In the evening, Alex sits at his dining room table at home, trying to work out how to keep the entire manufacturing system working at an even pace. Sharon asks him what he’s working on, and when he explains it to her, she asks if she can help. Alex agrees, and Dave decides to join them. Thinking back to the hikers, Alex asks how they would keep the whole group hiking at the same speed.
Alex sharing his challenges at work with his children represents a positive step in their relationship, since at least he is spending time with them. However, his relationship with them still completely revolves around his own concerns—he never asks them what they are interested in or what they feel, nor does he set work aside to simply enjoy his time with them. This indicates that despite the positive steps Alex has taken, his work still takes precedence over his family.
Sharon suggests that to help the whole line keep the same pace, they could make Herbie, the slowest, a drummer to whom everyone marches in time. Dave suggests they tie a rope to everyone to stop anyone from falling ahead or behind. Alex realizes that the rope wouldn’t even need to be tied to everyone, just to the people at the front and back of the line. Alex is so proud of them that he tells them they can have whatever they want, suggesting pizza or a movie. Sharon tells him that they just want their mom back.
Alex’s promise that his children can have whatever they want for solving a work problem echoes the way that he would reward a particularly innovative employee, revealing how much his corporate career shapes his relationship with his family. However, Sharon’s insistence that they only want Julie back reveals that she and her brother care more about family than rewards or their father’s career.
After putting the kids to bed, Alex thinks about Julie and the ongoing challenges at the plant. They will try to regulate the speed of their system, just like Sharon and Dave suggested, but using computers and data instead of ropes and drums. Alex thinks back to their conversation in the conference room that afternoon with Jonah.
Again, although it is good that Alex is sharing more of his time with his children, even that time revolves exclusively around his work, demonstrating that corporate life can cause one to become so single-minded that their relationship to their family is entirely shaped around the needs of their career.
Alex and his staff need to know when to allow more raw material into their system without it becoming clogged. Ralph states that with his new data from the bottlenecks, he can now predict how long it takes any part to go from the beginning of its process to emerging from the bottleneck machines—two weeks. Jonah adds that with this, they can let the bottleneck machines regulate the pace of the entire system, like Alex had initially hoped to do. Ralph says he’ll prototype a new data system to make this work, and Alex drives Jonah to the airport to catch his flight.
Alex and his staff’s struggle to pace their system results in all manner of delays. This indicates that managing the pace of a constrained system is one of the most critical aspects of maintaining a productive flow and increasing throughput. Ralph’s ability to predict their pace demonstrates the utility of gathering good data, since it helps one to clearly understand the workings of their system.
The next morning, Bob raises the point that even if this new plan works, they’ll have lots of people standing idle throughout the day, which seems like a waste of money. Stacey points out that since employees are on payroll, they don’t cost any more money whether they are working or just standing there. Alex decides that they will go ahead with the plan anyway, even though Peach won’t like their individual worker and machine efficiencies in the monthly report. If they can’t make their plant’s throughput higher, they’ll lose their plant anyway.
Stacey’s point attacks the traditional assumption that a when a worker is idle, they are wasting their employer’s money. This counterintuitive attitude toward idle workers and efficiencies again shows that Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints subverts traditional ideas about manufacturing and managing complex systems, making it a revolutionary approach to business.