In the midst of the holiday season, I want to bring up the subject of applying Six Sigma to food preparation, mainly baking. I am not implying that you try to apply Six Sigma variation reducing techniques to anyone’s holiday baking as it could cause negative unintended consequences, like boxed macaroni and cheese dinners for the New Year.
As a child, I recall sitting around the dinner table after consuming a huge holiday meal, listening to the discussions about my grandmother’s homemade cheesecake and lemon meringue pie. Statements such as “the cheesecake was the best ever”, “this year’s lemon meringue pie wasn’t a tart as last year’s”, “the crust came out perfect” etc . . . To be honest as a 10 year old, I was not able to discriminate such subtleties. Now that I am an adult, I question whether they really could either, particularly after such an eating event, not mention comparing samples 12 months apart. With that said, the deserts were always phenomenal.
Now, onto present day . . . why not apply Lean Six Sigma to baking? Well, some do! A few years ago a regional supermarket chain in the mid Atlantic region hired a Lean Six Sigma consultant to optimize their chocolate cake for ultimate customer satisfaction, taste, pricing and of course profitability. Using taste tests, QFD, Kano models and a little DOE, they were able to identify the characteristics that were most important, then worked on reproducing those characteristics every time with little variation.
The project was a success for both the customers and company producing ultimate chocolate cake experience. Going back to my statement of unintended negative consequences, the Black Belt may have gained a few extra pounds during that assignment.
What’s next? If we can apply Lean Six Sigma to baking cakes to maximize profits and customer satisfaction, doesn’t it make sense to apply it to all food industries?