Six Sigma processes can simply be explained thus: processes transform inputs into higher value outputs by blending the inputs together in a prescribed way. Inputs are provided to the process by suppliers.
Supplier: A supplier is an entity, person or another process, which provides an input into the process under consideration. Therefore, a supplier can be internal to a company or external to it. A supplier can be as close as the output of the previous step in the process or a vendor more than a thousand miles away. The outputs of a process always go to a customer.
Customer: A customer is any entity, person or another process, which receives an output from a particular process. Just like inputs, the customer can be as close as the next process step or external to the company many miles away.
In a Lean Six Sigma Course, you will learn to think of inputs as X’s and outputs as Y’s. Once this approach is adopted, it becomes much easier to describe process behaviour and improvement approaches.
The process is a set of activities and tasks that are accountable for the blending of the inputs to create a higher valued output. For now, you can generally categorise inputs as materials, information, people, energy, tools and equipment. Processes are also supported or governed by such things as methods, procedures, process rules and customer requirements.
A process is generally repeated over and over, although the frequency of replication may be low. The output of one process can become the input to another process, and a business is made up of a large number of processes to produce a product or service that a customer is ultimately willing to purchase.
The acceptable way to describe processes is to use a process flowchart, which is sometimes called a Process Map.
A process always has a definable start and finish, and a number of steps in-between. Process Maps are performed at various levels of detail, but look similar to the one discussed above. You slowly learn the different levels of Process Maps and their associated level of detail.