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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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22

Donovan becomes quiet. Finally he says, "Maybe I learned too many of the wrong things back when I was an expediter."

"Listen, you did a hell of a job today. I mean that. But we set policy for a purpose. You should know that. And let me tell you that Bill Peach, for all the trouble he caused to get one order shipped, would be back here pounding on our heads at the end of the month if we didn't manage the plant for efficiency."

He nods slowly, but then he asks, "So what do we do the next time this happens?"

I smile.

"Probably the same damn thing," I tell him. Then I turn and say, "Maxine, give us two more here, please. No, on second thought, we're going to save you a lot of walking. Make it a pitcher."

So we made it through today's crisis. We won. Just barely. And now that Donovan is gone and the effects of the alcohol are wearing off, I can't see what there was to celebrate. We managed to ship one very late order today. Whoopee.

The real issue is I've got a manufacturing plant on the criti- cal list. Peach has given it three months to live before he pulls the plug.

That means I have two, maybe three more monthly reports in which to change his mind. After that, the sequence of events will be that he'll go to corporate management and present the numbers. Everybody around the table will look at Granby. Granby will ask a couple of questions, look at the numbers one more time, and nod his head. And that will be it. Once the execu- tive decision has been made, there will be no changing it.

They'll give us time to finish our backlog. And then 600 peo- ple will head for the unemployment lines-where they will join their friends and former co-workers, the other 600 people whom we have already laid off.

And so the UniWare Division will drop out of yet another market in which it can't compete. Which means the world will no longer be able to buy any more of the fine products we can't make cheap enough or fast enough or good enough or some- thing enough to beat the Japanese. Or most anybody else out there for that matter. That's what makes us another fine division in the UniCo "family" of businesses (which has a record of earn- ings growth that looks like Kansas), and that's why we'll be just

23

another fine company in the Who-Knows-What Corporation af- ter the big boys at headquarters put together some merger with some other loser. That seems to be the essence of the company's strategic plan these days.

What's the matter with us?

Every six months it seems like some group from corporate is coming out with some new program that's the latest panacea to all our problems. Some of them seem to work, but none of them does any good. We limp along month after month, and it never gets any better. Mostly it gets worse.

Okay. Enough of the bitching, Rogo. Try to calm down. Try to think about this rationally. There's nobody around. It's late. I am alone finally... here in the coveted corner office, throne room of my empire, such as it is. No interruptions. The phone is not ringing. So let's try to analyze the situation. Why can't we consistently get a quality product out the door on time at the cost that can beat the competition?

Something is wrong. I don't know what it is, but something basic is very wrong. I must be missing something.

I'm running what should be a good plant. Hell, it is a good plant. We've got the technology. We've got some of the best n/c machines money can buy. We've got robots. We've got a com- puter system that's supposed to do everything but make coffee.

We've got good people. For the most part we do. Okay, we're short in a couple of areas, but the people we have are good for the most part, even though we sure could use more of them. And I don't have too many problems with the union. They're a pain in the ass sometimes, but the competition has unions too. And, hell, the workers made some concessions last time-not as many as we'd have liked, but we have a livable contract.

I've got the machines. I've got the people. I've got all the materials I need. I know there's a market out there, because the competitors' stuff is selling. So what the hell is it?

It's the damn competition. That's what's killing us. Ever since the Japanese entered our markets, the competition has been incredible. Three years ago, they were beating us on quality and product design. We've just about matched them on those. But now they're beating us on price and deliveries. I wish I knew their secret.

What can I possibly do to be more competitive?

24

I've done cost reduction. No other manager in this division has cut costs to the degree I have. There is nothing left to trim.

And, despite what Peach says, my efficiencies are pretty damn good. He's got other plants with worse, I know that. But the better ones don't have the competition I do. Maybe I could push efficiencies some more, but... I don't know. It's like whipping a horse that's already running as fast as it can.

We've just got to do something about late orders. Nothing in this plant ships until it's expedited. We've got stacks and stacks of inventory out there. We release the materials on schedule, but nothing comes out the far end when it's supposed to.

That's not uncommon. Just about every plant I know of has expeditors. And you walk through just about any plant in Amer- ica about our size and you'll find work-in-process inventory on the same scale as what we have. I don't know what it is. On the one hand, this plant is no worse than most of the ones I've seen- and, in fact, it's better than many. But we're losing money.

If we could just get our backlog out the door. Sometimes it's like little gremlins out there. Every time we start to get it right, they sneak around between shifts when nobody is looking and they change things just enough so everything gets screwed up. I swear it's got to be gremlins.

Or maybe I just don't know enough. But, hell, I've got an engineering degree. I've got an MBA. Peach wouldn't have named me to the job if he hadn't thought I was qualified. So it can't be me. Can it?

Man, how long has it been since I started out down there in industrial engineering as a smart kid who knew everything- fourteen, fifteen years? How many long days have there been since then?

I used to think if I worked hard I could do anything. Since the day I turned twelve I've worked. I worked after school in my old man's grocery store. I worked through high school. When I was old enough, I spent my summers working in the mills around here. I was always told that if I worked hard enough it would pay off in the end. That's true, isn't it? Look at my brother; he took the easy way out by being the first born. Now he owns a grocery store in a bad neighborhood across town. But look at me. I worked hard. I sweated my way through engineering school. I got a job with a big company. I made myself a stranger to my wife and kids. I took all the crap that UniCo could give me and said,

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