Here are the principles behind the dramatic turnaround story in The Goal.
The goal of a manufacturing organization is to make money. Jonah poses this as a question: "What is the goal?" and Rogo actually struggles with it for a day or two, but any manager or executive that can't answer that question without hesitation should be fired without hesitation.
But then again, the goal isn't clear to everyone. One of the characters in the book, an accountant, responds to an offhand comment about the goal with a confused "The goal? You mean our objectives for the month?" That's sure to strike a chord with a lot of readers.
At an operational level, measure your success toward the goal with these three metrics:
Throughput - The rate at which the system generates money through sales.
Inventory - The money that the system has invested in purchasing things which it intends to sell.
Operational expense - The money the system spends in order to turn inventory into throughput.
You could rephrase it this way - and someone does, a bit later in the book:
Throughput - Goods out; the money coming in.
Inventory - Materials in; the money currently inside the system.
Operational expense - Effort in; the money going out.
Obviously, your job is to minimize expense and inventory and maximize throughput.
Adjust the flow of product to match demand. In particular, don't trim capacity to match demand. It's a standard cost-cutting procedure, sure. But you'll need that capacity later, if you're serious about increasing throughput.
Find bottlenecks. If manufacturing is what's limiting your throughput, then the problem isn't that people aren't working hard enough. You have bottlenecks in your manufacturing processes that are holding up everything else. Find the bottlenecks and do everything you can to fix them. Increase their efficiency, even at the expense of efficiency in non-bottleneck places, because the efficiency of a bottleneck directly determines the efficiency of the entire process, all the way through final payment. In the book, a variety of steps are taken to "elevate" and circumvent the bottlenecks. This is where the results start showing up on the bottom line. Soon the plant can actually use information from the bottleneck to do an effective job of scheduling work and (for the first time) reliably predicting when orders will be ready to ship.
Don't be afraid to have resources idle. It's better than putting them to work producing excess inventory that you can't sell.
Decrease the unit of work. If you've got people idle, you can afford to have them do their work in smaller chunks. Under a cost-accounting model, this hurts their "efficiency" by removing certain economies of scale. But you have much faster turn-around time. Everyone's more flexible. Work flows more smoothly. (Well, this is what the book says.)
jorendorff.com > Articles > The Goal
The Goal - A Process Engineering Novel