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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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"Mr. Rogo's office," Fran answers.

"Hi, it's me," I say.

"Well, hello stranger," she says. "We were just about ready to start checking the hospitals for you. Think you'll make it in to- day?"

"Uh, yeah, I just had something unexpected come up with my mother, kind of an emergency," I say.

"Oh, well, I hope everything's all right."

"Yeah, it's, ah, taken care of now. More or less. Anything going on that I should know about?"

"Well... let's see," she says, checking (I suppose) my mes- sage slips. "Two of the testing machines in G-aisle are down, and Bob Donovan wants to know if we can ship without testing."

"Tell him absolutely not," I say.

"Okay," says Fran. "And somebody from marketing is calling about a late shipment."

My eyes roll over.

"And there was a fist fight last night on second shift... Lou still needs to talk to you about some numbers for Bill Peach... a reporter called this morning asking when the plant was going to close; I told him he'd have to talk to you... and a woman from corporate communications called about shooting a video tape here about productivity and robots with Mr. Granby," says Fran.

"With G ranby ?"

"That's what she said," says Fran.

"What's the name and number?"

She reads it to me.

"Okay, thanks. See you later," I tell Fran.

I call the woman at corporate right away. I can hardly believe the chairman of the board is going to come to the plant. There

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must be some mistake. I mean, by the time Granby's limo pulls up to the gate, the whole plant might be closed.

But the woman confirms it; they want to shoot Granby here sometime in the middle of next month.

"We need a robot as a suitable background for Mr. Granby's remarks," says the woman.

"So why did you pick Bearington?" I ask her.

"The director saw a slide of one of yours and he likes the color. He thinks Mr. Granby will look good standing in front of it," she says.

"Oh, I see," I tell her. "Have you talked to Bill Peach about this?"

"No, I didn't think there was any need for that," she says. "Why? Is there a problem?"

"You might want to run this past Bill in case he has any other suggestions," I tell her. "But it's up to you. Just let me know when you have an exact date so I can notify the union and have the area cleaned up."

"Fine. I'll be in touch," she says.

I hang up and sit there on the steps muttering, "So... he likes the color."

"What was that all about on the phone just now?" my mother asks. We're sitting together at the table. She's obliged me to have something to eat before I leave.

I tell her about Granby coming.

"Well that sounds like a feather in your cap, the head man- what's his name again?" asks my mother.

"Granby."

"Here he's coming all the way to your factory to see you," she says. "It must be an honor."

"Yeah, it is in a way," I tell her. "But actually he's just coming to have his picture taken with one of my robots."

My mother's eyes blink.

"Robots? Like from out-of-space?" she asks.

"No, not from outer space. These are industrial robots. They're not like the ones on television."

"Oh." Her eyes blink again. "Do they have faces?"

"No, not yet. They mostly have arms... which do things like welding, stacking materials, spray painting, and so on.

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They're run by computer and you can program them to do dif- ferent jobs," I explain.

Mom nods, still trying to picture what these robots are.

"So why's this Granby guy want to have his picture taken with a bunch of robots who don't even have faces?" she asks.

"I guess because they're the latest thing, and he wants to tell everybody in the corporation that we ought to be using more of them so that-"

I stop and glance away for a second, and see Jonah sitting there smoking his cigar.

"So that what?" asks my mother.

"Uh... so that we can increase productivity," I mumble, waving my hand in the air.

And Jonah says, have they really increased productivity at \ our plant? Sure they have, I say. We had-what?-a thirty-six percent improvement in one area. Jonah puffs his cigar.

"Is something the matter?" my mother asks.

"I just remembered something, that's all."

"What? Something bad?" she asks.

"No, an earlier conversation I had with the man I talked to last night," I say.

My mother puts her hand on my shoulder. "Alex, what's wrong?" she's asking. "Come on, you can tell me. I know something's wrong. You show up out of the blue on my doorstep, you're calling people all over the place in the mid- dle of the night. What is it?"

"See, Mom, the plant isn't doing so well... and, ah... well, we're not making any money." My mother's brow darkens.

"Your big plant not making any money?" she asks. "But you're telling me about this fancy guy Granby coming, and these robot things, whatever they are. And you're not making any money?"

"That's what I said, Mom." "Don't these robot things work?" "Mom-"

"If they don't work, maybe the store will take them back."

"Mom, will you forget about the robots!"

She shrugs. "I was just trying to help."

I reach over and pat her hand.

"Yes, I know you were," I say. "Thanks. Really, thanks for

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everything. Okay? I've got to get going now. I've really got a lot of work to do."

I stand up and go to get my briefcase. My mother follows. Did I get enough to eat? Would I like a snack to take with me for later in the day? Finally, she takes my sleeve and holds me in one place.

"Listen to me, Al. Maybe you've got some problems. I know you do, but this running all over the place, staying up all night isn't good for you. You've got to stop worrying. It's not going to help you. Look what worrying did to your father," she says. "It killed him."

"But, Mom, he was run over by a bus."

"So if he hadn't been so busy worrying he would have looked before he crossed the street."

I sigh. "Yeah, well, Mom, you may have a point. But it's more complicated than you think."

"I mean it! No worrying!" she says. "And this Granby fellow, if he's making trouble for you, you let me know. I'll call him and tell him what a worker you are. And who should know better than a mother? You leave him to me. I'll straighten him out."

I smile. I put my arm around her shoulders.

"I bet you would, Mom."

"You know I would."

I tell Mom to call me as soon as her phone bill arrives in the mail, and I'll come over and pay it. I give her a hug and a kiss good-bye, and I'm out of there. I walk out into the daylight and get into the Mazda. For a moment, I consider going straight to the office. But a glance at the wrinkles in my suit and a rub of the stubble on my chin convinces me to go home and clean up first.

Once I'm on my way, I keep hearing Jonah's voice saying to me: "So your company is making thirty-six percent more money from your plant just by installing some robots? Incredible." And I remember that I was the one who was smiling. I was the one who thought he didn't understand the realities of manufacturing. Now I feel like an idiot.

Yes, the goal is to make money. I know that now. And, yes, Jonah, you're right; productivity did not go up thirty-six percent just because we installed some robots. For that matter, did it go up at all? Are we making any more money because of the robots? And the truth is, I don't know. I find myself shaking my head.

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