SIPOC Diagram

This last template is made in Microsoft Excel, and includes space for a larger number of rows (download the template).

Excel SIPOC Template

Guidelines

  • Always start by defining the start and end points in the process column – these boundaries are important as the team defines the processes that are included between these start and end points.
  • Next, document the process steps themselves.  There are no firm guidelines for doing this, but four to seven process steps seem to work well in most situations.  If the team is coming up with too many process steps, they should consider creating more high-level process steps and then creating lower level SIPOCs to define each of the high-level processes.
  • After completing the process steps, proceed from the center of the document to the right, adding process Outputs and then Customers.    Then work from center to left, adding the Inputs and Suppliers of those inputs.

Creating a SIPOC diagram is best done in a team setting, following a specific sequence of steps:  (1) Processes, (2) Outputs, (3) Customers, (4) Inputs, (5) Suppliers.

This center-out approach works very well since most teams can quickly recite their work processes, but do not always know who their customers and suppliers are.  This is especially true in large companies where functions are often siloed, with little supplier and customer interaction.

this is the sequence in which a SIPOC diagram is created

Creating a SIPOC Diagram in 5 Steps

StepActivities
1Define the beginning and ending processes for the SIPOC, and place them at the top and bottom of the Processes column, as noted above.  Then note the processes that go in between the beginning and ending processes.  This completes the Processes column.
2Identify the Outputs that the Processes from step (1) deliver.  List them in the Outputs column.
3Identify the internal and external Customers that receive the Outputs from Step (2), and list them in the Customers column.
4Identify the Inputs that the Processes from step (1) require in order to perform their function, and list them in the Inputs column.
5Identify the Suppliers that provide those Inputs, and note them in the Suppliers column.

Building a SIPOC diagram in a team setting

SIPOC diagrams can be made quickly in a team setting, typically in an hour or less.  Here are a few suggestions for planning and running the meeting –

  • Select a Small Team – Since SIPOC’s are high-level documents, they can usually be made with a small team of supervisors or managers who understand the overall process at a high level.
  • Show an Example – At the beginning of the meeting, show a completed SIPOC example to help convey the desired outcome of the meeting.
  • Sticky Notes – Use large sticky-notes and make the SIPOC on a blank wall or whiteboard.  This allows for quick repositioning of the SIPOC elements without erasing and re-writing them.   Another option is to use one of the templates on a computer with a projector screen.
  • Follow the Above Sequence – Following the above center-out sequence works well in team setting, and the process goes quickly once the center (Processes) column is filled in.  To complete the additional columns, simply ask,
    • “What are the outputs of these processes?”
    • “Who are the customers that receive these outputs?”
    • “What inputs are required by these processes?”
    • “Who are the suppliers that provide these inputs?”

Working through obstacles

Here are a couple of obstacles that can come up during a SIPOC diagramming session, and suggestions for working through them –

  • Too Much Detail – this is a common problem, where some team members may push for too much detail in the SIPOC.  A cluttered diagram will result if this situation is not managed.  Generally speaking, more than ten items in any column is too many.  Here are some options for avoiding too much clutter in the diagram –
    • Group similar items together.  Remember that a SIPOC is a high-level document, not a detailed process flow chart.  See in the manufacturing example where equipment builders were simply noted as “Equipment Builders,” in the Suppliers column rather than being listed out individually.
    • Add supplemental documents, separate from the SIPOC.   Continuing with the equipment builder example directly above, a page-2 reference document could be added to the SIPOC, listing the equipment builders.
    • Narrow the scope – if the team cannot consolidate similar items together, then consider changing the scope and using two SIPOC diagrams.  For example, break up a customer service team’s SIPOC into two documents:  (1) Order Entry and Logistics Support and (2) Post-Delivery Support.

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