these symbols is essential to correctly interpret the production system problems.
Value stream mapping is a lean-management method for analyzing the current state and designing a future state for the series of events that take a product or service from its beginning through to the customer. At Toyota, it is known as "material and information flow mapping". It can be applied to nearly any value chain.
Planning and preparation. Identify the target product family or service. Create a charter, define the problem, set the goals and objectives, and select the mapping team. Socialize the charter with the leadership team. 
Draw while on the shop floor a current state value stream map, which shows the current steps, delays, and information flows required to deliver the target product or service. This may be a production flow (raw materials to consumer) or a design flow (concept to launch). There are 'standard' symbols for representing supply chain entities.
Assess the current state value stream map in terms of creating flow by eliminating waste.
In a build-to-the-standard form, Shigeo Shingo suggests that the value-adding steps be drawn across the centre of the map and the non-value-adding steps be represented in vertical lines at right angles to the value stream. Thus, the activities become easily separated into the value stream, which is the focus of one type of attention, and the 'waste' steps, another type. He calls the value stream the process and the non-value streams the operations. The thinking here is that the non-value-adding steps are often preparatory or tidying up to the value-adding step and are closely associated with the person or machine/workstation that executes that value-adding step. Therefore, each vertical line is the 'story' of a person or workstation whilst the horizontal line represents the 'story' of the product being created.
Value stream mapping is a recognised method used as part of Six Sigma methodologies.
A key metric associated with value stream mapping is lead time.
Hand drawn or software tools
One common method to deepen one's understanding of a value stream is to draw a map. In current-state mapping this is done while observing the actual value stream in situ. The value stream maps are often drawn by hand in pencil; the mapping process is simple, real-time, and iterative, as this method allows for simple correction.
An effective way of working as a group is to cover a wall with paper, such as butcher paper, and provide adhesive notes to each work team, ideally color-coding each group. Each group writes their tasks on individual notes and applies them to the paper in sequence. Lines are drawn between the steps to indicate the work flow. This way the tasks can easily be moved around as other steps come to mind.
However, software tools can also be used. A variety are available either as stand-alone products or stencils/add-ons to products.
Associated analysis methods
Hines and Rich (1997) defined seven value stream mapping tools they are: