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A system better than six sigma level from Mumbai India

As a six sigma professional, I have to say that there is no other better and reliable system than Mumbai’s food delivery system in the world. No computer and no paperwork involved, and yet they manage to run 7 or even 8-sigma system.

I did follow a TV program on how the system works, it’s a simple color coding written on the boxes. Mistakes only occur if the painting is fading to illegible.

A simple and effective system coupled with highly dedicated workers, the dabbawallas has beaten the myth that computerized system is the key for six sigma system.

Mumbai’s impeccable lunch delivery system
By YIP YOKE TENG

THE lunch delivery men of Mumbai, the dabbawallas, have become an inspiration for many business entities bowled over by the almost impeccable system executed by mostly illiterates for 118 years.

From Monday to Saturday, the 5,000-strong dabbawallas are responsible for the delivery of tiffin lunch boxes to more than 200,000 residents in Mumbai from their wives or mothers at home, and send the empty boxes back after lunch.

Wearing a white Nehru hat, each of them ferry about 40 tiffin boxes — balanced over their heads or pushed around in hand-carts — through crowded streets and train stations to send warm food to the recipients, come rain or shine.

The humble establishment founded by a banker who longed for his wife’s home-cooked food has proven to be highly efficient for over a century, despite the fact that most dabbawallas are illiterate.

Business schools and universities have done research on the dabbawallas.


Making a point: Manish giving a talk on the innovative distribution system of the dabbawallas while holding a tiffin box

Forbes Global magazine gave it a Six Sigma efficiency rating while the dabbawallas’ chairman and patron Manish Tripathi has been invited on numerous occasions to share the success story at the Harvard Business School and the like across the globe.

Manish was invited by Pos Malaysia recently to give a talk for the company’s Inspiring Innovators series in Petaling Jaya.

Hoisting a tiffin box and greeting the crowd in high spirits, Manish got everyone excited as soon as he stepped onto the stage.

“Our business is founded upon a man’s love for his wife. If one day, men stop loving their wives, our business will die,” he joked.

He shared that the success behind the flawless coordination among the dabbawallas was commitment derived from the fact that each of them was a shareholder, and devotion believing that they were serving God.

“Work is worship; serving people is serving God because people are created by God,” he said.

“Unlike other organisations that apply the pyramid system whereby the president is the most important person in the hierarchy, our 5,000 dabbawallas are the boss,” he added.

According to Manish, a dabbawala starts the day at 8am collecting tiffin boxes from homes and sends them to the nearest railway station to be transported to downtown Mumbai by train.

The dabbawallas then gather at the Churchgate station at 11.30am, organise the tiffin boxes between chats and take up about 40 of them each to send to the recipients’ offices.

On average, one tiffin box will change hands four times in its journey from the wife to the husband.

The logistics are based on a coding system passed down from a century ago but according to professional calculations, there is only one error in every 16 million deliveries!

Manish credited this to the roots shared by all dabbawallas.

“We are of a single DNA, everyone is a Marathi; we are made from the same cloth, speak the same language and every one’s God is the same.

“Another secret to this is, never hire someone with qualifications higher than what you need them to have because they will ask a lot of questions,” he said, drawing a ripple of laughter.

Manish’s humour and interaction won the crowd over throughout the 90-minute talk before it ended in an active question-and-answer session.

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