If your goal is to improve a process, the first thing you must do is understand it. To do this, you need to get the information, define the step by step, identify the variables and build a diagram that allows the visualization of the process. In this blog, I explain a tool that will help you understand the process and needed improvement.
- What is SIPOC?
- What are its elements?
- How is it created?
- When to use it?
- Importance of SIPOC
SIPOC is an acronym that refers to: suppliers, inputs, process, outputs and customers. In practice, SIPOC is a diagram that allows visualizing a business macro-process and its main inputs and outputs in a simple and easy-to-read format.
As a tool, the SIPOC diagram is part of the Six Sigma methodology, Lean Manufacturing, and the combination of these: Lean Six Sigma. In other words, it is a continuous process improvement tool.
DMAIC: Make the continuous improvement of your processes a reality.
As I mentioned earlier, SIPOC is an acronym that reflects the elements that make up the diagram.
- Suppliers: refers to the person, department, or software that delivers inputs to the process.
- Inputs: these are the resources necessary for the process to occur, such as raw materials, information, data, documents, etc. A supplier provides them.
- Process: refers to the sequence of activities. Usually, a SIPOC does not portray the process in great detail but shows a macro-process.
- Outputs: are the results of the process, i.e., the product or service obtained by transforming the inputs.
- Customers: refers to the person, department, or software that receives the outputs of the process.
Step by step
To build a SIPOC diagram, you should follow the following steps:
- Select a process to diagram: all processes are essential, but some are more relevant and strategic than others, so you should analyze the hierarchy and start with the one that will bring more value to the business.
- Obtain information: Before diagramming, it is necessary to be in context, so gathering information is required; you should do this with the user responsible for the process since they will be the one who has the most knowledge of the flow and its variables.
- Define the process (P): in a macro way, define the activities that make up the process in sequential and logical order.
- Identify the inputs (I): having the flow of activities define what resources are needed in each step to work correctly.
- Identify the suppliers (S): Knowing what the inputs are, you can place in the diagram who supplies those resources. A supplier can be internal or external to the company.
- Identify the outputs (O): here, you should think about the results of each activity you placed in the macro process; what is obtained? It can be the product, service, information, documents, or materials.
- Identify the customers (C): finally, who obtains the outputs? That information is the one that you should place in the customers. Again, this section can refer to internal customers, be it a department, subordinate or manager, or external, such as a logistics operator, retail company, or end customer.
- Communicate and display the diagram: Process diagrams are not meant to be created and filed but used for decision making and continuous improvement. Therefore, once made, you must validate it with the accountable user to ensure that the information reflects reality. Then, you must show it to management and any other important stakeholder.
>>7 reasons why to use the SIPOC<<
Application and importance
The SIPOC diagram can have different applications, although it is mainly associated with continuous improvement projects, Six Sigma, and the "define" phase of the DMAIC methodology. This type of diagram is used to:
- Define unclear processes
- Analyze processes and their main variables
- Identify improvement points
- Centralize relevant process information in a single diagram
- Contextualize a new team member
- Having a "common language" for the department
At the managerial and decision-making level, a SIPOC diagram can be beneficial since it summarizes the most critical information in a way that makes it easy to read and analyze. This allows the identification of activities that add little value, processes without defined responsibilities, lack or surplus of suppliers, etc.
The SIPOC takes on particular importance when seeking to optimize processes associated with the customer experience. It facilitates the visualization of all the elements that must enter, be transformed, and exit to the consumer, allowing the analysis and identification of opportunities for improvement.