Paper on Lean Six Sigma in Food Processing

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    I am working on a research paper on ‘Lean Six Sigma in food manufacturing’. My paper concentrates on the importance of lean six sigma in food processing and services. I have been reading various case study related to this topic but I found that lean is being used more efficiently in automotive, healthcare when compared to food manufacturing industries. But I think that food industries coupled with lean concept would be more effective. It would be appropriate if a quality professional could give me your opinion about my topic.



    @Vidhya30 – I’m not sure exactly what you are asking, but here are some thoughts. Just for reference, I’ve spent the past 8 yrs or so working primarily with large and small food processors – everything from cheese blocks and shredded cheese, to single serve coffee products, individual drinks, to cold cuts and smoked meats. I’ve also worked in industries making large capital equipment, automotive components, and commercial food service products. So, I have a perspective within and outside of the area which seems to be of interest to you.

    Let’s look at the overall issue of Lean and Six Sigma. Lean provides a perspective of eliminating wastes. These wastes, as identified in most Lean teaching, fall into 8 different categories. While Six Sigma can be applied to various effect in each of these areas, it is most directly applicable to situations where the variability of the outputs is larger than what the customers will accept and so variation reduction will reduce the waste of defective product. Lean also tends to have tools and methods that are easier to train and widely deploy, which makes the ability to impact the organization with smaller but more widely dispersed actions easier. Whereas, Six Sigma tends to have a more concentrated group of practitioners because the statistical tools require a higher skill level to master.

    Neither is the silver bullet (regardless of what some consulting firms may want to portray), rather you must apply the right tool to the problem at hand. Neither are Lean or Six Sigma the only methods that might apply. For example, neither really has a good method of identifying specifically where to apply limited resources to achieve the most impactful results. For that, I apply concepts from Theory of Constraints, where identifying the choke point (constraint) and improving the throughput for said constraint improves the overall system.

    Long story short, there is no specific methodology that serves all needs optimally. You must become adept at many various methods and learn which situations are most applicable to which problem solving method. That said, Lean is easy to learn, easy to widely deploy, and provides that ability to accrue savings across a wide swath of processes, so typically has a very good ROI.

    Hope this helps.


    Mike Carnell

    @Vidhya30 I haven’t been on the food industry for the past 8 years like @MBBinWI but I have about 5 years. I would really be interested in where someone has actually written down that Lean and SS are not applicable in the food industry. It is so common in the food industry (Fast moving consumer goods) that if you actually have an article that says that you can probably find 10 that say something different.

    If you are just executing SS (define measure analyze improve and control) blindly then you will get poor results. Improvement requires thought. If you are doing “Lean” whatever that means you will need to do more than 5S. Here is what I see with lean. People think if they can say muda and do 5S then they have done Lean. Let’s talk about the Toyota production System not Lean and then you need to understand that Muda is part of a system that includes Muri and Mura. If you want results take the time to learn the system.

    If you are going to work food then you need to learn to look at the cost of your product cost. That includes packaging. The food ingredients will not necessarily be the high cost components. Frequently they will be low cost and packaging will be high. The food industry, like other industries, hire food engineers. Very typically they have no idea how to make a packaging machine run but it becomes part of their job. When you are running bottling machines really quickly you need someone who understands how the machine works. Applying labels some kind of issues.

    There are also the cleanliness issues. Taking a line down and bringing it back up on time so entire crews don’t wander around while the sanitation crew wanders around trying to get things put back together and running.

    Your statement ” I think that food industries coupled with lean concept would be more effective.” is a pretty unenlightened comment. It smacks of someone who doesn’t want to bother with ant analysis and just wants to hang out and “brainstorm” with groups of people. If you have the opportunity to make a difference then you owe it to the people who work in this facility to respect the job and do it correctly.

    Just my opinion

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