SIPOC stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs and Customers. It’s a tool for capturing a useful snapshot of a process and what makes it tick. Often this is one of the first tools used to define a process and it helps create a conversation within the improvement team and reach agreement on the scope of the process.
As you will see in the example below the SIPOC is a table and gets its name from the headdings used to describe each section.
|Me!||Tea bag, Milk, Cup, Hot water, Kettle, Teaspoon|| 1 Boil kettle|
2 Add tea bag
3 Add hot water
4 Remove tea bag
5 Add milk
|Cup of tea, Used tea bag, Dirty spoon||Me!|
The SIPOC is usually completed in the following order.
List the key process milestones in not less than 3 steps and not more than 7. This provides a clear outline of the process and helps us agree what the scope is.
List what comes out of the process, even if it came out half way through. In the above example their might be scrap packaging for tea bags which are individually wrapped.
List all the customers of the process, the ones who are benefiting from the end product.
List anything that goes into the process to make it function, this could be physical products or information such as an order form.
List role or business who is supplying inputs. Here it is a good idea to look at the list of inputs and use this as a guide to ensure you have captured all suppliers. It is completely acceptable for the supplier and the customer to be the same.
It’s useful to be aware of some of the variations and alternative approaches to the SIPOC.
Some businesses choose to reverse the name to emphasise the importance of the customer.
Some teams add an addtional column at the start of the table and call it Enablers. An example of an enabler in our SIPOC could be the Supermarket because they have provided access to the tea and the milk. You could also argue that the electricity company are providing the power supply enabling the kettle to function. As you can see this adds an unnecessary layer of complexity and it’s probably best to stick with the standard SIPOC if it’s new to you.
VOC (Voice of the Customer)
This is sometimes added as a new column on the right-hand side of the table. In this column you describe what the customer actually wants. This can be a useful discussion point when identifying opportunity for improvement.
Relationship with other tools
The SIPOC is part of a complementary toolset which includes the Work Instructions and the Process Maps. These tools look at the process at different levels of detail.
Below I’ve explained the relationship between these documents in terms of a visit to a city. There’s a lot going on in a city and depending on what your objectives are when visiting you’re going to need different types of information.
A very simple summary of a process. It outlines the key steps, inputs and outputs.
Imagine looking at a simple tourist map of a city. It describes the highlights of the city and gives you an understanding of what goes on in the city.
A visual representation of the process but more detailed than the SIPOC.
Imagine zooming into the city map and planning a journey from one district to another. The process map shows you the exact route to take on your journey.
A step by step guide explaining how to perform the process.
Once you’re on your journey between the city districts you might find it useful to have turn by turn instructions, especially if you’ve never been on that journey before.
A simple SIPOC template in Microsoft Excel format.