Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Stat of the Day: Dabbawala 99% Error Free Rate

As many of you may know, the tiffin delivery/dabbawala system in India has achieved remarkable rates of success in setting up a complex delivery system. Their ability to deliver millions of meals a year without making mistakes makes me think about how this system can be transferred to healthcare and for what purpose… something to think about. As Dr. V took inspiration (WSJ, PDF) from a highly standardized and high volume system, I am wondering the same thing for a system already in place in a low resource setting. Food for thought, well worth checking out:

From The Economist (link):
“Using an elaborate system of colour-coded boxes to convey over 170,000 meals to their destinations each day, the 5,000-strong dabbawala collective has built up an extraordinary reputation for the speed and accuracy of its deliveries. Word of their legendary efficiency and almost flawless logistics is now spreading through the rarefied world of management consulting. Impressed by the dabbawalas’ “six-sigma” certified error rate—reportedly on the order of one mistake per 6m deliveries—management gurus and bosses are queuing up to find out how they do it.” Full story link here.

Hat tip Intangible Economy.


Written by Aman

July 21, 2008 at 10:35 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Realy great article,
    enjoyed reading.
    please keep on writing.


    October 4, 2008 at 10:33 am

  2. This is a great story, thank you for sharing it. Over the past few decades, in their work to improve the health of people globally, research based biopharmaceutical companies are continually faced with the same dilemma you describe: how best to improve a population’s access to medicines where resources are low and infrastructure is limited. These companies have been facing this challenge with their partners, and have achieved positive results. Check out the Global Health Progress site for more specific information on these programs.

  3. Wow, the post title doesn’t go far enough! If 1 error per 6 million deliveries is accurate, this is well into “six-sigma” territory. 3.4 errors per million operations is the threshold and this is six million operations. Further, if it is based on long-term data, the threshold is even greater than 3.4 DPMO. In percentage terms we’re talking a 0.00002% error rate.


    July 31, 2008 at 6:04 pm

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