How to Develop a SIPOC for a Six Sigma Initiative

A successful Six Sigma Initiative requires developing a SIPOC. SIPOC, pronounced sy-pok, is an acronym that stands for Suppliers-Inputs-Process-Outputs-Controls. The SIPOC is a powerful companion to a process map. With this tool, you build your first controlled and organized view of your work process and set the foundation for applying the breakthrough DMAIC strategy.

SIPOC is one of those handy reminder acronyms that contains the terms in their proper order, helping you remember not only the five high-level elements of a process map but also their order. Here’s the breakdown:

  • S: Suppliers: Suppliers are systems, people, organizations, or other sources of the materials, information, or other resources that are consumed or transformed in the process.

  • I: Inputs: Inputs are materials, information, and other resources the suppliers provide that are consumed or transformed in the process.

  • P: Process: The process is the set of actions and activities that transform the inputs into the outputs.

  • O: Outputs: Outputs are the products or services that the process produces and the customer uses.

  • C: Customer: Customers are people, groups of people, companies, systems, and downstream processes that receive the output of the process.

If you’ve developed a successful SIPOC, you should be hearing voices by now. Who’s talking?

  • Voice of the customer (VOC): These voices are the needs, wants, and desires of the customer, generally spoken as the customer requirements. VOC is the loudest voice you should hear, and it’s the voice calling back at your process from beyond the output that offers you compensation in return for satisfaction of its needs and wants.

  • Voice of the process (VOP): The process must meet the requirements of the customer, and its ability to do so is called the VOP. VOP is a construct for examining what the process is telling you about its inputs and outputs and the resources required to complete the functional transformation.

  • Voice of the business (VOB): VOB is the voice of profit and return on investment. At the end of the day, every endeavor has to enable the business to survive, grow, and meet the needs of its employees, investors, and the community.

You build a SIPOC from the inside-out, beginning at the center, with the process map — of course! It’s a six-step approach:

  1. Identify the process you want to map and define its scope and boundary points.

    Using action verbs, describe what the process is supposed to do and in how much time. Define its starting and ending points.

  2. Identify the outputs.

    What are the products and the services that the process produces?

  3. Define the recipients (the customers) of the outputs by name, title, system, or organizational entity.

  4. Define the customer requirements.

  5. What do the customers expect? What do they demand? What are they entitled to in their fair exchange of value?

  6. Define the inputs to the process.

    Identify the human, capital, information, materials, and natural resources the process requires to produce the identified outputs.

  7. Identify the sources (suppliers) of the inputs.

With this information in hand, you now have a fully-contained, high-level view of any process. This result alone is one of the most powerful tools you can use because it sets the conditions for the DMAIC of Six Sigma.

With the SIPOC, you have the basis for defining and characterizing the process itself; the context for measurement; and the basis for analyzing, identifying areas of improvement, and homing in on your targets of control. SIPOC software tools, such as ARIS, iGrafx, and SigmaFlow, help you capture, organize, and display this information.

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