The Dabbawala System

For over a century, the dabbawalas of Mumbai deliver over 100,000 home cooked meals to the office workers of the city with high precision. Relying only on their clever system of delivery routing and coding, and the unwavering commitment of their uneducated but hard-working employees, the Dabbawala Organization had grown into one of the most successful and efficient companies in all of Mumbai. Despite their unwillingness to implement any from of technology in their enterprise, the dabbawalas have achieved an efficiency of only 1 error in about 6 million deliveries, earning a Six-Sigma quality rating for the organization. However, due to expected logistical complications in the future, the business will be forced to adopt some forms of technology if it wishes to grow and maintain the split-second accuracy that has made it so successful.
Timing is everything for the dabbawala system to succeed. Each day the dabbawalas are forced to push large handcarts loaded with dabbas through Mumbai’s crowded streets. A sharp rise in the number of vehicles on the road and in the amount of roadwork being done have made the streets much less navigable than in the past. Also, there is the ever-present concern that a lunch box may not be ready on time. This makes timing even more critical in that a single delay can have a cascading effect, impacting thousands of deliveries.   By using computer automating routing software they could optimize their morning pick-up and delivery routes, accounting for considerations such as roadblocks and traffic delays. This could save valuable minutes, which would allow for more customers on a single route.
Since the company’s inception, all customer orders have come via word-of-mouth or from inquiries made at local train stations. While it has worked reasonably well up until now, if the company really wants to expand its customer base and increase monthly revenue, it may be in its best interest to also utilize online and text messaging services to...