What is Flowchart?
A flowchart is a graphical tool that depicts the flow of processes and highlights all the process complexities. In a flowchart, there are two types of tasks: process tasks and decision tasks. While creating a flowchart, process tasks are represented using rectangles, whereas decision tasks are represented using diamond shapes.
Usually, all the decision tasks have two outcomes (say, Yes and No). Therefore, if there is any decision point that has more than two outcomes, the decision should be constructed as a series of decisions wherein each decision point has only two outcomes.
Note that the secondary paths from one decision point may jump back to a previous process task or a later process task. It must be noted that the process endpoints or the decision paths may also divert to another process flowchart.
In the Measure phase, flowcharts are used to document the current state of a process. However, in the Analyse phase, flowcharts are used to highlight and detect all the process complexities such as an excessive number of decision points. Such complexities may lead to defects and/or delays in the entire project.
While drawing flowcharts, the project team may also use different colors and shapes to mean different things. For example, delays can be shown using red color and the points where the measurements are taken can be shown by ovals or green color.
What is SIPOC?
SIPOC is the acronym for Suppliers, Inputs, Processes, Outputs, and Customers. This is also a graphical tool that is used to present the entire flow of processes in a project from start to end.
Sometimes, SIPOC diagrams are also called high-level process maps because they do not present much information. All the information is contained briefly. A SIPOC diagram shows the entire process at a high level in a limited number of steps.
For creating a SIPOC map, the project team needs to identify the processes, the inputs required for the concerned processes, the outputs of the processes, and who consume the outputs. Here, the final consumer can state whether the output is satisfactory or not.
To improve a particular part of the project, the project team can engage in flowcharting or mapping till the part of the project where the improvement is required is identified.
To do so, the project team needs to find answers to certain questions as follows:
- For whom (stakeholder) does the process primarily exist?
- Does the process add any value?
- What are the inputs and outputs of the process?
- Who provides the input?
- Who owns the process?
- What resources are required in this process?
- What are the various sub-processes (if any) under the process?
- What are the steps that help create value?
All these questions are arranged in a standard format known as SIPOC. The process of constructing the SIPOC diagram starts when the project team brings together the people, who know about the process, for a brainstorming session. Before the brainstorming session starts, the definition and objective of the process need to be agreed upon.
For example, ‘Reducing the downtime of machine ABC’ can be one definition of a particular process. After this, the project team posts five charts labeled Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. Now the SIPOC diagram can be constructed by going through the following points:
- Create a high-level process map.
- Identify and create a primary list of all the possible outputs of the process using brainstorming.
- Identify and create a primary list of all the customers who will receive the outputs using brainstorming.
- Identify and create a primary list of all the inputs required to create the given outputs using brainstorming.
- Identify and create a primary list of all the suppliers of the inputs using brainstorming.
- Evaluate and analyze all the lists that have been created. Analyse, combine, move, and rephrase the items in all the lists to create a SIPOC diagram.
- Hold a meeting with the project sponsor and the process owner and make the changes as required.
An example of the SIPOC diagram created for a lunch delivery is presented.
After the SIPOC diagram has been fully constructed, it is again reviewed in the Analyse phase of the DMAIC/DMADV project methodology to remove the non-value-adding outputs, inputs, or tasks.