Sharing Dabbas: How Six Sigma Can Make Charitable Organizations Even Better

A process that has less than 3.4 errors per million transactions can do more than cut the bottom line for businesses. It can carry on and grow a tradition for over a hundred years. It can also create the opportunity to feed homeless children that don’t even know where they will get their next meal.

Just ask the guys from Harvard Business school completed 23-page case study on the near absence of error in Mumbai’s Dabbawalla lunch delivery system.

The Indian lunch delivery system started over 100 years ago, beginning with just a hundred men in 1890. Today, dabbawallas deliver over 200,000 lunches—or 120 tons of food—everyday, according to the Happy Like Welfare Society. The intricate dabbawalla system is so efficient that Forbes reported that dabbawallas make maybe one mistake out of every 8 million deliveries. In 2010, the Harvard Business School confirmed that this statistic was accurate.

This year, the Happy Life Welfare Society and The Dabbawalla Foundation started a campaign called “Share My Dabba” in which an extra step is inserted into the renowned six sigma system to attempt feed some of the 200 thousand hungry children on the streets of Mumbai. The organization estimates that over 16 tons of dabbas go uneaten everyday, and that this food can go a long way to help feed Mumbai’s hungry. The campaign urges those eating dabbas each day to place a red “Share my dabba” sticker on their tiffin, or “lunchbox” when they have food left over, and the dabbawallas will sort out and reroute the food to the hungry children.

Efficiency not only saves money, but creates the opportunity to improve systems in ways that can change peoples lives for the better. Six sigma efficiency is especially important when resources are limited, which is the case for many programs that exist to assist underserved populations. What if six sigma projects were applied to make sure food distribution agencies in other places in the world were able to get more food to more hungry people with the same amount food resources?

The Share My Dabba Program is pretty new, but if it is effectively integrated into the dabbawalla six sigma-efficient system, it can be a great example for other organizations like it.

Clearly, there is room for six sigma professionals in places far beyond the manufacturing floor.

If you would like to find out how six sigma certification can help your organization make the “doing good” go farther, check out My Six Sigma Trainer’s list of certification and training opportunities!


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