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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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166

"Right, the violins," says Sharon. "Well, when Mom wasn't talking, I heard that on the phone last night."

"I heard 'em too," says Dave.

"Really?" I say. "That's very interesting. Thank you both for noticing that. Maybe I'll give Grandma and Grandpa Barnett an- other call today."

I finish my coffee and stand up.

"Alex, you haven't even touched your oatmeal," says Mom.

I lean down and kiss her on the cheek. "Sorry, I'm late for school."

I wave to the kids and hurry to grab my briefcase.

"Well, I'll just have to save it so you can eat it tomorrow," says my mother.

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20

Driving to the plant, I pass the motel where Jonah stayed last night. I know he's long gone-he had a 6:30 A.M. flight to catch. I offered to pick him up this morning and drive him to the airport, but (lucky for me) he refused and said he'd take a cab.

As soon as I get to the office, I tell Fran to set up a meeting with the staff. Meanwhile, I start to write down a list of the actions Jonah suggested last night. But Julie comes to mind and won't leave. I close my office door and sit down at my desk. I find the number for Julie's parents and dial it.

The first day after Julie left, her parents called to ask me if I had heard anything. They haven't called back since. A day or two ago, I tried getting in touch with them to find out if they had heard anything. I called in the afternoon and I talked to Julie's mother, Ada. She said she didn't know where Julie was. Even then, I didn't quite believe her.

Now Ada answers again.

"Hi, this is Alex," I tell her. "Let me talk to Julie."

Ada is flustered. "Well, um, ah... she isn't here."

"Yes, she is."

I hear Ada sigh.

"She is there, isn't she," I say.

Finally Ada says, "She does not want to talk to you."

"How long, Ada? How long has she been there? Were you lying to me even that Sunday night when I called?"

"No, we were not lying to you," she says indignantly. "We had no idea where she was. She was with her friend, Jane, for a few days."

"Sure, and what about the other day when I called?"

"Julie simply asked me not to say where she was," says Ada, "and I shouldn't even be telling you now. She wants to be by herself for a while."

"Ada, I need to speak with her," I say.

"She will not come to the phone," says Ada.

"How do you know until you've asked?"

The phone on Ada's end is put down on the table. Footsteps fade away and return a minute later.

168

"She says she'll call you when she's ready," says Ada.

"What does that mean?"

"If you hadn't neglected her all these years, you wouldn't be in this situation," she says.

"Ada- "

"Good- bye," she says.

She hangs up the phone. I try calling back right away, but there is no answer. After a few minutes, I force my mind back to getting ready to talk to the staff.

At ten o'clock, the meeting starts in my office.

"I'd like to know what you think about what you heard last night," I say. "Lou, what was your reaction?"

Lou says, "Well... I just couldn't believe what he was say- ing about an hour of a bottleneck. I went home last night and thought it over to see if it all made sense. And, actually, we were wrong about a lost hour of a bottleneck costing $2,700."

"We were?" I ask.

"Only eighty percent of our products flow through the bot- tlenecks," says Lou as he takes a piece of note paper from his shirt pocket. "So the truer cost ought to be eighty percent of our operating expense, and that comes to $2,188 an hour-not

$2,735."

"Oh," I say. "I suppose you're right."

Then Lou smiles.

"Nevertheless," he says, "I have to admit it was quite an eye- opener to look at the situation from that perspective."

"I agree," I say. "What about the rest of you?"

I go from person to person around the office asking for reac- tions, and we're all pretty much in agreement. Even so, Bob seems hesitant about committing to some of the changes Jonah was talking about. And Ralph isn't sure yet where he fits in. But Stacey is a strong advocate.

She sums up, saying, "I think it makes enough sense to risk the changes."

"Although I'm nervous about anything that increases operat- ing expense at this point in time," says Lou, "I agree with Stacey. As Jonah said, we may face a bigger risk just staying on the path we've been following."

Bob raises one of his meaty hands in preparation for a com- ment.

169

"Okay, but some of what Jonah talked about will be easier and faster to make happen than the rest," he says. "Why don't we go ahead with the easier things right away and see what kind of effect they have while we're developing the others."

I tell him, "That sounds reasonable. What would you do first?"

"I think I'd wanna move the Q.C. inspection points first, to check parts going into the bottlenecks," says Bob. "The other Q.C. measures will take a little time, but we can have an inspector checking pre-bottleneck parts in no time-by the end of today if you want."

I nod. "Good. What about new rules for lunch breaks?"

"We might have a squawk or two from the union," he says.

I shake my head. "I think they'll go along with it. Work out the details and I'll talk to O'Donnell."

Bob makes a note on the paper pad on his lap. I stand up and step around the desk to emphasize what I'm about to say.

"One of the questions Jonah raised last night really struck home for me," I tell them. "Why are we making the bottlenecks work on inventory that won't increase throughput?"

Bob looks at Stacey, and she looks back at him.

"That's a good question," she says.

Bob says, "We made the decision-"

"I know the decision," I say. "Build inventory to maintain efficiencies." But our problem is not efficiencies. Our problem is our backlog of overdue orders. And it's very visible to our cus- tomers and to division management. We positively must do some- thing to improve our due-date performance, and Jonah has given us the insight on what that something has to be.

"Until now, we've expedited orders on the basis of who's screamed the loudest," I say. "From now on, late orders should get first priority over the others. An order that's two weeks late gets priority over an order that's one week late, and so on."

"We've tried that from time to time in the past," says Stacey.

"Yes, but the key this time is we make sure the bottlenecks are processing parts for those late orders according to the same pri- ority," I say.

"That's the sane approach to the problem, Al," says Bob, "Now how do we make it happen?"

"We have to find out which inventory en route to the bottle- necks is needed for late orders and which is simply going to end

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