At home, Alex wonders what it would be like to date women again if Julie divorces him. He thinks about who he could ask out for a while, but he realizes there is only one woman he wants to date. He calls Julie at her parents’ house and asks if she’ll go out with him on Saturday, and she agrees.
Alex’s decision to date Julie again suggests that he simply wants to spend time with her, which is exactly what she wanted from him all along. It seems that the goals they each have for their relationship are finally aligning.
At the plant, Ralph gives Alex his compiled list of all 67 overdue orders they have outstanding. Eighty-five percent of them are waiting on parts from the bottleneck machines. Alex tells Ralph and Stacey to prioritize those parts and start working their way through the list. After, he meets with the union representative Mike O’Donnell, who is angry that Alex wants to move the lunch hour around. He worries that if the union lets Alex move the lunch hour, he’ll try to gain other concessions from the union too. Alex explains that moving the lunch hour is just part of a scheme to keep the plant from closing. O’Donnell tells Alex he’ll think about it.
O’Donnell’s distrust of Alex’s requests suggests that corporate leadership and labor unions are often at odds with each other. O’Donnell’s fear that Alex will try to gain further concessions implies such things have happened in the past. This depicts corporate leadership as hawkish, seeking to exploit their workers as much as possible without the unions holding them back, adding to the grim depiction of the corporate world.
That afternoon, Alex sees that the NCX-10 is idle again. He confronts the machinist, who says that they’re waiting on the raw materials to show up for the orders at the top of the list, since Alex had said not deviate from the priority list. Alex finds Bob and confronts him as well, and Bob explains that although the management staff is trying to prioritize overdue orders, there is no way for the machinists to tell which parts are important to work on and which ones are secondary. Bob is frustrated.
In this case, the bottlenecks are delayed by complex logistical problems rather than personal error, demonstrating the difficulty of maximizing a bottleneck’s capacity. Again, though the Theory of Constraints is simple enough to understand, implementing it in real systems appears quite complicated.
Alex decides they need to come up with a method to sort and tag critical projects. He and his staff spend the next few days coming up with a tag system, placing red tags on the critical pieces that need to run through a bottleneck machine and green tags for non-essential parts. Alex spends all of Friday holding meetings with everyone in the plant to explain the concept of bottlenecks and the importance of their new tagging system. The tags will be numbered as well, to help people prioritize between pieces with the same colored tags.
Alex’s need for tagging and organizing methods underscores the complexity of multi-stage manufacturing systems. It further suggests that although Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints provides guiding principles for organizing a system, those principles will need support from smaller initiatives, such as tagging systems, to redirect the way in which that system operates.
That afternoon, O’Donnell tells Alex he can move the lunch breaks around; the union won’t fight it. On Saturday evening, Alex washes his car, dresses up, and picks Julie up from her parents to take her on a date.
Alex’s “first date” with Julie represents a turning point in their relationship in which he rediscovers that he enjoys simply being with her and stops taking her for granted.