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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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Jons nods and says, "Yes, I've noticed my phone hasn't been ringing lately with complaints from customers missing their or- ders."

"My point," I tell him, "is that we've really turned the plant around. Here, look at this."

From my breifcase, I take the latest list of customer orders. Among other things, it shows the due dates promised, along with the dates when Ralph expected shipment, and the dates the prod- ucts were actually shipped.

"You see," I tell Jons as he studies the list on the glass top of his table, "we can predict to within twenty-four hours one way or the other when an order will leave the plant."

"Yes, I've seen something like this floating around," says Jons. "These are the dates?"

"Of course."

"This is impressive," says Jons.

"As you can see by comparing a few recently shipped orders with ones of a month or so before, our production lead times have condensed dramatically. Four months' lead time is no longer a holy number with us. From the day you sign the contract with the customer to the day we ship, the current average is about two months. Now, tell me, do you think that could help us in the marketplace?"

"Sure it could," says Jons.

"Then how about four weeks'?"

"What? Al, don't be ridiculous," says Jons. "Four weeks!"

"We can do it."

"Come on!" he says. "Last winter, when demand for every damn thing we make was way down, we were promising delivery in four months, and it was taking six! Now you're telling me you can go from contract to finished product in four weeks?"

"I wouldn't be here talking to you if we couldn't," I tell him, hoping desperately that we're right.

Jons snorts, unconvinced.

"Johnny, the truth is I need more business," I tell him. "With our overdues gone, and our current backlog declining, I've got to get more work into my plant. Now we both know the business is out there; it's just that the competition is getting more of it than we are."

Jons looks at me through narrowed eyes. "You can really

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turn around an order of 200 Model 12's or 300 DBD-50's in four weeks?"

"Try me," I tell him. "Get me five orders-hell, get me ten orders-and I'll prove it to you."

"And what happens to our credibility if you can't come through?" he asks.

Flustered, I look down through the glass table.

"Johnny," I say, "I'll make a bet with you. If I don't deliver in four weeks, I'll buy you a brand new pair of Guccis."

He laughs, shakes his head and finally says, "Okay, you're on. I'll pass the word to the salespeople that on all your products, we're offering terms of factory shipment in six weeks."

I start to protest. Jons holds up a hand.

"I know you're confident," he says. "And if you ship any new orders in less than five weeks, I'll buy y o u a new pair of shoes."

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29

A full moon is shining through the bedroom window and into my eyes. The night is still. I look at the clock beside me, which says it's 4:20 A.M. Next to me in bed, Julie is sleeping.

Resting on my elbow, I look down at Julie. With her dark hair spilled out on the white pillow, she looks nice sleeping in the moonlight. I watch her for a while. I wonder what her dreams are like.

When I woke up, I was having a nightmare. It was about the plant. I was running up and down the aisles and Bill Peach was chasing me in his crimson Mercedes. Every time he was about to run me over, I'd duck between a couple of machines or hop on a passing forklift. He was yelling at me from the window about my bottom line not being good enough. Finally he trapped me in the shipping department. I had my back against stacks of cardboard cartons, and the Mercedes was racing toward me at a hundred miles an hour. I tried to shield my eyes from the blinding head- lights. Just as Peach was about to get me, I woke up and discov- ered that the headlights were moonbeams on my face.

Now I'm too much awake, and too aware of the problem I was trying to forget this past evening with Julie for me to fall back to sleep. Not wanting to awaken Julie with my restlessness, I slip out of bed.

The house is all ours tonight. We started out this evening with nothing particular to do, when we remembered we had a whole house in Bearington with nobody in it to bother us. So we bought a bottle of wine, some cheese and a loaf of bread, came here and got comfortable.

From the living room window where I stand in the dark looking out, it seems as though the whole world is asleep except me. I'm angry with myself at not being able to sleep. But I can't let go of what's on my mind.

Yesterday we had a staff meeting. There was some good news -and some bad news. Actually, there was a lot of good news. High among the headlines were the new contracts marketing has been winning for us. We've picked up about half-a-dozen new orders since I talked to Johnny. More good news was the fact that

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efficiencies have gone up, not down, as a result of what we've been doing in the plant. After we began withholding the release of materials and timing the releases according to the completed processing of heat-treat and the NCX-10, efficiencies dipped somewhat. But that was because we were consuming excess in- ventories. When the excess inventories were exhausted-which happened quickly as a result of the increase in throughput-effi- ciencies came back up again.

Then, two weeks ago, we implemented the new smaller batch sizes. When we cut batch sizes in half for non-bottlenecks, effi- ciencies stayed solid, and now it seems as though we're keeping the work force even more occupied than before.

That's because a really terrific thing has happened. Before we reduced batch sizes, it wasn't uncommon for a work center to be forced idle because it didn't have anything to process-even though we were wading through excess inventory. It was usually because the idle work center had to wait for the one preceding it to finish a large batch of some item. Unless told otherwise by an expediter, the materials handlers would wait until an entire batch was completed before moving it. In fact, that's still the case. But now that the batches are smaller, the parts are ready to be moved to the next work station sooner than they were before.

What we had been doing many times was turning a non- bottleneck into a temporary bottleneck. This was forcing other work centers downstream from it to be idle, which reflected poorly on efficiencies. Now, even though we've recognized that non-bottlenecks have to be idle periodically, there is actually less idle time than before. Since we cut batch sizes, work is flowing through the plant more smoothly than ever. And it's weird, but the idle time we do have is less noticeable. It's spread out in shorter segments. Instead of people hanging around with noth- ing to do for a couple of hours, now they'll have maybe a few ten- to twenty-minute waits through the day for the same volume of work. From everybody's standpoint, that's much better.

Still more good news is that inventories are at their lowest ever in the plant. It's almost shocking to walk out into the plant now. Those stacks and piles of parts and sub-assemblies have shrunk to half their former size. It's as if a fleet of trucks had come and hauled everything away. Which is, in fact, about what happened. We've shipped the excess inventory as finished prod- uct. Of course, the notable part of the story is that we haven't

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