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kitchen by stariya


									Six Sigma—In the Kitchen?
A white paper                                                       Juan Gabriel Gomez
                                                                 Manufacturing Engineer
                                                                         March 22, 2010

Perfection is something that all humans, consciously or unconsciously, want to reach in
whatever it is they do in their lives. To reach perfection one must eliminate mistakes.
“Perfection is defined in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary as 1: the quality or
state of being perfect: as a: freedom from fault or defect: FLAWLESSNESS b:
MATURITY c: the quality or state of being saintly 2 a: an exemplification of supreme
excellence b: an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence 3: the act or process
of perfecting.” The goal of Six Sigma performance is to achieve a very low number of
Defects per Million, less than 1 DPM. This is 99.9997% perfection. When one hears
the words Six Sigma, one automatically thinks of something related to manufacturing;
and why not—it’s where it all started. However, the tools of Six Sigma are not just for
industry or for work related activities; they can be applied to our daily life activities as
well. In the kitchen is a perfect example of a place where we often use these tools
without realizing they are Six Sigma tools. I will attempt to show you how we do it with
an account of a personal experience.

Part 1

During my sixteen years working at Superior Industries International I came across the
dreaded potlucks which we had before every major holiday. Although participation was
not mandatory, I always participated because “not being a team player” was always
frowned upon, and since I’ve never been very creative in the kitchen, I always tried to
put my name next to the “plates, forks, and knives” or next to the “drinks”. However,
there came a time when I was told that I should bring a dessert. The easiest thing
would have been to buy something from the grocery store and take it in, but being
someone who always criticized the store bought desserts that people brought, I decided
I would bake a cake. I wanted something that was different and tasty. I tried different
recipes from different books and magazines but none convinced me until I can across
one from Bon Appétit1. It was an “Orange Almond Torte with Orange Sauce and
Marsala Cream.” Before I baked it for one of the potlucks, I baked it several times and
gave it to friends and family to get feedback from them. All agreed that it was a very
good cake—something that was very “gourmet” and not store bought taste. So for the
next potluck I baked this cake and took it to work, and that’s where it all began.
Part 2

When I brought the cake to work I ended up taken most of it home because very few
people tried it. I couldn’t understand why. On another occasion, I brought the same
cake again, and again I had to take most of it home. This time I looked closely at
people and noticed that they would bypass my cake and those who tried it would only
eat a little bit and throw the rest away. It was then that I knew there was a problem and
I set out to find out what the problem was and fix it. This is where the Six Sigma tools
came into play.

Part 3

Using the DMAIC model and applying some of the tools associated with it can make
some of our personal tasks more efficient. George Eckes, in his book “The Six Sigma
Revolution”2, goes through the phases of the DMAIC model and gives examples of how
various sigma tools apply to tasks like buying a car to perfecting a spaghetti sauce.
Without realizing it, when I set out to find out the problem with my cake, I was going
through the DMAIC model myself. By using this model I was able to find the problem
and make the necessary improvements to satisfy my customers. This is how it went.

Define Phase

In this case, my customers were my co-workers and their needs were to have a good
dessert. I asked some of the people why they had not tried my cake and most of them
said because it looked too plain, there was no frosting on it so it and therefore it did not
look like it was very good, and those who realized the orange sauce and marsala cream
were for the cake thought that it was too much hassle to have to cut the cake and then
scoop the cream and sauce. Others said that they did not want to take a piece because
the cake looked very small and there wasn’t enough for all. So in this phase, in addition
to defining my customers and their needs, I also defined my process and this, was the
cake preparation. My SIPOC looked as follows:

Suppliers         Inputs             Process            Outputs            Customers
Bon Appétit       All the            Cake               Cake, orange       Co-workers
magazine—it       ingredients        preparation,       sauce and
supplied the      needed for the     presentation       marsala cream
recipe            cake, the
                  sauce, and the
Measure Phase

From the information I gathered from my co-workers and my observations what I
measured was the quantity of cake left over, the number of people bypassing my cake,
and the number of people throwing away part of the cake. I also measured the cake
itself and the time it took me to try to make it look just like in the picture. A short survey
was casually conducted by a female friend of mine since I thought people would have
been reluctant to give me true information if I had conducted it myself.

Analyze Phase

Here I analyzed the information I gathered in the measure phase, and the information
revealed that 80% of the people surveyed did not like the looks of the cake…did not
look appetizing and they bypassed it. Of the people who took a piece, 40% threw some
of it away because they thought it was sort of plain. On the three occasions that I took
this cake in and prepared it like it was suggested in the magazine I ended up taking 40
to 60 percent of the cake back home…lucky for me. To find out the root cause of the
problem I did a 5 why’s analysis:

      Why aren’t the people eating the cake? Not appetizing.
      Why isn’t it appetizing? It’s too plain?
      Why is it plain? It has no frosting on it.
      Why does it have no frosting? It’s on the side.
      Why is it on the side? The recipe calls for it that way.

From this I deduced that the problem was that the frosting was not on the right place. In
this phase what we do is what is called “passive analysis” where we “attempt to find a
causal relationship between input and output variables”3, but no adjustment are made.
George Eckes considers this phase the most important because it is in this phase
where “the true discovery of why the problem exists is uncovered.”

Improve Phase

In this phase is where we make the adjustments. The adjustments I decided to make
were based on the information gathered, and these were as follows:

      Make the cake larger (a three layer cake)
      Spread the orange sauce between each layer
      Use the Marsala cream as frosting and cover the cake completely.

To test my solution I took two cakes to the next potluck—one prepared as suggested in
the magazine, and one with the changes I concluded were necessary. On that
occasion, the results were different. I still ended up taking some of magazine’s version
of the cake home with me, but the cake with the improvements (orange sauce in
between and Marsala cream as frosting) was all gone. People found this cake to be
“exquisite” and “delicate”. From the fact that the cake was all gone and the “you should
bring this more often” from co-workers, I knew I had achieved my goal—make the cake
to my customer’s satisfaction.

Control Phase

The control phase is used to hold the gains. In this case holding the gains is easy
because all I have to do is to remember that whenever I make this orange almond cake,
I must layer the orange sauce and use the Marsala cream as frosting.

In conclusion, the Six Sigma tools can be used in any process that we want to improve
whether it is at work or at home. If you are a person who has some Six Sigma
knowledge and enjoys experimenting with cooking and baking and has enough time to
spare, you should try the “trial and error4”, or changing “one factor at a time5” in your
recipes to make them better. If you are really adventurous, you might want to try a “full
factorial6”, and remember—document your results.


   1. Bon Appétit—Home by the Fire, “Orange Almond Torte with Orange Sauce and
      Marsala Cream”, p. 52, Feb. 2005
   2. The Six Sigma Revolution: How General Electric and Others Turned Process Into
      Profits, George Eckes, 2001
   3. Implementing Six Sigma: Smarter Solutions using Statistical Methods, Forrest W.
      Breyfogle III, 2nd edition; 2003
   4. Trial and error, see for further
   5. One factor at a time, see
      time_method for further reading.
   6. Full factorial, see for further

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