iSixSigma

Customer, Output, Process, Input, Supplier (COPIS)

Definition of Customer, Output, Process, Input, Supplier (COPIS):

COPIS is a high-level extended view of your process. Let’s consider some of the benefits of using COPIS as well as some hints on getting the most from your diagram.

Overview: What is COPIS? 

The COPIS terminology is a revision of the original model called SIPOC. SIPOC is a high-level process map of your extended process. As you may have noticed, COPIS is just the reverse spelling of SIPOC. Let’s explore what each letter stands for.

COPIS and/or SIPOC are used in the Six Sigma DMAIC methodology, usually in the Define stage. The letters of COPIS stand for customer, output, process, input, and supplier. 

Your first step would be to define the process you wish to diagram. What is the scope you wish to include in your COPIS? You should have a definable start and definable stop for the process in question. These process boundaries can be narrow or wide depending on whether you’re looking at a macro or micro process. 

Here’s the sequence to follow:

  1. Customer: This would be the next person or organization you hand your output to. It could be the next functional area. It could be the actual external customer. All of your outputs go to some customer, somewhere, who has expectations and requirements for your output.
  2. CTQs (Critical to Quality) or requirements: These are the key metrics your customer might use to evaluate whether your process is producing output that meets their requirements. It’s optional to actually put it in a separate column of your COPIS diagram, but be sure to capture it somewhere.
  3. Output: Next, identify the outputs your customer wants, needs, and values.
  4. Process: Your COPIS will include a high-level description of the process that would meet your customer’s requirements. Describe your process in 5-7 high level steps.
  5. Inputs: These are the things your process needs in order to start and produce your outputs, perhaps including the 6 Ms. These would refer to such things as people, materials, equipment, procedures, money, utilities, environmental conditions, data, and anything else your process needs to function.
  6. Suppliers: This is where your inputs come from. They may be internal or external suppliers.

Here is a COPIS template you can use to map your process.

A blank template to use for COPIS

Image source: sixsigmaninja.com.

To summarize, in COPIS, you start with your customer, identify the key metrics (or CTQs), the outputs that will meet their needs, the process that will deliver the outputs, the inputs the process needs to function, and the suppliers you get them from. 

Here’s a visual comparison of SIPOC and COPIS.

A visual showing the difference between COPIS and SIPOC, which is simply the order of the terms and activities

Image source: niqcgroup.com.

COPIS is a more customer-focused approach than SIPOC and can ensure your customer’s CTQs, or requirements, are being considered at the beginning. Looking at the customer before you look at the process ensures that you prioritize your customers’ needs instead of starting with your process and trying to make everything fit into that. 

3 benefits of COPIS 

COPIS allows you to view your extended process from a macro perspective before drilling down. Some of the benefits of this wider view include the following.

1. Starting with the customer forces a focus on their needs 

COPIS is a reverse approach to the better-known SIPOC. SIPOC starts with the existing process and then moves to your customer. COPIS starts with your customer and moves to the process needed to satisfy your customer needs.

2. Great tool for an executive overview  

The COPIS diagram can usually be created on a single piece of paper. This provides a nice overview of the process to senior leadership as well as team members who may be working on an improvement project for that process. 

3. Extended process 

Most process mapping techniques just look at the micro process. This extended view provides a broader context and understanding of the larger process.

Why is COPIS important to understand? 

For such a simple tool, COPIS can provide good information and insight.  

The customer is the driver

COPIS lets the customer drive what the process should be to meet your customer CTQs. 

Everything is linked 

All the sections of COPIS are linked. The desired outputs and CTQs come from the customer, which connects to the needed process, which requires specific inputs that are received from a supplier. With so many moving parts, it’s important to have a cohesive way to view all of the elements and make sure they align.

Plays well with DMAIC and DMADV 

COPIS and SIPOC can be used in the Measure phase of the DMAIC methodology. They can also be used in the DMADV methodology, which is similar to DMAIC but is applied to design and redesign projects rather than for incremental improvement projects.

An industry example of COPIS 

From prior surveys, the marketing department of a food products company felt they had the opportunity to produce a product that would fill a gap in the marketplace. They asked their Master Black Belt, Gail, whether she had a design process that might work faster than their usual approach. Gail said she liked QFD and would be glad to facilitate the team in using the tool.

They first gathered extensive Voice of the Customer (VOC) information as to their requirements for the new product. Then they built their HOQ. This required using their gathered customer feedback, determining process and physical attributes of the product, correlating them, and setting targets. They also gathered competitive information about other similar products. 

Cascading down from the HOQ, they engaged manufacturing to help with phases 3 and 4 to develop specifics around the product and the manufacturing process. Finally, they brought in the quality control group to help set the specifics of the QC requirements and processes.

In the end, they produced a successful, high-quality product that met the VOC requirements.

3 best practices when thinking about COPIS 

Since COPIS is used in the early stages of a project, it should be clear and easily understood. Here are a few ways to make that happen. 

1. Involve the team 

The collective experience and knowledge of the team in defining the COPIS extended process is required to capture and describe all the elements of the process.

2. Don’t be biased 

Since COPIS is supposed to be customer-focused, don’t allow yourself to be biased by the existing process. Focus on the customer needs and CTQs to come up with the process, not the other way around.

3. Consider all the possible process outputs 

Don’t just focus on the expected good outputs of your process but also consider any defects, errors, waste, scrap, pollution, or any other output that is an outcome of your process even if it’s not desired.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about COPIS

1. What does COPIS stand for? 

COPIS stands for customer, output, process, input, and supplier.

2. What’s the difference between COPIS and SIPOC? 

SIPOC is the more common process mapping technique starting with the process then exploring the outputs and customers of the output. Then you identify the inputs to the process and the suppliers that you get them from. COPIS follows the reverse path and is more customer-focused than SIPOC.

3. Does making a COPIS diagram require any technology? 

No. A piece of paper on the wall and some sticky notes will work fine. There are some online collaboration tools that have a general mapping functionality. There are also a number of free templates that can be downloaded and filled out by the team as they seek to define the process using the COPIS format.

Wrapping up COPIS 

COPIS starts with, and focuses on, your customer and their needs. By doing so, a team can gain insight into what is truly important to your customer. After clearly defining the wants and needs of your customer, the related outputs can be identified, allowing you to then develop the process to create those outputs. From there, you can determine what inputs the process requires and what supplier they will come from.

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