Alex Rogo drives into the parking lot of the manufacturing plant he manages. He immediately sees that Bill Peach, their division’s vice-president, is parked in Alex’s parking spot as if to reinforce his authority. When Alex enters the plant, four different people approach him at once, all yelling about how Peach walked into the plant an hour ago, demanding to know where order 41427 is. Like every other order in the plant, 41427 is weeks behind schedule. All of its component parts are finished and ready for assembly except for one small piece that hasn’t been made yet, which means that the entire product can’t be put together.
The pressure that Bill Peach exerts on the plant, and the fact that every order is behind schedule, indicate that Alex’s plant is struggling to get by. This establishes the difficulty of trying to manage without clear goals, and it positions Alex for his journey to become a better manager. Peach parking in Alex’s parking spot is an obvious show of power, indicating that corporate life involves interpersonal posturing.
Alex’s staff tells him that when Peach found out a piece of order 41427 was missing, he demanded that one machinist cancel what he was working on and reset their machines to build the final part, even though it will cost them several hours of time to reset. The machinist is furious about this, but Alex tells him to follow Peach’s orders. Alex finds Peach in his office, sitting behind Alex’s desk. Peach angrily tells him that the client, Bucky Burnside, spent an hour shouting at him about his overdue order last night. Peach is angry that Alex doesn’t seem able to manage his own plant, and they keep losing money. He tells Alex that Alex has three months to turn the plant around, or Peach will close it for good. Peach needs Burnside’s order shipped by tonight.
The disruption and anger that Peach causes in the plant demonstrates how easily a manufacturing process can be derailed and delayed. Peach’s three-month ultimatum for Alex to turn the plant around sets high stakes for Alex’s growth as a manager and forces him to quickly implement any changes he must make. This narrow window of time not only establishes a quick pace for the story, but it also allows Goldratt to show that his ideas, if implemented properly, can rapidly improve the performance of any system.
Peach leaves and Alex tells his secretary, Fran, that he’ll be out on the factory floor awhile. He surveys the vast open space, acres of machinery and raw material, and he marvels at the complexity of it. Alex sees Bob Donovan, his production manager, approaching him. Bob tells Alex they have a problem with order 41427: the “master machinist” that Peach yelled at just quit, but not before damaging his machine, the NCX-10. Now the plant is short one hard-to-replace technician and an essential machine.
Alex’s wonder at the complexity of his plant suggests that he enjoys the meticulous nature of keeping such an operation running. However, the machinist’s decision to quit because of Peach’s angry insistence demonstrates the consequences of bad management, particularly since the loss creates a significant expense for Alex’s plant.