The need to meet customer’s requirements by delivering consistent outputs drives the demand to record and document processes. There are different templates for capturing process information in various formats. One such method used by Lean and Six Sigma practitioners to represent a process and interaction of multiple elements is SIPOC, which is also recommended in ISO 9001:2015, with a minor but distinct variation.
What is SIPOC?
SIPOC is a simple method to capture high-level process steps along with Suppliers and the Inputs (material and information) required to accomplish those Process steps and provide desired Outputs to the identified Customers. The data is represented in a tabular form and is useful in giving a quick overview of critical information in lean six sigma process improvement activities.
While SIPOC layout logically shows the flow, from raw material or information to a finished product or service in the customer’s hands, the flow may not be necessarily helpful to create SIPOC efficiently. The COPIS, a reverse approach, is more apt to capture information for a new process, or when performing process improvement.
Many times, we come across a situations when key deliverables/outputs (including frequency, format & method) and recipients/customers of those outputs are not clear. The lack of information leads to sub-standard outputs and results in customer dissatisfaction. Also, changing customer requirements can trigger a need for process improvement or transformation.
Following Lean principles and ISO 9001, the first step for process improvement or a transformation journey is understanding the Customer (interested parties) and the Value (outputs), in terms of specific products and services. Once outputs are clearly defined (including frequency, format & method), the next step is to capture high-level process steps required to convert inputs into required outputs. Identifying Inputs (what, when, how, where) and Suppliers (who), goes hand in hand with the Process steps. The real value of SIPOC is realized during the process of creating the schematic itself, and following the COPIS method. The benefit of COPIS is that by putting the Customer first teams inherently focus more on the value for the Customer and are better placed to challenge the “why” things are being done in an existing process. Capturing essential information (or the lack thereof) regarding a process while using this approach, requires cross-functional teams involvement as well as right facilitation.
Although the method to create a SIPOC may vary (SIPOC, COPIS, POCIS…), the information collated through the activity provides stakeholders with an outstanding, visual and straightforward representation of the critical elements of a process, which enhances the understanding within the organization.