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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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Stacey gets out of the car and comes around and opens my door so I can spill myself onto the driveway. Standing up on uncertain legs, I steady myself against the car.

"I've never seen you smile so much," says Stacey.

"I've got a lot to smile about," I tell her.

"Wish you could be this happy in staff meetings," she says.

"Henceforth, I shall smile continuously through all staff meetings," I proclaim.

"Come on, I'll make sure you get to the door," she says.

With her hands around my arm to steady me, she guides me up the front walk to the door.

When we're at the door, I ask her, "How about some cof- fee?"

"No, thanks," she says. "It's late and I'd better get home."

"Sure?"

"Absolutely."

I fumble with the keys, find the lock, and the door swings open to a dark living room. I turn to Stacey and extend my hand.

"Thank you for a wonderful evening," I tell her. "I had a swell time."

Then as we're shaking hands, I for some reason step back- wards, trip over the doorstep and lose all my balance.

"Woops!"

The next thing I know Stacey and I are sprawled on the floor together. Fortunately-or maybe not as it turns out-Stacey thinks this is colossally funny. She's laughing so hard, tears start to roll down her cheeks. And so I start laughing too. Both of us are rolling on the floor with laughter-when the lights come on.

"You bastard!"

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I look up, my eyes adjusting to the sudden light, and there she is.

"Julie? What are you doing here?"

Without answering, she's now stomping through the kitchen. As I get to my feet and stagger after her, the door to the garage opens. The light switch in the garage clicks. I see her in silhouette for half a second.

"Julie! Wait a minute!"

I hear the garage door rumbling open as I attempt to follow her. As I go into the garage, she's already getting into her car. The door slams. I zig-zag closer, wildly waving my arms. The engine starts.

"I sit here waiting for you all night, putting up with your mother for six hours," she yells through the rolled-down window, "and you come home drunk with some floozy!"

"But Stacey isn't a floozy, she's-"

Accelerating to about thirty miles per hours in reverse, Julie backs out of the garage, down the driveway (narrowly missing Stacey's car) and into the street. I'm left standing there in the light of the garage. The tires of her car chirp upon the asphalt.

She's gone.

On Saturday morning, I wake up and groan a couple of times. The first groan is from the hangover. The second groan is from the memory of what happened.

When I'm able, I get dressed and venture into the kitchen in quest of coffee. My mother is there.

"You know your wife was here last night," says my mother as I pour my first cup.

So then I find out what happened. Julie showed up just after I called here last night. She had driven over on impulse, because she had missed me and she had wanted to see the kids. She ap- parently wanted to surprise me, which she did.

Later, I call the Barnett's number. Ada gives me the routine of "She doesn't want to talk to you anymore."

When I get to the plant on Monday, Fran tells me Stacey has been looking for me since she arrived this morning. I have just settled in behind my desk when Stacey appears at the door.

"Hi. Can we talk?" she asks.

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"Sure. Come on in," I say.

She seems disturbed about something. She's avoiding my eyes as she sits down.

I say, "Listen, about Friday night, I'm sorry about what hap- pened when you dropped me off."

Stacey says, "It's okay. Did your wife come back?"

"Uh, well, no, she didn't. She's staying with her parents for a little while," I say.

"Was it just because of me?" she asks.

"No, we've been having some problems lately."

"Al, I still feel kind of responsible," she says. "Look, why don't I talk to her."

"No, you don't have to do that," I say.

"Really, I think I ought to talk to her," says Stacey. "What's her number?"

I finally admit to myself it might be worth a try. So I give the Barnett's number to Stacey. She writes it down, and promises to call sometime today. Then she continues to sit there.

"Was there something else?" I ask.

"I'm afraid there is," she says.

She pauses.

"So what is it?"

"I don't think you're going to like this," she says. "But I'm pretty sure about it..."

"Stacey," I say. "What?"

"The bottlenecks have spread."

"What do you mean 'the bottlenecks have spread'?" I ask. "Is there a disease out there or something?"

"No, what I mean is we have a new bottleneck-or maybe even more than one; I'm not sure yet. Here, let me show you," she says as she comes around the side of the desk with some computer print-outs she's brought. "These are listings of parts that are queued up at final assembly."

She goes over the lists with me. As always, the bottleneck parts are still in short supply. But lately there have been shortages of some non -bottleneck parts as well.

She says, "Last week we had a case in which we had to build an order for 200 DBD-50's. Out of 172 different parts, we were missing 17. Only one of them was a red-tagged part. The rest were green tags. The red part came out of heat-treat on Thurs-

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day and was ready by Friday morning. But the others are still missing."

I lean back in my chair and pinch the bridge of my nose.

"Dammit, what the hell is going on out there? I had assumed the parts that have to go through a bottleneck would reach as- sembly last. Is there a materials shortage on those green-tagged parts? Some kind of vendor problem?" I ask her.

Stacey shakes her head. "No, I haven't had any problems with purchasing. And none of the parts have any processing by outside contractors. The problem is definitely internal. That's why I really think we have one or more new bottlenecks."

I get up from my desk, walk around the office.

"Maybe with the increase in throughput, we've loaded the plant to a level that we've run out of capacity on some other resources in addition to heat-treat and the NCX-10," Stacey sug- gests quietly.

I nod. Yes, that sounds like a possibility. With the bottlenecks more productive now, our throughput has gone up and our backlog is declining. But making the bottlenecks more productive has put more demand on the other work centers. If the demand on another work center has gone above one hundred percent, then we've created a new bottleneck.

Of the ceiling, I ask, "Does this mean we're going to have to go through the whole process of finding the bottlenecks all over again? Just when it seemed like we were on our way out of this mess..."

Stacey folds the print-outs.

I tell her, "Okay, look, I want you to find out everything you can-exactly which parts, how many, what products are affected, which routings they're on, how often they're missing, all that stuff. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to get hold of Jonah to see what he has to say about all this."

After Stacey leaves, and Fran does the calling to locate Jonah. I stand by the window in my office and stare at the lawn while I think. I took it as a good sign that inventory levels had declined after we implemented the new measures to make the bottleneck- more productive. A month ago we were wading through parts on the non-bottleneck routings. There were piles and piles, and the piles kept growing. But some of the stocks have dwindled over the past couple of weeks of product assembly. Last week, for the first time since I've been at this plant, you could actually walk

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