Approaching the Food Waste Problem with Lean Six Sigma and Statistics

Minitab Blog Editor 18 November, 2015

According to this article published on Food Tank, over 22 million pounds of food is wasted on college campuses each year. Now that’s a lot of food waste!

Students all over the country are noticing excessive food waste at their schools and are starting programs to bring awareness and improve the problem. Naturally, many of these programs have roots in Lean Six Sigma. In one example, a group of students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology lessened to the food waste problem at their school by completing a Lean Six Sigma project that followed the DMAIC framework.

Dr. Diane Evans, Six Sigma black belt and associate professor of mathematics at Rose-Hulman, led the students in their effort. "I wanted my students to go through the process of completing a project from start to finish," Evans says. "The food waste project provided students with this opportunity, and gave them a chance to put the skills they were learning in class to use in the real world."

According to a July 2012 article in Food Policy, U.S. food waste on the consumer level translated into almost 273 pounds per person in 2008. Evans’ students converted this number into pounds per day, and to determine the amount of waste per meal, they divided the figure by 2.5 meals per day (they did not count breakfast as a full meal because it typically does not see as much waste as lunch or dinner). The students ended up calculating an average food waste amount of 4.78 ounces per meal. So their goal became to reduce edible food waste per student by one ounce per meal during the school’s lunch period.

Using Lean Six Sigma tools, such as process maps and CT Trees, as well as using Minitab for data analysis, Rose-Hulman students reached an impressive outcome—greatly surpassing their original goal. For more information on how they did it, take a look at this past blog post.