What is a SIPOC?
It is a tool to define the scope of a project and focus on the high-level steps of a process. When creating a SIPOC we want to understand the start of the process and end of the process and be able to define that process in a maximum of seven steps. It is almost like you are flying over the organisation looking down at the process and want to identify the key seven steps in that process from beginning to end. Obviously, there is a lot more detail to it than that to come, but if you only had seven steps to define the process what would they look like? In terms of Process, it is the series of steps where an input converts to an output. So, there is an input, an output, and there is a conversion process in between.
SIPOC stands for Supplier, Inputs, Process, Outputs and Customers. When we are talking about Supplier we are talking about a person or an organisation that provides input to a process. When reviewing an Input, we are talking about materials or resources of data required to execute the process step. In terms of Process steps, we are talking about a series of steps where an input coverts to an output. In terms of Outputs, it is the product or service that results from that process taking place and, finally, in terms of Customers it is the person or the organisation that receives the products or services from a process step. So that is where the SIPOC name comes from. When creating a SIPOC we define the process steps first, and then working from top to bottom we fill in the Outputs, Customer, Inputs, and Suppliers for each step-in turn until the whole SIPOC is complete.
Why bother with a SIPOC?
A SIPOC promotes an understanding of the boundaries of the process, and the start and end points. It is crucial to get the start and end points correct in terms of scope. If you do not do it at this point it becomes very difficult later. If you, and you probably will, go onto create a Process Map of the workflow, the start and end points of the SIPOC will be the exact same as the start and end points of the Process Map. It is worth getting this correct up front. The SIPOC also aids understanding of who is involved and who is impacted by the process. Just thinking about the Customers and Suppliers will help make you think about who the key stakeholders are.
Developing your SIPOC
You need to consider the process in detail to be able to aggregate it into a few steps. It is worth thinking about the process upfront before you start your SIPOC to get a general picture in your head, so that you can eventually narrow it down to the maximum seven steps. You may also want to get an understanding of the “flow” of the current process. Once we have defined the first and the last of the seven steps, using a verb/noun syntax, we then want to define the output, the customer of that output, the input and it’s supplier, for the first step. We would then repeat this for the second step, then the third, right down to the seventh step until all the different boxes of the SIPOC are complete.
The benefits of the SIPOC
The SIPOC is a great way to get people involved in reviewing a process. Just the act of discussing the process can often be a revelation for people as they may have never considered the steps and the inputs and outputs in any detail before. Creating the SIPOC can throw up wastes and potential countermeasures to help improve the current process that have never been considered before. It also creates a collective understanding of the current condition and gives you a sound basis from which to move forward on your Continuous Improvement activities.
Graham Ross, Continuous Improvement Manager