The Biggest Constraint: A Ghostly Tale of Quality Management

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Ever since that big investment firm acquired us last year, Spacely’s Space Sprockets has been struggling. I can’t blame the investors. They provided an infusion of much needed cash, brought in a pair of high-tech, multi-axis machining centres, and agreed to replace our aging ERP system. At their request, we’d even brought in an efficiency expert to help us implement Six Sigma best practices.

Spacely should have been a lean, mean manufacturing machine by now, but we were barely breaking even. Shipments to our customers were way behind, and quality was going in the tank. Mr. Spacely was furious. “Fix it by the end of the quarter, Jetson, or you’re FIRED!”

I wouldn’t be the only one to feel the corporate axe, either. We needed help. My friend Dave heads up the quality department at Cogswell Cogs and I knew he’d had similar problems last year, so I called him up. “How about a drink after work?”

You bet,” he said. “Meet me at Moe’s?”

We agreed on six o’clock and I hung up the phone. Sure, Dave works for the competition, but I’ve known him since college. He’d never steer me wrong. Besides, maybe he could get me a job at Cogswell when this was all over. I’d heard they were hiring assemblers.

Spacely wanted to go over the figures just as I was headed out the door, so I was twenty minutes late. Dave was waiting in the corner. “Hey, buddy!” he said. “It’s been a long time. So what’s going on over at Spacely?”

After I explained the problem, he reached in his wallet and pushed a business card across the table. “This might seem a little weird, but you should contact these guys. They bring in retired executives as quality coaches. It really helped us out.”

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