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Vishwadeep Khatri

Mumbai Dabbawallas - Should They Be Used As An Example For Six Sigma?

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Dear All,

Let us have a discussion on this one. One of the most publicized examples of Six Sigma in India is the Mumbai Dubbawallas. Do you think it is a good application example for Six Sigma? Why/ Why not?

VK

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Good one VK,

I hope everyone of us has read about it. Facinating facts for me that comes out of the entire study are:

1. The organisation is certified as Six Sigma organization by International Quality Federation in 1986 (I was not knowing that organizations do get recognition/certification on six sigma by any agency prior)

2. They do not seem to have tried six sigma methodology per se for achieving it. rather they have focused on keeping things SIMPLE and on employee front focusing PARTNERSHIP IN EMPLOYEMENT.

I think it does fall as a good example of Six Sigma Organization but not as good Six Sigma Application example cause we miss the concept of methodology and tools appplication as a whole in this.

Rahul

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VK,

Keeping in view customer centricity & perfection of their delivery process (with consitent track record), it is very good example for six sigma application example. If I am correct, a six sigma organization should have enforced six sigma practices inorder to get certified.

Raveen.S

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Dear VK,

 I think it is a good application example. The volumes involved are huge i.e somewhere around 200000 delivery takes place every day with almost nil error(1 in 16 million ). They do it in a very systematic way with a unique coding on every dabba which makes the process error free.They work for customer sdatisfaction & treat their customer as god.They use Markers to represent different colors in their unique coding. Each code is given some alphabets & numbers for correct identification of destination & customer.They follow a proper structure to deliver dabbas. They report , board the train & deliver the dabbas as per the target time.They follow basic things strictly which help them in delivering error free service & customer satisfaction.

Regards/Amol

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I feel it is more Lean Approach rather than Six Sigma. Secondly I have not heard of a problem statement / VOC which was defined and then a Six Sigma tools / methodology being deployed in the project.

So it is a good example in Lean rather than Six Sigma.

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This is a very good example of six sigma application , the final result is no defects and customer satisfaction , we can use N no of tools and can make process very complecated but that is of no use , this is a very good example of a organised organisation whose organisation cost is even nill ,

I guess even in six sigma we always focusing on the easiest way to do all the complicated problems.

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Hi, 

My two bit ..... 

The Mumbai dabbawalas are a great rejoinder to the fact that one needs to have only their common sense with them to enable an organisation to great heights.

The guys are barely educated (unspoilt by our learn by the rote system) 

Have great trust in team work and have a functional and very effective decision making system

A numbering / symboling methodology that actually works ....

And a break from the usual grumble of VOC, Problem statement, SOW, HOQ etc .....

Just goes on to show ..... good intent is all one needs ......

Like I said ... love the guys for whatever they have achieved .......

Hope they achieve greater heights .... 

Cheers, 

Jai

 

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Dear VK,

I dont think it is a good example to consider this. This is an example of systematic way of working and providing good customer service. In the long run, is this method going to survive?

MB Reddy

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VK,

This is a good example of six sigma (as they do it right 99.999%) or even lean six sigma (no waste, all the steps are value-added where the customer pays for it).

They are able to meet the end goals "spec limits" set by the customer and the customers are satisfied. Though they don't practice six sigma or lean, I wonder what if they do follow...may be they achieve 99.999999%.

See the following power point, it explains all about this process.


/>http://www.slideshare.net/targetseo/mumbais-dabbawalas-amazing-management-success-story-india

Regards,

Karthik

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following are the reasons for considering as Six sigma ,infact it is beyond Six sigma if you consider Defect rates & DPMO

1) Error rate 1 in 16 million transactions.

2)Six Sigma performance 99.99999

3)No techgnological back up

4)Cost of service Rs 300-400 /month ($ 6 to $7 /month only)

5)standard price for all irrespective of distance, weight and space .

6)earning Rs 5000-Rs 6000/ month

7) Rs 36 crores turnover

8) Zero % fuel,Zero % investment,Zero % Moderen technology,Zero %Disputes

9) 100 5 costomer satisfaction.

10)Most influence meal distrubution sytem

11) coding system uses mistakeproofing method.

12) No error in decoding of code  on the tiffin

Regards

Ravindra B.

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Six sigma is a statistical approach for solving problems with relentless focus on customer satisfaction and strong tieâ€in with bottom line benefits.

Mumbai Dabbawalas are semi-literate and may not understand the six sigma tools (DMAIC and DMADV). However, they have a record of uninterrupted delivery of their service even on the days of severe weather such as Mumbai's characteristic monsoons, their system depends on teamwork and meticulous timing and mistakes rarely happens in delivery of tiffins.

Hence I feel they qualify as an example to understand the benefits of six sigma from the layman point of view.

 

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The basic fact is any person or organization who build their own principles and methodologies and strictly keep them simple and customer focused will definitely achieve extreme success. The live example is the case study in question here.

Probably they never intend to achieve six sigma or lean but had their processes customer focused. I would treat it as an extreme case of discipline, innovation, risk management and collaborative participation of each single employee involved in the operations directly of indirectly with least scope of follow-ups. Since this all resulted into a zero defect system with a linear architecture, it simply fits in most of the best practices such as Lean, six sigma, or for that sake any other (Agile/Scrum etc.).

This is purely a clear cut mix of vision, mission and innovation.

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Every business concern is made of a number of interrelated processes. When inputs are made to traverse through a process, they result into certain outputs (products & services) serving either internal or external customers. A process is termed as industrial or commercial depending on whether 80% or more of the values derived are from machinery or from human activity, respectively.

