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SIPOC diagrams

You have more than one supplier and methods/processes to manage?  You have challenges with the management of your supplies?  You have failures in your raw materials rotation system that end up in production problems due to substitutions of raw materials not always 100% compatible?

It is important to keep a global vision and to make sure that your business processes will generate what you expect of them.

It is also important that the level of quality of a product is:

  • in line with the target market
  • in line with the price normally charged to remain competitive in order to:
  • retain your clients
  • have them to buy again and again
  • interest them in your other products
  • minimise returns
  • minimise complaints.
This is why it is necessary to organize the information that allows you and your team to go ahead and to run your business smoothly while having access to pertinent/useful details when needed.

This month’s tool, when applied, will help you:

  • to avoid making production errors
  • to minimise impacts (mechanical, physical and financial $$) of a raw material substitution during the manufacture of a product
  • to minimise incidents due to preparation errors or in-process errors
  • etc.

Ultimately, you will become more effective from the first time, you will keep control over your processes, you will simplify your operations and you will minimise your operating costs.  You will also discover ways to organize your work that you would not have seen or viewed otherwise.  It's sort of a way to write down everything you do in order and with the right inputs, outputs, suppliers and the expected results.

The beauty to it is that the approach behind this quality tip requires few tools apart from the collaboration of a dedicated and motivated team.  You can do this on paper, on a table, on a wall, etc. and then type it into a computer file and circulate it among your employees.

An interesting approach is to identify the suppliers, inputs, processes, outputs, clients, indicators as well as the requirements/parameters to comply with before building the chart.

One of the best way to do it is through a brainstorming session. To enrich the process you can perform separate brainstorming sessions: one for executives/managers and another one for employees.  You will be surprised by the results and, above all, you will have a much more complete picture of all your processes.


The SIPOC diagram

SIPOC stands for: Supplier Input Process Output Clients.

In Six Sigma, the SIPOC is used during the first stage of DMAIC2: “Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control”.  This is the Define step, to describe the processes/business of which you want to improve quality.

It is generally in a table but you can also structure it in the form of a flow chart and add arrows like a process diagram.

Table 1: SIPOC linear diagram in a tabular form



Inputs – raw material

Process step 1

Process step 2

Process step 3

Process step 4

Output – finish products


Requirements (Clients and regulatory)















Chart 1: SIPOC diagram in exploded forms/shapes with functional links, colors, lines, etc.

SIPOC diagrams MMNA Consutlants

Building a SIPOC or diagrams:

This tool allows you to visualize all your processes from 10 000 feet up and to make sure you don’t forget anything.

If you adopt the style of a flowchart; it looks very similar, in format, as a process diagram that you already have as part of your FSEP/HACCP/or other GFSI quality system…



Except that here you'll be able to:

  • Visualize at a glance important information specifically for each supplier, raw material, process and finished product;
  • Include information on production, quality, safety or any other requirements (clients, regulatory, corporate or internal) and to distinguish among them quickly;
  • Maintain and update all the information on one or very few documents
  • Use this chart as a simple training tool that’s visually easy to understand

If your processes are complex or if the number of products manufactured or production lines is large; you can make one for each group of products/processes/production lines.

The appropriate use of colors may be useful to highlight the constraints or checkpoints as the critical control points of HACCP and even specify their critical limits or process control points related to production for example.

You can also use different shapes/geometric forms for raw materials, finished products, indicators, etc.


The usefulness of SIPOC diagrams

While it can take time to prepare these diagrams; they will be very useful:

  • When regulatory audits come in order to simplify the explanation of your methods/processes and make sure to be clear and consistent in the way of explaining and presenting things
  • For client audits and especially in the case of clients who only buy a single class or type of product.  So if you build a specific SIPOC for products of this client, he will only see information about its own products. The client will also be reassured that the information relating to the manufacture of its products are not shown to other clients
  • When training employees this will:
    • Minimise the time and training materials preparation efforts
    • Help to make the training more interactive and easy to follow
    • Facilitate update of training materials as this is done automatically when the production SIPOC materials used in production are updated
    • They can be laminated and displayed at key locations on the production areas to respond to ad hoc queries on the production lines or to give a quick refresh on certain products that are not manufactured on a regular basis for example. This could also be done via an electronic display on a monitor in strategic places
    • When manufacturing problems or non-compliance or complaint/return happen to ensure that all people involved understand at what stage the problem occurred to correct it quickly and efficiently
    • Etc.

The more complete it will be; the most useful it will be.  It will then become a useful resource and an easy to understand document series for quick reference on the floor.  It is therefore important to avoid overloading them to make sure they remain clear and easy to use.

The degree of specificity and the level of detail will of course have to be adapted according to:

  • The number of clients you have
  • The number of products you manufacture
  • The number of production lines that you
  • The way you do business
  • Etc.



It is recommended to start with simple SIPOC diagrams and put them to the test. It will then be easy to determine what you need to change so that your work team benefit from it.

Ultimately, the use of SIPOC diagrams should allow you to:

  • Minimise production errors
  • Improve your efficiency by producing the right way, from the first time
  • Facilitate the understanding of your processes by your entire staff (employees and managers) and make them more productive because they will better understand what they do and what they have to do
  • Minimise clients and/or regulatory non-compliances
  • Minimise the time and effort devoted to the preparation of quality and food safety programs as well as other process control documents
  • Fostering free flow of information that will enable your employees to ask questions when they do not understand instead of doing the work repeatedly without paying attention which could end up with errors, non-compliances or even complaints and returns
  • Etc.

Another way of considering the SIPOC diagrams is to view them as a layout of your product manufacturing specifications.  Instead of keeping the specs in a binder for a few people, you have them live on the floor and accessible to everyone so they can follow-up and make sure they don’t forget anything during operations.


These are all opportunities to improve your efficiency, motivate your staff and benefit from significant savings that await you with the use of this powerful quality tool.


Important note on copyright:This brief presentation is an adapted, revised and corrected version compared to the one shown in references No. 1 and 2 included below. It is also inspired by my personal experience gained during the last 30 years in the food industry.




We are able to help you and to support you in your continuous improvement efforts as well as with the use of the various tools available to facilitate your work; which will thereby make you more efficient, will save you time and money as well as improving your business processes.


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