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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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184

"Shall we go?" suggests Julie.

Joking, I tell Julie's mother, "I'll have her home by ten o'clock."

"Good," says Mrs. Barnett. "We'll be waiting."

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22

"There you have it," says Ralph.

"Not bad," says Stacey.

"Not bad? It's a lot better than not bad," says Bob.

"We must be doing something right," says Stacey.

"Yeah, but it isn't enough," I mutter.

A week has passed. We're grouped around a computer ter- minal in the conference room. Ralph has extracted from the com- puter a list of overdue orders that we shipped last week.

"Isn't enough? At least it's progress," says Stacey. "We shipped twelve orders last week. For this plant, that's not bad. And they were our twelve most overdue orders."

"By the way, our worst overdue order is now only forty four days late," says Ralph. "As you may recall, the worst one used to be fifty eight days."

"All right!" says Donovan.

I step back to the table and sit down.

Their enthusiasm is somewhat justified. The new system of tagging all the batches according to priority and routing has been working fairly well. The bottlenecks are getting their parts promptly. In fact, the piles of inventory in front of them have grown. Following bottleneck processing, the red-tagged parts have been getting to final assembly faster. It's as if we've created an "express lane" through the plant for bottleneck parts.

After putting Q.C. in front of the bottlenecks, we discovered that about five percent of the parts going into the NCX-10 and about seven percent going into heat-treat did not conform to quality requirements. If those percentages hold true in the fu- ture, we'll effectively have gained that time for additional throughput.

The new policy of having people cover the bottlenecks on lunch breaks has also gone into effect. We're not sure how much we've gained from that, because we didn't know how much we were losing before. At least we're doing the right thing now. But I have heard reports that from time to time the NCX-10 is idle- and it happens when there is nobody on break. Donovan is sup- posed to be looking into the causes.

186

The combination of these has allowed us to ship our most critical orders and to ship a few more of them than normal. But I know we're not going fast enough. A few weeks ago we were limping along; now we're walking, but we ought to be jogging.

Glancing back toward the monitor, I see the eyes are upon me.

"Listen... I know we've taken a step in the right direc- tion," I explain. "But we have to accelerate the progress. It's good that we got twelve shipments out last week. But we're still having some customer orders become past due. It's not as many, I'll grant you, but we still have to do better. We really shouldn't have any late orders."

Everyone walks away from the computer and joins me around the table. Bob Donovan starts telling me how they're planning some refinements on what we've already done.

I say, "Bob, those are fine, but they're minor. How are we coming on the other suggestions Jonah made?"

Bob glances away.

"Well... we're looking into them," he says.

I say, "I want recommendations on offloading the bottle- necks ready for our Wednesday staff meeting."

Bob nods, but says nothing.

"You'll have them for us?" I ask.

"Whatever it takes," he says.

That afternoon in my office, I have a meeting with Elroy Langston, our Q.C. manager, and Barbara Penn, who handles employee communications. Barbara writes the newsletters, which are now explaining the background and reasons for the changes taking place in the plant. Last week, we distributed the first issue. I put her together with Langston to have her work on a new project.

After parts exit the bottlenecks, they often tend to look al- most identical to the parts going into the bottlenecks. Only a close examination by a trained eye will detect the difference in some cases. The problem is how to make it easy for the employee to tell the two apart... and to make it possible for the employee to treat the post-bottleneck parts so more of them make it to assem- bly and are shipped as quality products. Langston and Penn are in my office to talk about what they've come up with.

"We already have the red tags," says Penn. "So that tells us

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the part is on a bottleneck routing. What we need is a simple way to show people the parts they need to treat with special attention -the ones they need to treat like gold."

"That's a suitable comparison," I tell her.

She says, "So what if we simply mark the tags with pieces of yellow tape after the parts are finished by the bottlenecks. The tape would tell people on sight that these are the parts you treat like gold. In conjunction with this, I'll do an internal promotion to spread the word about what the tape means. For media, we might use some sort of bulletin board poster, an announcement that the foremen would read to the hourly people, maybe a ban- ner which would hang in the plant-those kinds of things."

"As long as the tape can be added without slowing down the bottlenecks, that sounds fine," I say.

"I'm sure we can find a way to do it so it doesn't interfere," says Langston.

"Good," I say. "One other concern of mine is that I don't want this to be just a lot of promotion."

"That's perfectly understood," says Langston with a smile. "Right now, we're systematically identifying the causes of quality problems on the bottlenecks and in subsequent processing. Once we know where to aim, we'll be having specific procedures devel- oped for bottleneck-routed parts and processes. And once they're established, we'll set up training sessions so people can learn those procedures. But that's obviously going to take some time. For the short term, we're specifying that the existing procedures be double-checked for accuracy on the bottleneck routes."

We talk that over for a few minutes, but basically all of it seems sound to me. I tell them to proceed full speed and to keep me informed of what's happening.

"Nice job," I say to both of them as they stand up to leave. "By the way, Roy, I thought Bob Donovan was going to sit in on this meeting."

"That man is hard to catch these days," says Langston. "But I'll brief him on what we talked about."

Just then, the phone rings. Reaching with one hand to an- swer it, I wave to Langston and Penn with the other as they walk out the door.

"Hi, this is Donovan."

"It's too late to call in sick," I tell him. "Don't you know you just missed a meeting?"

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