Learn how Six Sigma is used in the wine-making business.

At the Six Sigma Ranch, Kaj Ahlmann, former Exective Vice President and director of GE Capital Services, owner of Six Sigma Ranch, and currently Managing Director and Chairman of the Global Advisory Council for insurance at Deutsche Bank, uses Six Sigma principles to produce great wine.

His vision for the winery: “To consistently produce a high quality wine by driving out variability in the vinification process through Six Sigma methodology and tool kit.”

Kaj started the winery in 1999, and in 2009 gave a talk at Google’s Mountain View location on the Six Sigma Ranch winery and how they use Six Sigma in the wine-making process. 

In his talk, Kaj describes the Six Sigma transition from manufacturing to services to wine-making.

As we know, the Voice of the Customer is extremely important in Six Sigma applications. Kaj and his team identified stated and unstated wine customer needs.

  • Wine Brand Preference
  • Wine Occasions
  • Wine Taste
  • Price Sensitivity
  • Origin Preference
  • Consumer Trends
  • Complementary Products
  • Wine Drinking Experience

Kaj describes the wine-making process macro steps:

  • Ripping
  • Planting
  • New Vineyard
  • Vineyard Maturing
  • Field Sorting
  • Harvest Collection
  • Berry Sorting
  • Fermentation
  • Aging
  • Bottling

At Six Sigma Ranch, they have broken the vinification process into three broad categories for Six Sigma application:

  • Procurement of Raw Materials: Grape Growing
  • Production: Wine Making
  • Distribution and Consumption: Wine Selling

Kaj breaks the process down into further detail via a swim lane. And into yet further detail with SIPOC diagrams and process maps.

Improvement efforts at the winery include:

  • Projects to standardize all processes for maximum predictability
  • University ties for improvement efforts
  • Extensive market research for customer behavior information
  • Six Sigma training schedule for employees at all levels

You can view Kaj’s excellent video and hear his perspective on the wine industry and Six Sigma here.

There is a current short discussion of Six Sigma in wine-making at the Six Sigma Ranch winery website.

If you would like more detailed information of Lean Six Sigma applications in Italian wineries, we list two sources for you.

First, a case study.

“The Lean Six Sigma Approach for Process Improvement: A Case Study in a High Quality Tuscany Winery”

And finally, a masters thesis in Industrial Engineering:

“The implementation of Lean Six Sigma methodology in the wine sector: an analysis of a wine bottling line in Trentino”