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The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt

The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt is a thrilling novel that grants readers with an invaluable lesson in operations management theories with the main focus being on the Theory of Constraints that was developed by Eliyahu Goldratt. The Goal presents and elucidates the Theory of Constraints in an approach that is easy to comprehend and relate to. The objective of this novel is to make Goldratt’s theory more widely acknowledged by the manufacturing industry and the author managed to do this by explaining this theory in a creative novel. Goldratt carefully entwines his theory into an attention-grabbing story that captivates the reader to read more and discover how the main character, Alex Rogo, solves the problems that he encounters at his workplace while trying to save his marriage. 

The plot is centered around the main character, Alex Rogo, a Plant Manager of UniCo Manufacturing Corporation. In addition to being an industrial engineer, Alex holds an MBA and is also in charge of the manufacturing section of the company dealing with injection molding. Having being in the position of plant manager for only six months, Alex is faced with a dilemma. His plant is facing difficulties in meeting demand and financial goals in addition to making great losses. Alex’s boss gives him a three month ultimatum to increase the productivity and profitability of the plant. Failure to do so will result in the closure of the plant and loss of his job in addition to the unemployment of those working in his plant. Alex is therefore faced with the nearly impossible duty of turning around the fortunes of his plant within a short time. Alex is forced to turn to his former college physics professor turned business consultant, Mr. Johan. Johan meets with Alex and gives him some advice, but does not give Alex the straight resolutions to his tribulations. By doing so, Alex discovers how to get to the bottom of the problems on his own with Johan's aid and through this we as the readers are familiarized with Theory of Constraints.

Under Johan’s guidance, Alex manages to turn around the fortunes of his plant and make it the best performing plant in the division in terms of profitability and production. Throughout the novel, we get to see how problems such as the bull whip effect, bottle necks and quality management being faced at the plant are resolved with Johan's assistance. We also get to see how new challenges develop and are handled and solved accordingly.

Goldratt gives and account at the beginning of the novel of Alex going on a hiking trip with his son’s Boy Scout troop. During the trek, Alex observes that he must strive to catch up with the troop when he is the last in the group. He later comes to the realization that he keeps on falling back because the boy who is in front of him is unfit. Despite the fact that the lead hikers of the troop are fast, their speed as a group is therefore determined by the unfit boy. The unfit boy is therefore the bottleneck who determines the output- in this case the pace- of the hiking progression. Alex is therefore forced to run to the front of the group in order to keep the troop members close together and wait for each other since the unfit boy’s slow pace at the back of the group has created breaks between group members. He therefore decides to put the slowest hiker at the front of the troop and assigns the heavy gear that he is carrying to sturdy boys. The troop then continues hiking with their pace being determined by the slowest hiker. The pace of the troop is therefore decided by the slowest hiker, thus eliminating the wastage of time realized by waiting for each other and gaps between the hikers. The troop therefore moves as one unit.

This tactic is applied by Alex at his workplace when he sees the efficiency of this strategy. He applies this approach by fixing the pace of his plant’s production to the tempo of bottleneck procedures. He brings in older machines that had been replaced by newer ones back into the production process to alleviate the strain placed on bottleneck processes. These older machines therefore manage to accomplish the similar processes being done by the bottleneck processes. He is therefore able to increase the output and productivity of his plant.

Bent on doing more to improve the productivity of his plant, Alex invites Jonah for a trip around the plant to help him to identify areas that may need improvement. During their tour of the plant, they pass by an unattended expensive NCX- 10 machine, Jonah notices that the machine is switched off. Their investigation leads them to discover that the automatic machine is not loaded with a new consignment of products before their lunch break. The plant loses in terms of productivity for every minute that the machine is not in production. Failure by the workers to utilize the machine during their lunch break turns an external setup into an internal setup. To solve this problem, Alex consults with the workers union and they come to the agreement that workers during that shift will not go on lunch break until the NCX- 10 machine has been leaded with a new consignment of products. Therefore the overall output of the plant is increased with the full utilization of the machine.

Their continued tour of the plant in the final assembly section leads to the discovery that some parts that had been marked as defective had already passed through the bottleneck processes and are being redundant just before the last assembly. Jonah later explains to Alex that these parts are reflective of a much larger scale of the loss of income than earlier anticipated because the cost and time spent on these parts can’t be regained. Jonah advises him to conduct quality control to be conducted before the parts go through the bottleneck processes to avoid the wastage of time and money.

To prove his capability to his boss in handling large orders, he manages to secure an order but later realizes form past experience with the new customer that he had exaggerated the lead time. He fixes this setback by negotiating the deal afresh that will enable him to complete his orders on time and satisfy the customer’s demands. He therefore avoids the bullwhip effect created by the customer by over-stating the lead time with the assumption that the plant would be late in delivering the orders. He eventually secures a lucrative deal from the customer who is impressed by his work that will ensure the sustainability of his plant.

My stay in college has presented with instances wherby Goldratt’s theory would have assisted me. This was mostly witnessed during the assignment of group work or presentations. My group was assigned a topic and we were required to make an oral presentation infront of our class. One of our members who was initially shy at the beginning convinced us that they would be confident enough to make a presentation on the assigned day. We did our research as a group but received a poor grade because the said individual was unable to make a god presentation. Had we assigned the presentation bit to another individual after knowing her weakeness, we would have not been assigned such a poor grade for all our hard work. In future, my selection of the right group members and learning to prevail over complications, will help me to realize better grades in group assignments that I am placed in.

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