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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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Stacey says, "Okay, but you have to promise me you won't change it because of pressure from marketing."

"My word of honor," I tell her. Then I say to Ted and Mario, "In all seriousness, I hope you two guys know that heat-treat and the NCX-10 are the most important processes in the whole plant. How well you manage those two could very well determine whether this plant has a future."

"We'll do our best," says Ted.

"I can assure you that they will," says Bob Donovan.

Right after that meeting, I go down the hall to the personnel relations for a meeting with Mike O'Donnell, the union local president. When I walk in, my personnel manager, Scott Dolin, is

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gripping the armrests of his chair with white knuckles, while O'Donnell is talking at the top of his voice.

"What's the problem here?" I ask.

"You know very well what the problem is: your new lunch rules in heat-treat and n/c machining," says O'Donnell. "They're in violation of the contract. I refer you to Section Seven, Para- graph Four..."

I say, "Okay, wait a minute, Mike. It's time we gave the union an update on the situation of the plant."

For the rest of the morning I describe for him the situation the plant is in. Then I tell him some of what we've discovered and explain why the changes are necessary.

Wrapping up, I say, "You understand, don't you, that it's probably only going to affect about twenty people at the most?"

He shakes his head.

"Look, I appreciate you trying to explain all this," he says. "But we got a contract. Now if we look the other way on one thing, what's to say you won't start changing whatever else you don't like?"

I say, "Mike, in all honesty, I can't tell you that down the road aways, we won't need to make other changes. But we're ultimately talking about jobs. I'm not asking for cuts in wages or concessions on benefits. But I am asking for flexibility. We have to have the leeway necessary to make changes that will allow the plant to make money. Or, very simply, there may not be a plant in a few months."

"Sounds like scare tactics to me," he says finally.

"Mike, all I can say is, if you want to wait a couple of months to see if I'm just trying to scare everyone, it'll be too late."

O'Donnell is quiet for a moment.

Finally, he says, "I'll have to think about it, talk it over and all that. We'll get back to you."

By early afternoon, I can't stand it anymore. I'm anxious to find out how the new priority system is working. I try calling Bob Donovan, but he's out in the plant. So I decide to go have a look for myself.

The first place I check is the NCX-10. But when I get to the machine, there's nobody to ask. Being an automated machine, it runs a lot of the time with nobody tending it. The problem is that when I walk up, the damn thing is just sitting there. It isn't run- ning and nobody is doing a set-up. I get mad.

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I go find Mario.

"Why the hell isn't that machine working?" I ask him.

He checks with the foreman. Finally he walks back to me.

"We don't have the materials," he says.

"What do you mean, you don't have materials," I shout. "What do you call these stacks of steel everywhere?"

"But you told us to work according to what's on the list," says Mario.

"You mean you finished all the late parts?"

"No, they did the first two batches of parts," says Mario. "When they got to the third part on the list, they looked all around and couldn't find the materials for it in the queue. So we're shut down until they turn up."

I'm ready to strangle him.

"That's what you wanted us to do, right?" says Mario. "You wanted us to do only what was on the list and in the same order as listed, didn't you? Isn't that what you said?"

Finally I say, "Yes, that is what I said. But didn't it occur to you that if you couldn't do one item on the list you should go on to the next?"

Mario looks helpless.

"Well, where the hell are the materials you need?" I ask him.

"I have no idea," he says. "They could be any of half-a-dozen places. But I think Bob Donovan might have somebody looking for them already."

"Okay, look," I tell him. "You have the setup people get this machine ready for whatever is the next part on that list for which you do have the materials. And keep this hunk of junk running."

"Yes sir," says Mario.

Fuming mad, I start back to the office to have Donovan paged, so I can find out what went wrong. Halfway there, I pass some lathes and there he is, talking to Otto the foreman. I don't know how civil the tone is. Otto appears to be dismayed by Bob's presence. I stop and stand there waiting for Bob to finish and notice me. Which happens directly. Otto walks over and calls his machinists together. Bob comes over to me.

I say, "You know about what's going on-"

"Yes, I know," he says. "That's why I'm here."

"What's the problem?"

"Nothing, no problem," he says. "Just standard operating procedure."

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It turns out, as Bob explains to me, that the parts they were waiting for at the NCX-10 have been sitting there for about a week. Otto has been running other batches of parts. He didn't know about the importance of the parts destined for the NCX-10. To him they looked like any other batch-and a rather unimpor- tant one judging from the size. When Bob got here, they were in the middle of a big, long run. Otto didn't want to stop... until Donovan explained it to him, that is.

"Dammit, Al, it's just like before," Bob says. "They get set up and they start running one thing, and then they have to break in the middle so we can finish something else. It's the same damn thing!"

"Now hold on," I say. "Let's think about this for a second." Bob shakes his head. "What is there to think about?" "Let's just try to reason this through," I say. "What was the problem?"

"The parts didn't arrive at the NCX-10, which meant the operators couldn't run the batch they were supposed to be run- ning," says Bob in kind of a sing-song way.

"And the cause was that the bottleneck parts were held up by this non-bottleneck machine running non-bottleneck parts," I say. "Now we've got to ask ourselves why that happened."

"The guy in charge here was just trying to stay busy, that's all," says Bob.

"Right. Because if he didn't stay busy, someone like you would come along and jump all over him," I say.

"Yeah, and if I didn't, then someone like you would jump all over me," says Bob.

"Okay, granted. But even though this guy was busy, he wasn't helping to move toward the goal," I say.

"Well..."

"He wasn't, Bob! Look," I say. I point to the parts destined for the NCX-10. "We need those parts now, not tomorrow. The non-bottleneck parts we may not need for weeks, or even months -maybe never. So by continuing to run the non-bottleneck parts, this guy was actually interfering with our ability to get an order out the door and make money."

"But he didn't know any better," says Bob.

"Exactly. He couldn't distinguish between an important batch of parts and an unimportant one," I say. "Why not?"

"Nobody told him."

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