One of my favorite lean Six Sigma tools is called a SIPOC diagram. 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.
In our last blog, I invited our readers to share with me what they like about the SIPOC. Shavoy shared with us that what she liked about it: “Being in a customer facing environment, it is a bit challenging for us at times to identify the best methodology for our customers’ issues. What I like about SIPOC is the fact that it helps us identify the problems that our customers are experiencing and identify the process steps to gather information to solve our customers’ needs/problems.”
Thanks for sharing Shavoy! Let’s take a closer look at this valuable tool.
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:
While it is a tool that is typically used in Lean Six Sigma, it’s a great idea to go through SIPOC thinking, even informally, it can set the tone for improvement opportunities such as a Kaizen.
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.
I invite you to join the conversation. Share your thoughts, challenges, and questions with us.