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Six Sigma—In the Kitchen? A white paper Juan Gabriel Gomez Manufacturing Engineer March 22, 2010 Prologue 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 cream 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. References 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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_and_error for further reading. 5. One factor at a time, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-factor-at-a- time_method for further reading. 6. Full factorial, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factorial_experiment for further reading.
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