No matter how perfect a process is, no product/ service will come conforming to exact targeted specifications. It would always vary. However, when it varies within certain Lower Specification Limit (LSL) and Upper Specification Limit (USL) as acceptable/ agreed to or specified by the customers, then it is considered to be defect free or quality product/ service.

Further, every opportunity of delivering a product/ service is also wrought with an opportunity for the occurrence of defect. When the Defects Per Million Opportunity (DPMO) doesn’t exceed 3.4, the process is said to have met Six Sigma level. And Mumbai Dabbawalas’ DPMO is less than 3.4 or precisely, it is 2!

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Dear VK.

Greeting from Sathya.

I consider this as not a SIX SIGMA EXAMPLE because of the following reasons.

However, every organization should get into this as a best practice to excell.

1. Six Sigma evolves if there is no business solution to a Critical Problem.

2. I dont see Six sigma tools and methodologies to refer this as an example for SIX SIGMA.

3. Dabbawallas success story has greater relevance to LEAN methodology rather than to SIX SIGMA.

4. As LEAN eliminates WASTE & SIX SIGMA reduces variation in processes, again this will not be a good example for SIX SIGMA because, their processes is near perfect and where is the shift in process that needs SIX SIGMA application ?

But, I would like this classic example to be more refered to LEAN application as it could have greater relevance with Standardization, VSM , Waste Elimination, TAKT , Visual Standards, 5S applications etc....

 

 

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In one of the organisations I worked in previously (which is into Six Sigma in a big way with 200 Black Belts like me hanging around), we actually invited the Mumbai Dabbawalas to our office to share their story. They candidly admitted that till an external agency came and told them they were operating at 6 Sigma levels they had no clue what Six Sigma was all about!! If by Six Sigma application we mean DMAIC then these people definitely did not use DMAIC to get where they are. However, we could say they (unwittingly) applied DFSS principles to design a process that delivers at six sigma levels from the very beginning without any formal training in DFSS principles. I guess that echoes the thoughts of many people in this thread that it is all about understanding customer requirements deeply and designing a robust process that can deliver using basic process management principles (aka common sense).

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Dear All,

It is very important to keep HIGH  SIGMA LEVEL distinguished from SIX SIGMA APPLICATION. Many companies have reached wonderful performance levels because they have a good process in place with some mistake proofing and visual controls. They applied these concepts as plain common sense warrants their use. 

My question was "Is Mumbai Dabbawalas performance a good application example of Six Sigma?" 

If we pay attention to the term "application example for Six Sigma", the answer should be "NO". I agree that we may use it as an example for application of Lean concepts (or for providing example for high Sigma Level or low DPMO)  

Lot of people have been referring Dabbawalas as a great example for Six Sigma, which is misleading. The best examples for Six Sigma should be companies who use DMAIC or DFSS rigorously to progressively achieve performance excellence through customer and business focus projects using appropriate techniques.

Some people even refer to Dabbawalas as "Six Sigma Certified". Please note that no company gets the tag of "Six Sigma certified"  

Thanks to all for contributing in this discussion. Amol, Rohit, Karthik, Ravindra, Renu, Imraan have highlighted the high SIGMA LEVEL appropriately and mentioned that process can be considered beyond Six Sigma. However,  Rahul, Anees, Reddy, Venkatesh and Arup have appropriately highlighted that we should not consider this as SIX SIGMA APPLICATION (and that this was not a conscious effort with the methodology) 

By mentioning this, we do not wish to take away the credit for what they achieved. May they achieve greater success! and let us hope that they really use Six Sigma some day. 

Best Regards, 

VK 

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Nice summary VK.  Another similar example is airline flight safety, which operates at 6 sigma levels but I don't think many airlines follow the methodology. Exception would be GE Aircraft Engines thanks to it being a GE company. (although it is not an airline).

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Agreed Arup.

Another example - If I use a simple mistake proofing device like a electronic shut down circuit that does not allow high voltage to affect my costly electronic device, I have used common sense and affected zero defect.

Here, I have not used Six Sigma methodology but used one of the concepts (many people use such a concept). I may have used Six Sigma philosophy or concept but cannot (should not) be called a Six Sigma practitioner on the virtue of the performance excellence achieved.

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Nice summary VK. Another similar example is airline flight safety, which operates at 6 sigma levels but I don't think many airlines follow the methodology. Exception would be GE Aircraft Engines thanks to it being a GE company.

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Hi VK

I am looking for some good expamples on quality improvement. If you could help me with some realtime case studies related to lean, six sigma or any intersting kaizen bursts or related links for me to go through, it will help me in using it during trainings.

Thank you

Tharun

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On ‎05‎/‎10‎/‎2009 at 6:33 PM, Vishwadeep Khatri said:

Dear All,

Let us have a discussion on this one. One of the most publicized examples of Six Sigma in India is the Mumbai Dubbawallas. Do you think it is a good application example for Six Sigma? Why/ Why not?

VK

Hi VK, is this topic closed for discussion as I find no comments from participants across forum members. My name is Neville Serrao & I am a new member in this forum. I personally feel that Dubbawalla model can be replicated in any industry.

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Hello Neville,

 

You may add your two cents to any post no matter how new or old. This is everyone's forum!

 

VK summarized that his question was about whether Mumbai Dabbahwallahs can be considered as a good example of Six Sigma "application". Keep in mind that they never set out to implement Six Sigma, however, they have perfected their "process" over a period of time and have attained capability higher than 6 Sigma.

 

It could be debated why do we then need to learn Six Sigma when school dropouts can create such a robust process - as mentioned by some of the participants on this discussion thread. The answer is that we do not have the luxury of time. We cannot say we will improve our process over the next 120yrs. Hence, if we learn a structured way of problem solving, we can move very fast and not have to use trial and error to improve our processes.

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