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December 03, 2010

Six–Sigma, The Indian way

The Indian Dabba-wala, a six-sigma organization, is one of the most quoted organizations of India, not only because it is six-sigma acclaimed, but because it employs people who are 85% illiterate..!!

The organization named Nutan Mumbai Tiffin-box services, more than a century old, provides the service of carrying tiffin-boxes of working people or students from their home to their workplace. The challenge is to provide the right tiffin, to the right person, at the right time.

This seems a simple job, but consider that, most people will have the lunch time at the same hour, and it is a must that their lunch should reach them neither too early nor too late, and, the boxes mustn’t get mixed up.. They deliver an excellent service, with a 100% customer satisfaction, delivering more than 200,000 tiffins a day, without fail.. All done by a group of people (about 85% illiterate) with no MBA telling them how to perform, continuously improving their process.. They work with a coding system, a complex unique code of numbers and colours, makes them identify each box. They follow other such simplified processes, which make them leaders in their job.

All this, working on one belief,” Annadaan is Mahadaan”, which in Hindi means, Feeding people is divine, like feeding God..

All I can say is, terrific..!!

This is an excellent example how ideas can emerge.. What we learn here, like the need for improvement of processes operations, seems so complex as in the Taguchi methods.. For application of such methods in developing countries, where the illiteracy rate is so high, I think such powerful tools will have to be integrated with novel ideas, in order to get the right essence of improvement.. Technique with experience together, can work wonders.. Lets see how it gets..

November 25, 2010

DMAICing through the manufacturing process

Never thought experimenting in the business management studies could be so interesting!! Much more interesting, and yielding much more grasping of the subject, than what I had been doing all my previous life in concrete labs..!

So as to understand and learn how to apply the Six-Sigma process, the PMI yellow belt series were such an excellent help, but helping undrstand it even better and getting the first-hand experience of it, the aeroplane manufacturing process deserves credit..

Though we did not actually realize while designing the process step by step, but somewhere in our mind, DMAIC had been understood and was being implemented. This was supposed to be a team exercise, which could not be completed, hence I plotted down at my own level, how we applied various steps of DMAIC, with the aim to improve our process..

DEFINE: (as discussed)

  • Defining the aim of the process- which was to manufacture particular type of aeroplanes
  • Identifying customer requirments- to be supplied completed, quality checked planes no later than 3'45''
  • Realizing the existing production line
  • Identifying the problems within it and their causes 

MEASURE: (also discussed)

  • Measuring the current performance of the process- in terms of time, Cp, Cpk, dpmo, loss.
  • Comparison with goals, by use of control charts and statistical process control
  • Establishing goals and rules


  • Analysis of data available from previous day process
  • Finding reasons as to why the defects occured
  • Correcting abnormalities in available data
  • Identifying bottlenecks and their causes


  • Considering areas of improvement one by one
  • Developing ideas from within the team as to how these could be tackled- by dividing the job between two departments operations and logistics
  • Collection of all ideas, and designing a process
  • Testing the process, and identifying the flaws again from the results
  • Revising the process again
  • Also working on ways in which operations could be simplified and thus process time reduced
  • Identifying a solution and a final dsigned process


  • Deploying the final process and finding the results
  • Establishing the results in the form of control charts so that comparison could be possible
  • Finding new Cp, Cpk, dpmo, savings for comparison with previous process
  • Summarizing learning from the improvement and identifying further scope for improvement

With the undrstanding of the process design, and redesign and scope for improvement, the task yielded a clear understanding of how small improvements here and there can yield better results, but for this there has to be an involvement of staff at all levels, especially the ones who are actually a part of the physical process, so that the areas of improvement can be identified.

November 23, 2010

The Challenge in Change

Six Sigma is in the air..

There have been several discussions, in which we figure HOW can we best apply six sigma.. How to best interpret DMAIC, and apply all possible time and resoource to make it a success. NOt only this, many of us have also being mind-boggling over how DMAIC in itself is maybe not the absolute tool, but requires some additional behaviours to successfulyy realise it as an Excellence tool.

But, what bothers me the most at this time is, that is the practical application of all that we have just realized, that easy?? It is easy to talk about change management and psychology, but is this actually feasible?? For once, just try getting into the shoes of a manager.. I can see him/her struggling to be heard!!

What we have discussed today is, that the solution lies in bringing about a huge change in the entire MINDSET of an organization.. I think changing the view of a single person is a massive job, and here we are talking of so many people together, including the senior management, all on one side, and a single person on the other!!

The job to change the mindset of the senior management is in itself a huge task.. There has to be emense faith in your capabilities, for the senior management to have faith in your vision.. In Graeme's words, Enough faith, to be able to change them from 'Statistics People' to 'People People'.. Especially, when it is going to be a a long while until the fruit is going to come into picture..  

I wonder how much that is possible.. But this is in my understanding, the most significant and the most challenging role on the part of a manager envisioning an Excellent organisation..

November 20, 2010

Is Six–Sigma REALLY Attained

While working on Six Sigma, I understand how much popularity the phenomenon has gained over the recent years. More and more organisations are tempted to adopt it as a practice.

DMAIC, at the heart of six sigma, is a tool to explain what actually the process to attain it is like, and further simplifying it is the sequence of steps given by PMI, which just about ‘spoon-feed’ organisations by making the process so easy to understand and so achievable.

But a question that arises in my mind here is that are PMI, and the like organisations able to introduce Six-sigma as a way of life in an organisation? Do they have the capability, to sustain the yearning for improvement among the employees? Is their job fulfilled until the projects are completed or is there a continual association with the organisation? Are they trusted enough by the employees so that they can be driven by the revolution? Or is it that they just remain a bunch of people coming from an external source, doing their job and going back?

In short, is Six Sigma really attained or is it just the tag that is attained?

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