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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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"Yeah, you're too busy turning idle time into process time with the stroke of a pen," says Lou.

"Or turning process time into more piles of inventory," says Stacey.

They go on bantering about this for a minute. Meanwhile, I'm thinking there might be something more to this besides sim- plification. Jonah mentioned confusion between investment and expense; are we confused enough now to be doing something we shouldn't? Then I hear Stacey talking.

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"But how do we know the value of our finished goods?" she asks.

"First of all, the market determines the value of the prod- uct," says Lou. "And in order for the corporation to make money, the value of the product-and the price we're charging-has to be greater than the combination of the investment in inventory and the total operational expense per unit of what we sell."

I see by the look on Bob's face that he's very skeptical. I ask him what's bothering him.

"Hey, man, this is crazy," Bob grumbles.

"Why?" asks Lou.

"It won't work!" says Bob. "How can you account for every- thing in the whole damn system with three lousy measurements?"

"Well," says Lou as he ponders the board. "Name something that won't fit in one of those three."

"Tooling, machines..." Bob counts them on with his fin- gers. "This building, the whole plant!"

"Those are in there," says Lou.

"Where?" asks Bob.

Lou turns to him. "Look, those things are part one and part the other. If you've got a machine, the depreciation on that ma- chine is operational expense. Whatever portion of the investment still remains in the machine, which could be sold, is inventory."

"Inventory? I thought inventory was products, and parts and so on," says Bob. "You know, the stuff we're going to sell."

Lou smiles. "Bob, the whole plant is an investment which can be sold-for the right price and under the right circumstances."

And maybe sooner than we'd like, I think.

Stacey says, "So investment is the same thing as inventory."

"What about lubricating oil for the machines?" asks Bob.

"It's operational expense," I tell him. "We're not going to sell that oil to a customer."

"How about scrap?" he asks.

"That's operational expense, too."

"Yeah? What about what we sell to the scrap dealer?"

"Okay, then it's the same as a machine," says Lou. "Any money we've lost is operational expense; any investment that we can sell is inventory."

"The carrying costs have to be operational expense, don't they?" asks Stacey.

Lou and I both nod.

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Then I think about the "soft" things in business, things like knowledge-knowledge from consultants, knowledge gained from our own research and development. I throw it out to them to see how they think those things should be classified.

Money for knowledge has us stumped for a while. Then we decide it depends, quite simply, upon what the knowledge is used for. If it's knowledge, say, which gives us a new manufacturing process, something that helps turn inventory into throughput, then the knowledge is operational expense. If we intend to sell the knowledge, as in the case of a patent or a technology license, then it's inventory. But if the knowledge pertains to a product which UniCo itself will build, it's like a machine-an investment to make money which will depreciate in value as time goes on. And, again, the investment that can be sold is inventory; the de- preciation is operational expense.

"I got one for you," says Bob. "Here's one that doesn't fit: Granby's chauffeur."

"What?"

"You know, the old boy in the black suit who drives J. Bart Granby's limo for him," says Bob.

"He's operational expense," says Lou.

"Like hell he is! You tell me how Granby's chauffeur turns inventory into throughput," says Bob, and looks around as if he's really got us on this one. "I bet his chauffeur doesn't even know that inventory and throughput exist."

"Unfortunately, neither do some of our secretaries," says Stacey.

I say, "You don't have to have your hands on the product in order to turn inventory into throughput. Every day, Bob, you're out there helping to turn inventory into throughput. But to the people on the floor, it probably looks like all you do is walk around and make life complicated for everyone."

"Yeah, no appreciation from nobody," Bob pouts, "but you still haven't told me how the chauffeur fits in."

"Well, maybe the chauffeur helps Granby have more time to think and deal with customers, etc., while he's commuting here and there," I suggest.

"Bob, why don't you ask Mr. Granby next time you two have lunch," says Stacey.

"That's not as funny as you think," I say. "I just heard this

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morning that Granby may be coming here to make a video tape on robots."

"Granby's coming here?" asks Bob.

"And if Granby's coming, you can bet Bill Peach and all the others will be tagging along," says Stacey.

"Just what we need," grumbles Lou.

Stacey turns to Bob. "You see now why Al's asking questions about the robots. We've got to look good for Granby."

"We do look good," says Lou. "The efficiencies there are quite acceptable; Granby will not be embarrassed by appearing with the robots on tape."

But I say, "Dammit, I don't care about Granby and his video- tape. In fact, I will lay odds that the tape will never be shot here anyway, but that's beside the point. The problem is that every- body-including me until now-has thought these robots have been a big productivity improvement. And we just learned that they're not productive in terms of the goal. The way we've been using them, they're actually co u n te r-productive."

Everyone is silent.

Finally, Stacey has the courage to say, "Okay, so somehow we've got to make the robots productive in terms of the goal."

"We've got to do more than that," I say. I turn to Bob and Stacey. "Listen, I've already told Lou, and I guess this is as good a time as any to tell the both of you. I know you'll hear it eventually anyhow."

"Hear what?" asks Bob.

"We've been given an ultimatum by Peach-three months to turn the plant around or he closes us down for good," I say.

Both of them are stunned for a few moments. Then they're both firing questions at me. I take a few minutes and tell them A hat I know-avoiding the news about the division; I don't want to send them into panic.

Finally, I say, "I know it doesn't seem like a lot of time. It isn't. But until they kick me out of here, I'm not giving up. What vou decide to do is your own business, but if you want out, I suggest you leave now. Because for the next three months, I'm joing to need everything you can give me. If we can make this place show any progress, I'm going to go to Peach and do what- ever I have to to make him give us more time."

"Do you really think we can do it?" asks Lou.

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