Six Sigma Green Belt—Define Phase: SIPOC model


 

This is part of a series of posts discussing the Define phase of Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control or DMAIC in Six Sigma.

In the last post, we discussed the general description of Process Management as opposed to traditional management. SIPOC stands for Suppliers-Inputs-Process-Outputs-Customers and is a tool of Process Management.

1. What are the elements of SIPOC?

Element

Explanation

1. Suppliers Providers of inputs
2. Inputs Raw materials, components or data required for process
3. Process Activities that transform inputs into outputs
4. Outputs The products or services the company is producing
5. Customers The persons who receive the products or services

Here’s a graphic which I found on Meryle Corbett’s blog mentorsonline.wordpress.com. It shows the connection between these elements.

2. Uses of SIPOC

SIPOC can be used as a tool in the following ways:

  1. It can be used to map a new process. In this case, you usually start with listing the Customers, and working backwards through the Outputs, Process, Inputs, and the Suppliers. For that reason, in the context of a new process, the tool is sometimes referred to as COPIS.
  1. It can be used to document an existing process. In this case, you usually start with listing the steps of the process, and working outwards back to the Suppliers on one end and to the Customers on the other.
  2. It can be used as an educational tool to give a high-level overview to those unfamiliar with the process.

It can be used in other creative ways, too. Meryle Corbett shows in her blog post http://mentorsonline.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/sipoc-an-amazing-way-to-reduce-waste-and-streamline-workload/ how people can use this tool to analyze their own jobs within the workplace. In this way, they can gain insight on how to reduce waste and streamline their workload. In this case the suppliers and the customers may be other departments within the company.

3. How is SIPOC created?

It is usually done in a brainstorming session with as many of the stakeholders as possible. It looks like the following diagram in general, with the suppliers, inputs, outputs, and customers being listed in the various columns, and the process being broken into the various steps of activities that comprise it. The process steps are sometimes broken out into a separate area below the main chart.

Suppliers

Inputs

Process

Outputs

Customers

As mentioned above, if this is an already existing process, you start with mapping the process and go to the outputs and customers, then work backwards to the inputs and suppliers. If it is a new process, you should start from the customers and work backwards to the suppliers.

4. What are some points to remember about SIPOC?

  • The focus is not on the process, but on the inputs and outputs, and by extension the customers and suppliers.
  • The supplier can be the customer, especially if the process is a service like getting a car or a computer repaired.
  • It is possible for the supplier and customer to be in the same organization as the unit doing the processing. In the example given by Meryle Corbett referred to above, each person’s job in a company, if considered a process, gets inputs from and gives outputs to another department in that company.

This is a tool that can then be used as precursor to other tools such as Quality Function Deployment, where you start mapping out the requirements of the Customers into those technical requirements of the product or service you would like to provide. Or it can be used in conjunction with the Ishikawa or cause-and-effect diagram where you take the processes and put them in the place of the standard “bones” of the diagram (man, machine, material, methods, measurements, and Mother Nature) to ask how each process could possibly negatively influence the defect you are investigating. (Refer to http://www.isixsigma.com/tools-templates/cause-effect/combining-sipoc-cause-and-effect-diagram/ for more details.)

In conclusion, SIPOC creates a way of visualizing how the inputs are processed into outputs, which is necessary if you are to understand how to improve the processes themselves. If you want to change the output, you have to either change the processes themselves or the inputs. SIPOC tells you where to look in order to do this.

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