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This article describes the concept of the SIPOC model in a practical way. After reading you will understand the definition and basics of this powerful quality management tool. In this article you can also download a free editable SIPOK template.
What is the SIPOC model?
SIPOC is a method to properly describe the transformation process within a company that offers products and/or services. It’s a tool for process improvement that summarises the input and output of one or multiple processes in tables. SIPOC is an acronym for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Output and Customers, also the names of the columns. The tool was born in the ’80s and is a programme within quality systems such as Six Sigma, Kaizen and Lean manufacturing.
The SIPOC model method makes clear which factors influence the transformation process and which parties are involved. By mapping this, a company can find out everything that needs to be worked out to have their processes run smoothly.
The supplier supplies input in the form of raw and other materials, semi-finished products, knowledge and expertise tailored to a company’s needs. This is an important step in the process towards the eventual shape the final product or service will take for the customer. This output has to comply with and perhaps even surpass the customer’s requirements. The customer is not necessary an external party, they can also be from within the organisation. This means supplier/customer relations can also exist within a company.
The SIPOC model helps prevent that parts of the transformation process are overlooked. The SIPOC method clarifies the process to employees who have little or no knowledge about the transformation to the final product, and it also helps employees define a new process clearly.
Mapping a SIPOC example
The SIPOC model method describes who supplies what to the production process, what exactly is being delivered by various players and what the final result is. Who the end product is intended for will also become clear. Below, various aspects of SIPOC model are explained with a practical example.
This is the party that supplies products or services to the process. These can be both internal or external parties. What’s necessary for the process and what’s being used? We can find a description for this in Input. The supplier supplies, for example, materials and information. Whatever needs to be gathered before the process can start, is supplied by these parties. They can be suppliers of raw materials or knowledge, skills and information. Imagine a furniture manufacturer. The suppliers supply the wood, nails and glue, but also employees with specific knowledge, a designer of tables and chairs and a supplier of design software.
In addition to the suppliers themselves, it’s now also known what they supply. The input of the process is about materials, service and information. The furniture manufacturer needs raw materials like various types of wood, other materials such as glue and nails and semi-finished products such as metal handles for closets. The carpenters’ skills are also necessary, as is the creative mind of the designer and the right input into the system by the software specialist. Machines and tools are also needed.
The process itself is described in a document, manual or work instruction. By clearly describing all the steps, standard work can be delivered in the output, without a lot of deviations. On top of that, everybody involved in the process is familiar with their own actions and it’s easier to talk to each other when something doesn’t go right and correct each other. This way, all furniture in a given series that leaves the furniture manufacturer, will have be very uniform and similar in quality.
The final result that comes out of the process, can be seen as the end product. In addition to the end product, waste products are also an example of the Output. The furniture manufacturer, besides furniture, also creates jobs, designs, a website with new furniture models and wood chips that leave the factory as rubbish.
The person or company you supply to, is the so-called end user. This could be the actual customer who buys furniture from the manufacturer, but it can also be the employee who has a steady job because of the factory. Customer requirements are important throughout the process. When the output doesn’t comply with the customer requirements, the quality can’t be guaranteed.
The above means that only direct suppliers and customers are included in a SIPOC. Other stakeholders, such as banks, funding bodies or licensing companies, aren’t included in SIPOC. It’s also not customary for quality features and/or specifications to be mentioned.
It’s important to create a SIPOC chart with a group of employees, so everybody involved has a chance to contribute to the process. Besides their own views, they can also decide their role within the process. A SIPOC model creates mutual understanding and a shared idea of the process, which leads to more involvement. A SIPOC model gives everybody clear insight into the reasons the process was started. This prevents confusion in later a later stage of the process. It also clarifies beforehand who is involved in the process and what is needed from everyone.
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? What is your experience with the SIPOC model? How do you describe the production process? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more additions? What are your success factors for good quality management?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Antony, J., Singh Bhuller, A., Kumar, M., Mendibil, K., & Montgomery, D. C. (2012). Application of Six Sigma DMAIC methodology in a transactional environment. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, 29(1), 31-53.
- Reddy, G. P., & Reddy, V. V. (2010). Process improvement using Six Sigma–a case study in small scale industry. International Journal of Six Sigma and Competitive Advantage, 6(1-2), 1-11.
- Shankar, R. (2009). Process improvement using six sigma: a DMAIC guide. ASQ Quality Press.
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