A study into the use and proliferation of Lean Six-Sigma principles in the food industry
Ever since the time when the hunter-gatherers began to abandon their nomadic ways and embrace agriculture, the organised production, processing and storage of food has been one of humankind’s most important endeavours. Those who remained static to till the land, and keep animals for food, began a process that remained largely unchanged until the 18th century. At this stage, the large-scale production and processing of food became a necessity in the then-developing world, to feed the populations who had migrated from the land to operate the new processes brought about by industrialisation.
In this manner, food production and food processing also became industrialised. While continuous improvement (CI) methods began to creep into the non-food sector of industry around the commencement of the 20th century, it was much slower to take off in the food industry.
Since the onset of the 21st century, the CI concepts of Lean and Six Sigma have taken more of a foothold, Lean more-so than Six Sigma. These sets of tools, which endorse the benefits of reducing waste at all stages of processing, can currently be witnessed playing catch-up across the industry, and are gaining ground. CI is not, however, as universally applicable to the food industry as to other sectors, due to the unique set of quality requirements in food production, where food safety, food hygiene and security
of supply are more highly prized than are absolute-precision factors, such as perfect product size, shape or weight