What Is the Goal?

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Continuous Improvement, 3rd ed. by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox, North River Press: Great Barrington, MA (2004). 384 pages, $24.95.

class="inserted-image-container image-original inserted-image-left">

Process engineers should be familiar with Eli Goldratt's seminal work The Goal for a number of reasons. First, chemical engineers are often tasked with finding improvements in continuous processes to reduce the manufacturing costs at a plant or facility. Goldratt's Theory of Constraints provides a systematic framework to search for bottlenecks in a manufacturing process and to find ways to improve throughput once the constraint is identified.

Next, many chemical engineers are unfamiliar with business terms and financial calculations. Most managers and decision-makers, on the other hand, are greatly concerned about financial metrics. The Goal offers step-by-step insights of the most important business measurements for a manufacturing plant. (You might also want to reference the series "Talking to Your Bo$$" here on ChEnected.) After all, the purpose of business is to make a profit!

Further, by addressing continuous improvement from the standpoint of fictional characters in a novel, Goldratt also conveys themes of leadership and teamwork. In The Goal, team members clearly join together to troubleshoot a crisis problem. Yet, they also attain skills and passion to further their individual careers. Reading about their approaches to problem-solving can help professionals hone teamwork capabilities, too.

Lastly, most chemical engineers work in environments that stress TQM (total quality management) and/or lean manufacturing. The Goal helps to pull together these sometimes abstract concepts into a simple story about keeping a failing division afloat. Engineers that are familiar with TQM and lean principles will be able to readily adapt Goldratt's Theory of Constraints introduced in The Goal.

A must-read for all project managers

The Goal is a classic text for all project managers. In its third edition, the original book was first published in 1984. Thus, there are references to activities that you wouldn't expect to see in any modern manufacturing facility today - smoking and drinking champagne are generally forbidden in most factories! However, the story of a manufacturing facility recovering from the brink of shutdown and transforming it into a stellar showcase of best practices is definitely worth reading.

Chemical engineers will find The Goal a quick book to read - even at 384 pages! It is packed with lesson on running a business and common sense financial analyses. As process engineers, we are often the first people called to solve a problem or troubleshoot an operational upset. The Goal will provide additional tools for you to use and to successfully grow in continuous improvement throughout your career.

Click on the cover of the book to see a 7-minute YouTube video on the Theory of Constraints. Fluid-flow experts will enjoy the video!

How does the work you do as a chemical engineer help your company achieve its "goal"?