Analyzing “the Goal” as Fictional Case Study

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Constraint Management at UniCo:

Analyzing “The Goal” as Fictional Case Study

Abstract

As a fictional case study, Eliyahu Goldratt’s novel about manufacturing, “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement,” presents a constraint-focused approach to production management. As a novel, the book does not emphasize the quantitative details of the plant improvements. However, a great amount of information about the plant is spread throughout the book. By collecting and analyzing this data, a concrete picture may be developed of the plant’s capacity and its improvements, which can greatly help the book’s readers understand and evaluate the cumulative impact from the plant’s “process of ongoing improvement.” Keywords: Production planning, Theory of constraints, Drum buffer rope

Introduction: The Goal as Fictional Case Study

Eliyahu Goldratt’s manufacturing novel The Goal: A Process of Continuous Improvement has inspired countless professionals in production (and many other fields (Whitford, 2004)) to embark on their own efforts of continuous improvement. As Rand (1986) writes, “It’s a novel, but it’s also a manufacturing text-book, and it’s good on both accounts.” Many reviewers have agreed The Goal is an easy-to read way to get an introduction to production realities (Belis, 1994, The Economist 1995, Dani 2006, Rand 1986). However, no one has taken a detailed look at the numbers presented in the book as a fictional case study. The concept of drum-buffer-rope (DBR) production control has been discussed considerably in the literature (for just a small, recent sample, see Ye and Han 2008, Jodlbauer and Huber 2008, and Watson and Patti 2008). The first formal presentation of DBR was by Goldratt and Fox (1986), but before that detailed presentation, it was first known in The Goal, and that is where most practitioners likely first learn about it. After a casual reading (or even a careful one), the reader may be left with the impression that many improvements were made, but not have a clear idea of exactly what happened when, and how they all fed together to bring about the changes seen in the plant. This paper analyzes the data presented during the course of the story. In so doing, there are several objectives: 1. To create a complete understanding of the plant’s operations from the details scattered throughout the book; 2. to assess the impact of the actions taken in the plant; and 3. to see if all of the details discovered do add up to form a cohesive view of the plant. The Goal is easy to read and understand, which has made it popular with practitioners. Because it puts the reader in the middle of Alex Rogo’s chaotic life at UniCo, the reader can see how all of the realities of a plant manager’s life affect a person’s abilities to make the “right” decisions. For this reason, it is a very powerful way to help people without production experience understand these realities. With an appeal like that, it is easy to understand why the third revised edition says “Over 3 million copies sold” (Goldratt and Cox, 2004). Because most undergraduate students have not experienced a production environment first-hand, the book has been used in many universities, and the author has used it in an advanced production course for over a decade. Over many readings, the author began to notice more details about the plant’s capacity sprinkled throughout the book. A careful look at the details in the book has proved helpful in understanding the changes and their impact in the plant. The production manager or consultant who takes the time to study the book’s problems and solutions can gain a much better appreciation for the benefit gained from each of the small improvements, and how large of a cumulative effect many small improvements can make. In a few cases, the data do not quite add up. Because this book has become perhaps the best-known book in a field...
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