Maximizing the SIPOC for your Lean Six Sigma Projects

The SIPOC is one of the most valuable tools in the Operational Excellence toolbox. It typically can be completed in less than an hour and helps us understand who our customer is and how the value flows through our process. It provides a high-level, end-to-end picture of the process that your team is looking to improve.

What is a SIPOC?

SIPOC stands for:

  • Suppliers – Suppliers supply the inputs for the process.
  • Inputs – Materials, equipment, information, forms, staff, etc.
  • Process – The steps of the process your team is improving, from the initial step to the final step/delivery of the product or service.
  • Outputs – The product or service that is delivered to the internal or external customers as an output of the process, i.e. reports, products, services, etc.
  • Customers – Anyone who receives the outputs.

A SIPOC diagram is a tool commonly used during the Define Phase, but it is a tool that you will find relevant for every phase of your project.

The SIPOC is a valuable tool that can be used throughout your DMAIC project to do the following:

Define– Establish the scope of the project
– Satisfy stakeholders that the problem area is captured in the process
– Define the as-is, high-level process map of the process for the project including start and stop points
– Identify the suppliers and customers
– Identify points of pain in delivering the output to the customer
– Target the right metric for verifying customer requirements
– Establish process owners and who should participate on the project team
Measure– Identify the input, output, and measures for data collection
Analyze– Ensure that the team has the Critical X’s and Y’s identified
Improve– Initially design the new To-Be process
– Verify the suppliers and customers for the new To-Be process
– Identify the critical X’s and Y’s that will need to be monitored as part of a Pilot
Control– Identify the Critical X’s and Y’s that will need to be incorporated in the process monitoring plan of the new process implemented

The SIPOC can be helpful even outside of a DMAIC project as a stand-alone tool.  

Building a SIPOC

The SIPOC is best accomplished as a team in a brainstorming session. I like to initially use a White Board or Flip Chart. When working on the process steps, I recommend using post-it notes. Using a post-it for each step in the process allows you to add and move steps easily.

To conduct a successful session, it is important to provide participants with a brief overview of the SIPOC process, purpose, tools/templates, and especially the keys to an effective SIPOC. Acuity has a SIPOC video hosted by Brent Drever that provides an overview and the steps to build it.