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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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"Well, Bob may have a point. We've got a lot of automated equipment out there, and the process times ought to be fairly consistent," says Lou.

Stacey turns to him. "But what he's saying-"

Just then the conference room door opens. Fred, one of our expeditors, puts his head into the room and looks at Bob Dono- van.

"May I see you for a second?" he asks Bob. "It's about the job for Hilton Smyth."

Bob stands up to leave the room, but I tell Fred to come in. Like it or not, I have to be interested in what's happening on this "crisis" for Hilton Smyth. Fred explains that the job has to go

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through two more departments before the sub-assemblies are complete and ready for shipment.

"Can we get them out today?" I ask.

"It's going to be close, but we can try," says Fred. "The truck shuttle leaves at five o'clock."

The shuttle is a private trucking service that all the plants in the division use to move parts back and forth.

"Five o'clock is the last run of the day that we can use to reach Smyth's plant," says Bob. "If we don't make that trip, the next shuttle won't be until tomorrow afternoon."

"What has to be done?" I ask.

"Peter Schnell's department has to do some fabricating. Then the pieces have to be welded," says Fred. "We're going to set up one of the robots to do the welds."

"Ah, yes, the robots," I say. "You think we can do it?"

"According to the quotas, Pete's people are supposed to give us the parts for twenty-five units every hour," says Fred. "And I know the robot is capable of welding twenty-five units of this sub- assembly per hour."

Bob asks about moving the pieces to the robot. In a normal situation, the pieces finished by Pete's people probably would be moved to the robot only once a day, or maybe not until the entire batch was finished. We can't wait that long. The robot has to begin its work as soon as possible.

"I'll make arrangements to have a materials handler stop at Pete's department every hour on the hour," says Fred.

"Okay," says Bob. "How soon can Pete start?"

Fred says, "Pete can start on the job at noon, so we've got five hours."

"You know that Pete's people quit at four," says Bob.

"Yeah, I told you it's going to be close," says Fred. "But all we can do is try. That's what you want, isn't it?"

This gives me an idea. I talk to the staff. "You people don't really know what to make of what I told you this morning. But if what I've told you is correct, then we should be able to see the effects occurring out there on the floor. Am I right?"

The heads nod.

"And if we know that Jonah is correct, we'd be pretty stupid to continue running the plant the same way as before-right? So I'm going to let you see for yourselves what's happening. You say Pete's going to start on this at noon?"

"Right," says Fred. "Everyone in that department is at lunch

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now. They went at eleven-thirty. So they'll start at twelve. And the robot will be set up by one o'clock, when the materials handler will make the first transfer."

I take some paper and a pencil and start sketching a simple schedule.

"The output has to be one hundred pieces by five o'clock- no less than that. Hilton says he won't accept a partial shipment. So if we can't do the whole job, then I don't want us to ship anything," I say. "Now Pete's people are supposed to produce at the rate of twenty-five pieces per hour. But that doesn't mean they'll always have twenty-five at the end of every hour. Some- times they'll be a few pieces short, sometimes they'll be a few ahead."

I look around; everyone is with me.

"So we've got statistical fluctuations going on," I say. "But we're planning that from noon until four o'clock, Pete's depart- ment should have averaged an output of one hundred pieces. The robot, on the other hand, is supposed to be more precise in its output. It will be set up to work at the rate of twenty-five pieces per hour-no more, no less. We also have dependent events, be- cause the robot cannot begin its welding until the materials han- dler has delivered the pieces from Pete's department."

"The robot can't start until one o'clock," I say, "but by five o'clock when the truck is ready to leave, we want to be loading the last piece into the back. So, expressed in a diagram, this is what is supposed to happen..."

I show them the finished schedule, which looks like this:

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"Okay, I want Pete to keep a log of exactly how many parts are actually completed by his department hour by hour," I say . "And I want Fred to keep the same type of log for the robot . And remember: no cheating. We need the real numbers. Okay?"

"Sure, no problem," says Fred.

"By the way, do you actually think we'll be able to ship one hundred pieces today?" I ask.

"I guess it's up to Pete," says Bob. "If he says he can do it, I don't see why not."

"Tell you what," I say to Bob. "I'll bet you ten bucks we don't ship today."

"You serious?" asks Bob.

"Sure I am."

"Okay, you're on," says Bob. "Ten bucks."

While everyone else is at lunch, I call Hilton Smyth. Hilton is at lunch as well, but I leave a message for him. I tell his secretary the sub-assemblies will definitely arrive at his plant tomorrow, but that's the best we can do-unless Hilton wants to pay for a special shipment tonight. (Knowing his concern for holding down costs, I'm sure Hilton won't want to shell out anything extra.)

After that call, I sit back and try to think about my marriage and what to do. Obviously, there has been no news from Julie. I'm mad as hell that she took off-I'm also very worried about her. But what can I do? I can't cruise the streets looking for her. She could be anywhere; I just have to be patient. Eventually I should hear from her. Or her lawyer. Meanwhile, there are two kids who have to be taken care of. Well, for all practical purposes, we'd better make that three kids.

Fran comes into my office with another message slip. She says, "One of the other secretaries just gave me this as I got back from lunch. While you were on the phone, you got a call from David Rogo. Is that your son?"

"Yes, what's the problem?"

"It says, he's worried he won't be able to get into the house after school," she says. "Is your wife gone?"

"Yeah, she's out of town for a few days," I tell her. "Fran, you've got a couple of kids. How do you manage to hold a job and take care of them?"

She laughs. "Well, 'tain't easy. On the other hand, I don't work the long hours you do. If I were you, I'd get some help until she gets back."

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