Monday starts terribly. Dave and Sharon try to make breakfast but make a huge mess instead. Alex drops them off at school and arrives at the office to a phone call from Hilton Smyth, demanding some missing part of an order be entirely shipped by tonight. After he hangs up the phone with Smyth, Alex finds a memo announcing that Smyth was elected to be the division’s new productivity manager, and that Alex must now report to him as well.
Dave and Sharon’s inability to take care of themselves in the morning suggests that Julie’s absence will make the family environment less stable and controlled. Meanwhile, Smyth’s promotion indicates that his obvious pandering to Peach has paid off, suggesting that rising in the corporate world may be influenced as much by posturing as it is by performance.
Alex expects his staff—Bob, Lou, Stacey, and Ralph Nakamura, his data processor—to be as thrilled as he was about what he figured out with the hikers. However, after hours of drawing diagrams and explaining his discovery to them in a conference room, they seem unconvinced that those things actually apply to the plant.
Alex’s staff’s hesitation about his new ideas suggests that, in an environment as complex as a multistage manufacturing system, people often struggle to identify clear patterns or phenomena.
As they are speaking, an expeditor asks to speak with Bob about Smyth’s order of 100 parts—if Pete’s (one of the supervisors) workers maintain their regular pace of 25 parts per hour for the next four hours, they can finish the order on time, but only barely. Each part will need to be worked on by Pete’s workers in one stage and a robot in the next. Alex suggests that they should be able to see his point about statistical fluctuations and dependent events in action, so he makes a chart predicting the output and average fluctuations and orders Pete to keep a careful log of their actual output. He bets Bob $10 that they don’t make the order on time due to fluctuations.
The fact that Smyth’s order requires two different stages of production makes it a system of dependent events, implying that any delays will compound themselves throughout the process, rather than averaging out. Alex’s bet that they won’t complete the order suggests that he is already confident that their system is fundamentally flawed. The robot should maintain a predictable output, meaning that even if only one stage fluctuates its speed, delays will still compound.
After the meeting, Alex calls his mother to ask her to move in with him and take care of the kids while Julie is gone. He leaves to pick her up and let her into his house, and when he gets back in the afternoon, Bob meets him exclaiming that Pete’s workers finished their stage of all 100 pieces—in their first hour, they produced less than average but sped themselves up later to make up the difference. However, when Bob and Alex check the robot’s progress, they realize that even when Pete’s workers did more than their average in an hour, the robot was still constrained by its operating capacity of 25 parts per hour. Since it couldn’t work at full capacity for the first hour, the robot had to do its work in five batches and took longer than the allotted four hours to finish all 100 pieces. Although they missed their deadline, Alex is glad for what the episode proved.
Pete’s workers are able to speed themselves up to compensate for their early delays, demonstrating that an independent event can easily maintain its statistical average. However, the fact that the robot cannot operate at full capacity because of Pete’s workers’ early delays demonstrates that in a chain of dependent events, every delay is passed down the entire chain; although Pete’s workers can maintain their own average, their initial delay throws off the robot’s pace. This is the fundamental problem that Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints seeks to solve.