Within Lean Six Sigma and continuous improvement, SIPOC is a useful tool. To fully understand a process, you need to be clear about all the elements associated with it, such as suppliers and customers, inputs and outputs, and the key steps of the process that turn the inputs into the outputs. The SIPOC is a great tool for creating visibility of all the important variables in the define stage of a project and is usually done in the define stage of a DMAIC project.
Table of Contents
What is a SIPOC?
SIPOC is an acronym that stands for:
- Suppliers: Those that provide inputs into the process can be both internal and external to the business.
- Inputs: All the resources, such as materials, information, skills, and knowledge, required for the process.
- Process: The process steps that take the inputs in the process and turn them into the outputs.
- Outputs: The process, services, or information generated by the process.
- Customers: Who receives the outputs from the process? These could also be internal or external customers.
The SIPOC is often referred to as a type of process map as it maps out the high-level process steps and considers the suppliers, inputs, outputs, and customers, providing a complete visualization of the process and the variables needed for the process to work.
Below is an example of how a complete SIPOC might look.
Why use a SIPOC?
A SIPOC creates a high-level overview of a process, breaking it down into the key components that are necessary for it to work and grouping them by Suppliers, Inputs, Process Steps, Outputs, and Customers. This comprehensive view of the process provides visual clarity to the project team and stakeholders, allowing them to quickly understand the scope of the process, objectives, and involved parties.
A key failure of some projects is often due to poor project scoping. Completing a SIPOC analysis helps to confirm the scope by identifying all the elements going into and out of the process, as well as the internal or external suppliers and customers. This is particularly important with cross-functional teams who all have varying knowledge of the process and won’t all be experts on that process.
Why identify suppliers?
Identifying suppliers in the process allows for accountability by knowing who is responsible for the quality and availability of process inputs.
Why Identify Inputs?
By clearly listing all the necessary inputs it ensures that everyone involved with the project knows what is needed to make the project work. Additionally, it assesses dependencies and how changes in one area might impact the overall process.
Why identify the Process?
Identifying the high-level process steps allows us to identify the key process flow and identify any bottlenecks. Clearly defining the process also ensures that everyone involved has an understanding of how the process works.
Why Identify the Outputs?
Knowing what outputs come from the process helps in gaining an understanding of the value produced both internally and externally. Identifying outputs also helps to set the stage for quality checks and performance metrics
Why Identify the Customers?
Knowing who the customers of the process are is important, whether they are internal or external. if you are having an issue with the process, you want to identify who those customers are and how they are being impacted so that you can address their concerns or issues.
For example, if you are working on a project that focuses on reducing defects, your initial thought might be to look at the process to see what is causing the defects. However, it could be that one of the inputs into the process has slightly changed due to a new supplier now providing that input material, and the process is having issues processing it the same way as the previous supplier’s input material. You only realize this when a customer complains about the quality of the product. It could turn out that other customers are also experiencing issues with the product but have not yet noticed or raised the complaint.
How to Create a SIPOC
Before getting started, it helps to have a template to complete a SIPOC on. You can download our free SIPOC Template or you can alternatively draw one out on a whiteboard to easily update it with a team. However, a digital template is better for storage and updating.
Step 1: Identify the Process
Before you get started, you need to understand the process that is the focus of the project and, ultimately, what you will create a SIPOC diagram on. To identify the process, you need to understand the scope of where the process starts and where it ends, as well as the process boundaries.
Step 2: Gather the Team
Now that you understand which process is in focus, you need to have a cross-functional team that has a range of knowledge and insights into the process and its variables. A cross-functional team will be more likely to generate a wider understanding and range of questions.
The team should have members with a range of understandings of the process and may include:
- Process owner
- Operators of the process
- Purchasing/Logistics/Supply Chain Manager
- Customer support
- Subject Matter Expert(s)
A rounded team can also help catch omissions or errors in the diagram. such as someone from logistics, may highlight that suppliers that have not been initially considered play an important role in the process.
Conversely, completing a SIPOC alone is likely to result in one perspective of the process and its components, miss important factors, and, as a result, be less likely to result in a successful project.
Step 3: List the Outputs and Customers
A SIPOC is often also referred to as a COPIS as it starts at the right-hand side by first listing the customers of the process; these can be internal customers who receive the outputs of this process as the inputs of the next process, or they could be external customers who are the final customer that receives the product or service.
Within this step, first, identify who all the customers are in the customer’s column, and make sure the list is exhaustive. Now you understand who the customers of the process are, list all the outputs from the process they receive, including the main product or service, any documentation or paperwork, information, etc. This should include all the outputs, not just the obvious ones.
Remember to be as specific as possible when completing the SIPOC, as generic outputs will lead to ambiguity and confusion in understanding.
Step 4: Detail the Process Steps
The next step is to detail the process that turns the inputs into the outputs of the process. This process map should only be a high-level process map, which usually comprises 4 to 7 steps that capture the essence of the process. For example, the below process of taking a drink order in a coffee shop:
When listing process steps, remember to use verbs to describe the step, such as “Receive order” or “Ship product.”
Step 5: Identify the Inputs and Suppliers
Finally, now that you have the process outlined, you need to list the inputs and the suppliers that provide the inputs into the process. An easy way to do this is to look at the process and the outputs of the process and identify everything that is needed
A common mistake when creating a SIPOC is that teams forget to include intangible inputs such as time, expertise and information.
- Mishra, P. and Kumar Sharma, R., 2014. A hybrid framework based on SIPOC and Six Sigma DMAIC for improving process dimensions in supply chain network. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, 31(5), pp.522-546.
- Rasmusson, D., 2006. SIPOC picture book: A visual guide to SIPOC/DMAIC relationship. Oriel Incorporated.
A: SIPOC stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. It is a tool used in process improvement and Six Sigma methodologies to define and understand a process.
A: The purpose of using SIPOC is to provide a high-level overview of a process, its key components, and the relationships between them. It helps stakeholders gain a shared understanding of the process and identify areas for improvement.
A: A SIPOC diagram consists of five main elements: Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. These elements are represented in a linear flow, starting with Suppliers and ending with Customers.
A: SIPOC is useful in process improvement as it provides a clear understanding of the process boundaries, key stakeholders, and interdependencies. It helps identify areas of waste, inefficiency, and potential improvement opportunities.
A: Yes, SIPOC can be used in different industries or sectors. It is a versatile tool that can be applied to various processes, such as manufacturing, service delivery, healthcare, finance, and more.
A: Creating a SIPOC diagram offers several benefits, including:
- Visualizing the end-to-end process flow.
- Identifying key process inputs and outputs.
- Understanding supplier and customer relationships.
- Highlighting process gaps and inefficiencies.
- Enabling process improvement discussions and brainstorming.
A: While SIPOC is a valuable tool for understanding a process at a high level, it is often used in conjunction with other process improvement methodologies, such as Six Sigma or Lean. It provides a foundation for further analysis and improvement efforts.