Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Dabbawalas of Mumbay – best practice in distribution logistics

While travelling in Asia and trying to understand the wonders of the world I wanted to post on topic of Dabbawalas of Mumbay (or Dabbawallahs by other spelling). Dabbawalas are persons executing a remarkable food logistics operation every six working days in Mumbay. The logisitics process is about collecting lunch boxes from peoples homes to deliver these in offices and then bringing back empty boxes in the evening. The customers are whitecollar workers in the offices who prefer home food and have to commute early in the morning. The dabbawala system gives some extra hours for housewives cooking the food. This unique, more than 100 year old system has many characteristics which are worth benchmarking by any global logistics company:

  1. More than 4500 people working with approximately 300 000 transactions, 6 days a week
  2. Delivery distantaces up to 50 miles
  3. Based on human transportation, cross stocking and public transportation
  4. Less than 6 errors in period of two months operation [1] (this would mean 8.3*10-7 ppm, which is a pretty good figure for any six-sigma organisation)
  5. No computer required on transportation planning system (TPS) (albeit, according to wiki page, they starting to use SMS in communication and web pages to manage subscritions e.g. http://mydabbawala.com).
  6. Business model based on subscrition cost between 40 - 80 USD per month

This seems to be a very lean system, which provides unit cost of 2 – 4 USD / box delivery (back and forth). In case you became interested, a scientific description of this logistics system is reported by Ravindran [1]. This report includes some more details of organisation and history of Dabbawalas.

BR, Petri (from Kasetsart University, Bangkok)

[1] Ravichadran N. (2005). World Class Logistics Operations: The Case of Bombay Dabbawallahs. Indian Institute of Mangement, Ahmedabad, India. http://www.iimahd.ernet.in/publications/data/2005-09-01ravichandran.pdf(accessed 2008-02-01)

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