SIPOC stands for “Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers.” SIPOC is represented in a straightforward diagram that’s a useful process improvement tool in Lean manufacturing. These diagrams are often used in the Six Sigma methodology to help reduce defects and make a process more efficient. A SIPOC table uses five columns and represents a manufacturing process from beginning to end:
- Suppliers: Who supplies the inputs required for the process?
- Inputs: What inputs are necessary?
- Process: What are the major steps involved in the process?
- Outputs: What outputs are created by the process?
- Customers: Who receives the outputs?
SIPOC is most typically used to identify each element of a process before any improvement project begins. It’s beneficial as the first step to process mapping, in the “define” step of the DMAIC cycle, and before beginning a Kaizen event; it helps ensure that everyone involved has a mutual understanding of the process before any decisions are made.
Creating a SIPOC table before you embark on a process improvement project can make a lot of difference. Although it’s simple to conduct, it’s a useful tool that clearly defines suppliers and customers and helps you identify what data needs to be analyzed in order to measure results. You can use SIPOC to give new employees a high-level overview of your operation’s process, or help every employee understand a new process that’s about to be introduced. Because SIPOC is simply a summary, even someone who is completely unfamiliar with your business or products should be able to get a basic understanding.
Sometimes, SIPOC tables are referred to as COPIS—emphasizing the value of the customer. People often switch the columns around, depending on what they feel is more important; in some cases, you may need to clearly define the outputs and inputs of the process. Whichever way you use it, SIPOC is a highly useful tool that can create mutual understanding and boost efficiency.
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