What is the SIPOC method?
The SIPOC method is a process management tool that helps improve productivity and efficiency by streamlining business processes. SIPOC diagrams help inspect every task, material, and personnel that goes into making a product or service, otherwise known as inputs and outputs. An easy way to think of inputs and outputs is everything that goes into a service and everything that results from completing that service.
The acronym SIPOC stands for the name of each column in a SIPOC diagram:
- S – Supplier
- I – Inputs
- P – Process
- O – Output
- C – Customer
SIPOC diagrams are used for various reasons, including:
- Giving new employees an overview of standard operating procedures (SOP)
- Refreshing or updating current employees’ knowledge
- To facilitate forming new or improving existing processes
SIPOC diagrams were developed to be used during the improvement phase of Six-Sigma methodology. Six Sigma refers to the six standard deviations found within a bell curve which represent the mean, median, and mode of a data set. SIPOC diagrams help process managers illustrate the end-to-end processes of certain business functions, so they can decrease waste and increase profitability.
Today, they”re used in combination with other quality management strategies like the 5 Whys Method, Gap Analyses, Root Cause Analyses, the 8D Approach, Failure Modes and Effects Analyses, and the Kaizen Approach.
Table of contents
- What are the steps of a SIPOC diagram and how can you apply them?
- Best practices for creating your SIPOC diagram
- What’s the difference between a SIPOC diagram and process mapping?
- Using workflow automation software to prepare SIPOC diagrams
What are the steps of a SIPOC diagram and how can you apply them?
Creating SIPOC diagrams is a 5-step process designed to provide rough overviews of a given business process. These steps refer to the separate components that make up your process.
The first point in the SIPOC diagram refers to an internal or external unit. Suppliers initiate requests and supply inputs. In a restaurant, for example, your supplier might be a customer who places an order.
The questions that process managers should ask themselves here refer to internal and external suppliers. Who provides the input factors?
Input refers to requests or work orders issued by suppliers. These are further separated into internal and external inputs. In a restaurant, an external input might be a customer’s order, whereas an assistant chef supporting the head chef would be an internal input.
In this phase of the SIPOC diagram, ask yourself which input factors are necessary to fulfill requests: information, materials, machines, or services?
Processes refer to the specific procedures involved in fulfilling a supplier’s request. In a restaurant, for example, the process of fulfilling an order would be to cook the requested meal. In an industry like manufacturing where multiple methodologies are used, decide which procedures you’ll use to meet supplier demands.
The output is the final result after you’ve chosen a process in response to a supplier’s input. This stage of the SIPOC process focuses on examining and evaluating the result of your applied process. Outputs can be material, such as a finished product, components, or assemblies, or immaterial, such as documentation of a customer order or an environmental report.
The customer section of a SIPOC diagram defines the person or people benefitting from your service. Here, you should distinguish between internal and external customers. In a restaurant, for example, it is the guest who has received and eaten the ordered dish. It also serves as a vendor. However, this does not always have to be the case.
During each stage of a SIPOC process, note down the person(s) who carried it out so that it’s easier to define responsibilities.
Best practices for creating your SIPOC diagram
A SIPOC diagram helps companies optimize their workflows by standardizing internal and external processes. It does this by concentrating only on essential processes to remove any unnecessary steps.
In order for your company to get the most out of the SIPOC process:
- Map out your process in such a way that all your employees can make their own additions. This can be an extra area in the diagram or a space for inserting notes The SIPOC method is always presented as a chart, graph, or table. That makes it easier for team members to visualize their role in a business function.
- Outline the process using four to five high-level steps, and make sure to note who is responsible for each. For example, the process of fulfilling a customer’s restaurant order might look like:
- The hostess helps a customer to their seat
- The waiter takes their order and delivers it to the kitchen
- The kitchen prepares the meal
- The waiter takes the customer’s meal back to them
- The customer pays for the food and tips the waitress
- Customer leaves feeling satisfied
- Define the inputs and outputs of your process: It helps to create an overview of the customer experience when identifying inputs and outputs. Outputs are the things your customer expects to receive by the end of a process, and inputs are the things required to fulfill those expectations. In a restaurant, inputs would include the customer’s order and the ingredients required to make the meal, whereas the output would be the meal itself.
- Identify the suppliers of your inputs and your customers’ requirements.
Suppliers are the people and services that deliver the inputs necessary for fulfilling requests. Examples of suppliers for a restaurant might include:
- Produce suppliers
- Meat suppliers
- Other ingredient suppliers
- The restaurant owner
- The waitstaff (because they supply food to the customer)
Your customers include individuals who make purchases as well as ones who help fulfill orders. In a restaurant, customers who help fulfill orders include:
- The waitstaff, because they relay and deliver orders
- The store owner, because they purchase the ingredients involved
- The chef, who prepares the meal that was ordered
- Verify your SIPOC diagram with relevant stakeholders. In a restaurant setting, the restaurant owner and staff would need to verify the diagram so each party is aware of their individual roles and the materials and resources needed to perform those roles.
What’s the difference between a SIPOC diagram and process mapping?
SIPOC models and process mapping both isolate problems so that they’re more easily corrected and there is less downtime during processes. But what is a process map and how does it differ from a SIPOC diagram?
The key difference is that process maps are more thorough physical representations of input, process, and output than SIPOC diagrams are. However, they don’t include suppliers and customers.
There are several categories of process maps, including:
- Basic flowcharts
- Deployment maps
- Detailed process maps
- High level process maps
- Rendered process maps
- Value stream maps
Do you need both SIPOC and a process map?
The decision to use both a SIPOC diagram and a process map depends what your business needs. If, for example, there’s an issue of long wait times in your business, then you should use a SIPOC chart to capitalize on the supplier and customer categories that aren’t included in process maps. Knowing who your suppliers are is essential in reducing wait times.
Using SIPOC diagrams and process mapping together might also be helpful because a SIPOC chart can act as the foundation of a more detailed process map. The more detail you add, the more options you have for continuously improving your business.
What does SIPOC-R mean?
SIPOC-R is the same as a SIPOC diagram, but with an additional step. The R stands for additional requirements (or specifications), which are listed as part of the inputs and outputs. These requirements could include:
- Date of completion/relevant dates
- Time restrictions
- Account numbers
Using workflow automation software to prepare SIPOC diagrams
Successful quality management depends on clearly defined SOPs. That’s why having a convenient and concise way of preparing SIPOC documents is essential. Workflow automation software like Lumiform walks you through each step so that employees are aware of their roles within a given process.
The mobile app and desktop software allows you to create custom SIPOC checklists that reflect your business’s needs and to easily delegate tasks to your staff.
When you use Lumiform to create and manage SIPOC diagrams:
- You’ll save time and produce standardized documentation by following checklists exactly
- You can easily clear up any confusion by reporting issues from within the app
- You get real-time data on the status of assigned tasks, which is stored and converted into data analytics you can use to further improve procedures