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In order for Rogo and the readers to even begin understanding that “goal”, Eli begins to unravel the novel by introducing the readers to Alex Rogo and apparent problems with his production plant. In the opening of the first chapter these problems meet Mr. Rogo at work, as a confrontation takes place between him and his immediate boss, Division Vice President of their company UniWare, Bill Peach. The dispute takes places over an overdue order number 41427, which happens to be fifty-six days behind schedule. Given this has become the norm for Rogo’s plant, Mr.
Peach requires nothing less than for order #41427 to be shipped that day, since the plant is neither profitable nor productive. In fact so many orders, as of late, have been so far behind that it is becoming a major problem for the company and the lively hood of the workers. Therefore, Mr. Peach decides to give Alex three months to turn things at their plant, or he’s prepared to recommend the Bearington plant be shut down. With the amount of time order number 41427 is already late; the pressure is on to get the order out the door and shipped according to Mr.
Peach’s specifications. Surprisingly the plant gets the order shipped that night, but not very effectively. All the hands in the plant are working on one order, with forbidden overtime to compensate. Only after dinner with Lou, his controller, does Alex develop a sense of determination to define his mode of constraints. His efficiencies are good, but he can not to put to a finger on what’s causing the problem; and without the Five Steps of Focusing this at first seems impossible.
Alex has spent late nights pondering the future of the company. He attempts to identify “the problem” at his plant, the process he will have to go through to change it, how resistant his plant would be to that change, and how he intends to overcome their resistance. Alex does all of this just in time for Mr. Peach to call a plant managers meeting at the headquarters. On his way to the meeting, Alex learns the problems with efficiency and effectiveness are not only plaguing his plant, but it’s the entire industry.
It’s been losing money since Japan entered the manufacturing market and stolen market share from companies in the United States, like their UniWare Division of UniCo. During the meeting with Mr. Peach and the other plant managers, Alex mistakenly comes across a cigar he received from and old friend; a physicist named Jonah, and has an epiphany. Two week prior to the meeting, by pure chance, Alex ran into Jonah and they began to catch up. Alex gave Jonah a run down of his job as plant manager at UniCo, and eagerly described how his firm’s investment in automation (ie. obots) had increased productivity by thirty-six percent. Jonah, in turn questioned Alex about some key identifiers of productivity such as: their ability to decrease inventory, reduce operational expenses, and selling more product. Jonah really asked some in-depth questions to help Alex understand his core problems. Until Jonah predicted their problems with high inventories and not meeting shipping dates, Alex was sure he was simply dealing with some routine problems, not the demise of his entire organizational structure.
Jonah explained to Alex that there is only one real “goal” for any organizations, and anything bringing you closer to achieving that is productive and anything otherwise is unproductive. Productivity, according to Jonah, is defined as accomplishing something in terms of goals. Late for his flight, Jonah uses the Socratic Method to help Alex conclude what “the goal” of his plant really is. Alex struggles with the questions Jonah ask initially, but eventually discovers and internalizes the concept of the Theory of Constraints
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