One of the world’s most efficient human-only logistics network is Mumbai’s lunchbox supply chain

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In an era where many cannot imagine an efficient supply chain operating without the benefit of technology, Mumbai India has an example of a lean, just-in-time, 99.99 percent accurate supply chain operating without any form of technology.

In India, “tiffin” is a packed lunch typically prepared for working Indian men by their wives after they have left for work. These tiffins are delivered by the dabbawalla, of whom almost 50 percent are illiterate. This supply chain delivers home cooked food to the office in time for lunch, and then returns the empty tiffin-boxes by the end of the working day. In a crowded city like Mumbai where merely boarding a local train is a huge challenge, toting a bulky tiffin carrier and delivering it on time is a daunting task.

Started in 1890, today 5,000 dabbawallas serve 200,000 customers in Mumbai. This involves 400,000 last mile transactions per day (including the return of empty tiffin carriers) with an error rate of 1 in 16 million transactions. This high rate of dependability earned this supply chain a six sigma designation and an ISO 9001 accreditation.

[Source: Logistics Viewpoints]