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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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over to the assembly line without having to turn sideways to squeeze between the stacks and bins of inventory. I thought it was good. But now this happens.

"Mr. Rogo," says Fran through the intercom speaker. "I've got him on the line."

I pick up the phone. "Jonah? Hi. Listen, we've got trouble here."

"What's wrong?" he asks.

After I tell him the symptoms, Jonah asks what we've done since his visit. So I relate all the history to him-putting Q.C. in front of the bottlenecks, training people to give special care to bottleneck parts, activating the three machines to supplement the NCX-10, the new lunch rules, assigning certain people to work only at the bottlenecks, increasing the batch sizes going into heat- treat, implementing the new priority system in the plant...

"New priority system?" asks Jonah.

"Right," I say, and then I explain about the red tags and green tags, and how the system works.

Jonah says, "Maybe I'd better come have another look."

I'm at home that night when the phone rings.

"Hi," says Julie's voice when I answer.

"Hi."

"I owe you an apology. I'm sorry about what happened on Friday night," she says. "Stacey called me here. Al, I'm really embarrassed. I completely misunderstood."

"Yeah, well... it seems to me there's a lot of misunder- standing between us lately," I say.

"All I can say is I'm sorry. I drove down thinking you'd be glad to see me."

"I would have been if you'd stayed," I say. "In fact, if I'd known you were coming, I would have come home after work."

"I know I should have called," she says, "but I was just in one of those moods."

"I guess you shouldn't have waited for me," I tell her.

She says, "I just kept thinking you'd be home any minute. And the whole time, your mother kept giving me the evil eye. Finally she and the kids went to bed, and about an hour later I fell asleep on the sofa and slept until you came in."

"Well... you want to be friends again?"

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I can hear her relief.

"Yes, I would," she says. "When will I see you?" I suggest we try Friday all over again. She says she can't wait that long. We compromise on Wednesday.

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25

Deja vu. At the airport next morning, I again greet Jonah as he walks out of Gate Two.

By ten o'clock, we're in the conference room at the plant. Sitting around the table are Lou, Bob, Ralph and Stacey. Jonah paces in front of us.

"Let's start with some basic questions," he says. "First of all, have you determined exactly which parts are giving you the problem?"

Stacey, who is sitting at the table with a veritable fortress of paper around her and looking as if she's ready for a siege, holds up a list.

She says, "Yes, we've identified them. In fact, I spent last night tracking them down and double checking the data with what's on the floor out there. Turns out the problem covers thirty parts."

Jonah asks, "Are you sure you released the materials for them?"

"Oh, yes," says Stacey. "No problem there. They've been released according to schedule. But they're not reaching final assembly. They're stuck in front of our new bottleneck."

"Wait a minute. How do you know it's really a bottleneck?" asks Jonah.

She says, "Well, since the parts are held up, I just figured it had to be..."

"Before we jump to conclusions, let's invest half an hour to go into the plant so we can find out what's happening," Jonah says.

So we parade into the plant, and a few minutes later we're standing in front of a group of milling machines. Off to one side are big stacks of inventory marked with green tags. Stacey stands there and points out the parts that are needed in final assembly. Most of the missing parts are right here and all bear green tags. Bob calls over the foreman, a hefty guy by the name of Jake, and introduces him to Jonah.

"Yeah, all them parts been sittin' here for about two, three weeks or more," says Jake.

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"But we need them now," I say. "How come they're not being worked on?"

Jake shrugs his shoulders. "You know which ones you want, we'll do 'em right now. But that goes against them rules you set up in that there priority system."

He points to some other skids of materials nearby.

"You see over there?" says Jake. "They all got red tags. We got to do all of 'em before we touch the stuff with green tags. That's what you told us, right?"

Uh- huh. It's becoming clear what's been happening.

"You mean," says Stacey, "that while the materials with green tags have been building up, you've been spending all your time on the parts bound for the bottlenecks."

"Yeah, well, most of it," says Jake. "Hey, like we only got so many hours in a day, you know what I mean?"

"How much of your work is on bottleneck parts?" asks Jo- nah.

"Maybe seventy-five or eighty percent," says Jake. "See, ev- erything that goes to heat-treat or the NCX-10 has to pass through here first. As long as the red parts keep coming-and they haven't let up one bit since that new system started-we just don't have the time to work on very many of the green-tag parts."

There is a moment of silence. I look from the parts to the machines and back to Jake again.

"What the hell do we do now?" asks Donovan in echo to my own thoughts. "Do we switch tags? Make the missing parts red instead of green?"

I throw up my hands in frustration and say, "I guess the only solution is to expedite."

"No, actually, that is not the solution at all," Jonah says, "be- cause if you resort to expediting now, you'll have to expedite all the time, and the situation will only get worse."

"But what else can we do?" asks Stacey.

Jonah says, "First, I want us to go look at the bottlenecks, because there is another aspect to the problem."

Before we can see the NCX-10, we see the inventory. It's stacked as high as the biggest forklift can reach. It's not just a mountain, but a mountain with many peaks. The piles here are even bigger than before we identified the machine as a bottle- neck. And tied to every bin, hanging from every pallet of parts is

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a red" tag. Somewhere behind it all, its own hugeness obscur ed from our view, is the NCX-10.

"How do we get there from here?" asks Ralph, looking for a path through the inventory.

"Here, let me show you," says Bob.

And he leads us through the maze of materials until we reach the machine.

Gazing at all the work-in-process around us, Jonah says to us, "You know, I would guess, just from looking at it, that you have at least a month or more of work lined-up here for this machine. And I bet if we went to heat-treat we would find the same situation. Tell me, do you know why you have such a huge pile of inventory here?"

"Because everyone ahead of this machine is giving first pri- ority to red parts," I suggest.

"Yes, that's part of the reason," says Jonah. "But why is so much inventory coming through the plant to get stuck here?"

Nobody answers.

"Okay, I see I'm going to have to explain some of the basic relationships between bottlenecks and non-bottlenecks," says Jo- nah. Then he looks at me and says, "By the way, do you remem- ber when I told you that a plant in which everyone is working all the time is very in efficient? Now you'll see exactly what I was talking about."

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