We spend countless time in meetings discussing roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. Yet, I find managers and associates still have misunderstandings about what they’ve been asked to do and what it is they are responsible for. A tool I use when implementing Lean Six Sigma that leaders, managers and associates have found clarifying in facilitating these discussions and in making concrete performance responsibilities is the SIPOC. SIPOC is the acronym for Suppliers/Source, Input, Process, Output, Customer.
What Is a SIPOC?
A SIPOC enables you to engage your organization in discussions on how best to control the process, who is responsible for which activities, how to measure those activities and the process and how to measure the quality of the outputs.
The SIPOC is a visual map of a process from end to end — a powerful tool used in Lean Six Sigma. It’s a complete, comprehensive picture of the inputs and suppliers to your process, the process steps, the tangible things the process produces and the recipients or users of those “things”. Upon completion of the SIPOC, the leader/manager has identified the process activities for which he/she is responsible and the outputs for which he/she is responsible. The leader can then engage his/her organization in discussions on how best to control the process, who is responsible for which activities, how to measure those activities and the process and how to measure the quality of the outputs.
An Example of a SIPOC
Suppose we are a large food service company. We make food products and deliver those products to our customers, which we’ll assume to be retail grocery stores.
At an Enterprise level, process activities directly related to product delivery are:
- Design the product
- Source the product
- Make the product
- Deliver the product
Of course, this is high level. There are a myriad of sub-processes much more granular that comprise this high level construct. One of those is the replenishment process wherein product delivery is planned and shipped from the bakeries and warehouses to the field branches that deliver to the individual retail stores. The planning process for replenishment then is the delivery of product from the finished goods inventory at the bakery or warehouse to the branch field location. These replenishment plans end up being shipments from point A to point B.
The replenishment planning process can be defined as:
- Create the shipment
- Submit the plan to inventory
- Allocate inventory to the plan
- Reconcile inventory discrepancies
- Release the plan to bakery/warehouse
Upon receipt of the plan, the bakery/warehouse will schedule the shipment and the pick and pack of the planned shipment.
Note that the SIPOC is a simple graphic of the process. By design, it is absent of detail. A typical SIPOC map incorporates 4-7 process steps only. The SIPOC can be augmented by inserting requirements for the inputs and the outputs. These can be translated to measurements to monitor and evaluate the process performance. The outputs requirements are the responsibility of the manager of the planning process. It is important to understand the input requirements are outside the control of the Planning manager and, in fact, is the responsibility of the managers of the upstream processes. In this case, the bakery logistics managers are responsible for inputting correct counts of inventory into the planning process. Additionally, area inventory planners would be responsible for creating shipment requisitions of active SKUs. While outside the control of the Planning manager for replenishment, the quality of the inputs can be tracked and correlated with the impact on process performance when those inputs are outside of needed specifications.
Leveraging engagement with the SIPOC
When the SIPOC is completed, the replenishment manager can now engage his/her associates about responsibilities, accountabilities and controls within the planning process to better ensure that plans are created correctly and in a timely manner. If the warehouse receives a complete plan in a timely manner then the warehouse can plan for the shipment which aids in controlling warehouse inventory and control of inbound/outbound traffic keeping the yard and warehouse at the optimal, planned utilization.
The manager can now engage his/her associates in expected work procedures and objectives identifying where corrective action may be needed. For example, if a plan is submitted to inventory allocation and is returned with inventory errors (planned inventory is not available) then the planning associate would need to adjust and complete the plan rather than releasing a sub-optimal load to the warehouse. Within the replenishment routing, optimal utilization of the shipping method ensures lower costs while getting the right inventory to the right place.
Finally, note the output requirements of the replenishment planning process are the input requirements of the warehouse logistics group. This process linkage better enables process alignment and communication across the organization. The ultimate objective is to meet the end user customer requirements in a cost efficient and effective manner.