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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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188

That doesn't faze him.

"Al, have I got something to show you!" says Bob. "Got time to take a little walk?"

"Yeah, I guess so. What's this all about?"

"Well... I'll tell you when you get here," says Bob. "Meet me on the receiving dock."

I walk down to the dock, where I see Bob; he's standing there waving to me as if I might miss him. Which would be im- possible. There is a flat-bed truck backed up to the dock, and in the middle of the bed is a large object on a skid. The object is covered by a gray canvas tarp which has ropes tying it down. A couple of guys are working with an overhead crane to move the thing off of the truck. They're raising it into the air as I walk up to Bob. He cups his hands around his mouth.

"Easy there," Bob calls as he watches the big gray thing sway back and forth.

Slowly, the crane maneuvers the cargo back from the truck and lowers it safely to the concrete floor. The workers release the hoist chains. Bob walks over and has them untie the ropes hold- ing down the canvas.

"We'll have it off in a minute," Bob assures me.

I stand there patiently, but Bob can't refrain from helping. When all the ropes are untied, Donovan takes hold of the tarp and, with a flair of gusto, flings it off of what it's concealing.

"Ta- da!" he says as he stands back and gestures to what has to be one of the oldest pieces of equipment I've ever seen.

"What the hell is it?" I ask.

"It's a Zmegma," he says.

He takes a rag and wipes off some of the grime.

"They don't build 'em like this anymore," he says.

"I'm very glad to hear that," I say.

"Al," he says, "the Zmegma is just the machine we need!"

"That looks like it might have been state-of-the-art for 1942. How's it going to help us?"

"Well... I admit it ain't no match for the NCX-10. But if you take this baby right here," he says patting the Zmegma, "and one of those Screwmeisters over there," he says pointing across the way, "and that other machine off in the corner, together they can do all the things the NCX-10 can do."

I glance around at the different machines. All of them are old and idle. I step closer to the Zmegma to look it over.

189

"So this must be one of the machines you told Jonah we sold to make way for the inventory holding pen," I say.

"You got it," he says.

"It's practically an antique. All of them are," I say, referring to the other machines. "Are you sure they can give us acceptable quality?"

"It isn't automated equipment, so with human error we might have a few more mistakes," says Bob. "But if you want capacity, this is a quick way to get it."

I smile. "It's looking better and better. Where did you find this thing?"

"I called a buddy of mine this morning up at our South End plant," he says. "He told me he still had a couple of these sitting around and he'd have no problem parting with one of them. So I grabbed a guy from maintenance and we took a ride up to have a look."

I ask him, "What did it cost us?"

"The rental fee on the truck to haul it down here," says Bob. "The guy at South End told us just to go ahead and take it. He'll write it off as scrap. With all the paperwork he'd have to do, it was too much trouble to sell it to us."

"Does it still work?"

"It did before we left," says Bob. "Let's find out."

The maintenance man connects the power cable to an outlet on a nearby steel column. Bob reaches for the power switch and hits the ON button. For a second, nothing happens. Then we hear the slow, gathering whirr from somewhere in the guts of the old machine. Poofs of dust blow out of the antique fan housing. Bob turns to me with a dumb grin on his big face.

"Guess we're in business," he says.

190
23

Rain is beating at the windows of my office. Outside, the world is gray and blurred. It's the middle of a middle-of-the-week morning. In front of me are some so-called "Productivity Bulle- tins" put out by Hilton Smyth which I've come across in my in- basket. I haven't been able to make myself read past the first paragraph of the one on top. Instead, I'm gazing at the rain and pondering the situation with my wife.

Julie and I went out on our "date" that Saturday night, and we actually had a good time. It was nothing exotic. We went to a movie, we got a bite to eat afterwards, and for the heck of it we took a drive through the park on the way home. Very tame. But it was exactly what we needed. It was good just to relax with her. I admit that at first I felt kind of like we were back in high school or something. But, after a while, I decided that wasn't such a bad feeling. I brought her back to her parents at two in the morning, and we made out in the driveway until her old man turned on the porch light.

Since that night, we've continued to see each other. A couple of times last week, I made the drive up to see her. Once, we met halfway at a restaurant. I've been dragging myself to work in the morning, but with no complaints. We've had fun together.

By some unspoken agreement, neither of us talk about di- vorce or marriage. The subject has only come up once, which happened when we talked about the kids and agreed they should stay with Julie and her folks as soon as school ends. I tried then to push us into some answers, but the old argument syndrome be- gan to brew quickly, and I backed off to preserve the peace.

It's a strange state of limbo we're in. It almost feels the way it did before we got married and "settled down." Only now, we're both quite familiar to each other. And there is this storm which has gone south for a while, but which is sure to swing back some- day.

A soft tap at the door interrupts this meditation. I see Fran's face peeking around the edge of the door.

"Ted Spencer is outside," she says. "He says he needs to talk to you about something."

191

"What about?"

Fran steps into the office and closes the door behind her. She quickly comes over to my desk and whispers to me.

"I don't know, but I heard on the grapevine that he had an argument with Ralph Nakamura about an hour ago," she says.

"Oh," I say. "Okay, thanks for the warning. Send him in."

A moment later Ted Spencer comes in. He looks mad. I ask him what's happening down in heat-treat.

He says, "Al, you've got to get that computer guy off my back."

"You mean Ralph? What have you got against him?"

"He's trying to turn me into some kind of clerk or some- thing," says Ted. "He's been coming around and asking all kinds of dumb questions. Now he wants me to keep some kind of spe- cial records on what happens in heat-treat."

"What kind of records?" I ask.

"I don't know... he wants me to keep a detailed log of everything that goes in and out of the furnaces... the times we put 'em in, the times we take 'em out, how much time between heats, all that stuff," says Ted. "And I've got too much to do to be bothered with all that. In addition to heat-treat, I've got three other work centers I'm responsible for."

"Why does he want this time log?" I ask.

"How should I know? I mean, we've already got enough paperwork to satisfy anybody, as far as I'm concerned," says Ted. "I think Ralph just wants to play games with numbers. If he's got the time for it, then fine, let him do it in his own department. I've got the productivity of my department to worry about."

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