The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu Goldratt, Jeff Cox

Summary

  1. Using The Goal (understanding the world and the principles that govern it), thousands of corporations have increased profits through reducing invenory, eliminating bottlenecks, and applyign the theory of constraints

Key Takeaways

  1. No exceptional brain power is needed to construct a new science or expand an existing one. What is needed is just the courage to face inconsistencies and to avoid running away from them just because that’s the way it was always done. This challenging of basic assumptions is essential to breakthroughs. Progress in understanding requires that we challenge basic assumptions about how the world is and why it is that way. If we can better understand our world and the principles that govern it, I suspect all our lives will be better. 
  2. I do not believe in absolute truths. I fear such beliefs because they block the search for better understanding. Whenever we think we have final answers, progress, science, and better understanding ceases. Understanding of our world is not something to be pursued for its own sake, however. Knowledge should be pursued, I believe, to make our world better – to make life more fulfilling
  3. Every action that brings a company closer to its goal is productive. Productivity is meaningless unless you know what your goal is
  4. The goal is making money but this can be expressed in many different ways (cash flow, ROI, net profit) and some measurements to help you track this include throughput, inventory and operational expense.
    1. Throughput is the rate by which money is generated through sales (finished product which isn’t sold is not throughput)
    2. Inventory is all the money the company has bought which it intends to sell
    3. Operational expense is all the money spent turning inventory into throughput.
    4. You must express the goal in terms of these measurements. Increasing throughput while simultaneously decreasing inventory and operational expense 
  5. Must consider the company as a whole, no local optimums
  6. A measurement not clearly defined is worthless, even dangerous. 
  7. Having people and machines working nonstop is inefficient 
  8. Dependent events and statistical fluctuations are incredibly important to understand and keep track of. Whatever is the slowest process or bottleneck of any sort is your limiting factor. You can sprint in every other area but if you don’t increase the throughput of the bottleneck, productivity won’t increase at all. The capacity of the plant is the capacity of the bottleneck. The actual cost of a bottleneck is the total operating cost / the number of hours the bottleneck produces. Make sure the bottleneck’s time is never wasted (idle, working on defective parts, working on parts you don’t need immediately) and, if you can, shift work from bottleneck to non-bottlenecks
  9. There must be a way to signal the bottlenecks with the release of material schedule – they must be at the “front” of the assembly process
  10. The amount of time material spends in a plant can be broken down into 4 parts
    1. Set up while the resource is being set up
    2. Process time
    3. Queue time for resources
    4. Wait time for another part.
    5. By reducing batch sizes you can decrease the amount of time parts spend in queue and wait time since you are no longer turning non-bottlenecks into bottlenecks 
  11. All of Rogo’s (the main character’s) suggestions make common sense but they flew in the face of everything he had ever learned and if he hadn’t taken the time to think and sweat through the problems himself, he would never have gained the conviction in them necessary to implement them and turn the plants around. What Alex really needs to learn from Jonah is not plant management practices but how to persuade people how to question common sense and common practice and how to overcome resistance to change
  12. Accounting’s true meaning is to keep control and see how much the company is spending, and helping to understand the process as a whole so that the best thing can be done for the organization. Financial metrics can be hurtful if they’re taken just for their own sake and looked at out of context
  13. Capacity constraint resources are one step below bottlenecks and have to be improved in lockstep or else you could get a wave of bottlenecks at the same time
  14. You have to shift from a cost-centered world to a throughput-centered one. You have to find the weakest link or the bottleneck first in order to increase throughput – not solely focused on cutting costs.
    1. Identify the bottlenecks
    2. Identify how to exploit the bottlenecks
    3. Subordinate everything to the above decision
    4. Increase the bottleneck
    5. If the bottleneck is still broken go back to step one, and don’t let company inertia stop you
  15. The more inventory, the less spare capacity you need and vice versa. As you take on more orders it might not create more bottlenecks but it drastically reduces your spare capacity which means you have to take on more inventory in order to compensate
  16. The first step must be to identify the week link as this is the bottleneck the areas you need to focus on first
  17. Three fundamental questions
    1. What to change
    2. What to change to
    3. How to go about making this change 
  18. A goal should not have a set final metrics – it should be something that triggers ongoing improvement and innovation 
  19. Toyota did away with economical patching and instead focused on the set up time trying to reduce that as much as possible. This allowed them to switch components of what the operator was doing quickly and efficiently
  20. Better production flow or shorter lead times creates incredible cost savings and efficiency savings for many reasons 
  21. A grave mistake by some top management is to layoff capacity – either people or machines – when throughput increases and efficiencies increase. This sends the signal to the company that if you become better and more efficient at your job, that you will lose it. Instead, encourage the sales team to go out and make more sales to take advantage of the increased capacity 
  22. Production’s biggest focus has to be improving flow. There are many other things that can be done but that ultimately lies with other departments. They must prevent overproduction (don’t produce unneeded product), condemn local efficiencies and focus on the global. Lastly, you must balance the flow after all these disruptions are mitigated 
  23. Small disruptions can become major ones but the most important disruptions are those which impact availability. Those are the ones you need to focus on and get rid of. In order to address, you should create a database of disruptions and whenever a major one which impacts availability occurs, it should be defined and described within the database

What I got out of it

  1. Goldratt did a great job of weaving in some valuable lessons in a story format. It was a production example but the ideas and the theory of constraint can be widely applied