Posts Tagged ‘Donn Novotny’

Those whose careers span a lengthy involvement in the manufacturing sector, and those younger but with a keen interest in productivity improvement in manufacturing,  will no doubt recall the name of Eli Goldratt, who passed away on June 11th

Eli (actually Eliyahu M. Goldratt) gained fame as the author of the seminal business novel (a novel concept in itself at the time) “The Goal.”  The book went on to sell an astounding thirty million copies in about 50 languages.  Goldratt was an Israeli physicist whose own critical path took him into the world of management consulting – some would say, guru. 

His work on optimizing productivity in business, and particularly in an area he dubbed the “Theory of Constraints” serves as the foundation today to dramatic process improvements across the business spectrum.  TOC principles have been applied with great success over the past 25 years at businesses large and small across the world.

By looking at resources and their flow, and identifying key constraints, Goldratt and his many cohorts and later firm members built an industry around, essentially, solving problems via a rigorous intellectual approach — critical thinking skills.  By identifying constraints, raising and addressing them to find the next constraint, and so on, Goldratt and the members of his Avraham Y. Goldratt Institute (which he named for his father upon its founding in 1986) were able to apply a mathematical, scientific and heavily logic-based methodology to problem solving in engineering, production and other business processes.

Goldratt had a strong local connection (local to us here in northernIndiana).  For sixteen years, Dr. Donn Novotny was partners with Eli, later leaving the Institute to form his own organization, The Goal Institue.  Donn lives in Elkhart, Indiana, our neighbor city to South Bend.

Notably, to readers of “The Goal” Donn was the inspiration for the lead character and plant manager Alex Rogo – in effect, Donn was Alex Rogo.  Donn is a good friend and we’ve sponsored him on multiple occasions at our own firm’s events.  He continues the tradition of both institutes to this very day, by continuing to lecture on and teach the principles of TOC (among others) to any company or group willing to listen.

I’ve personally worked with Donn when he helped our firm and learned much from his cerebral approach to problem solving.  By liberal use of his hand-drawn graphics, careful logic, and the use of the “cloud” concept regarding constraints (a “cloud” metaphor that long preceded the one we hear so many IT writers opine about today…), Donn is able to intelligently and beautifully apply critical thinking skills to problem solving that any company could take advantage of today – once taught through the skillful presentation of someone like Donn.

Goldratt’s loss as a modern business thinker is regrettable.  Thankfully, his acolytes and fellow consultants, like Donn, continue the tradition – one aimed at improving the lives and lots of businesses and the people that run them and work in them.


We originally wrote about Eli and Donn’s work early in 2007 in a series of seven posts that begins here.

(For more information about Dr Donn Novotny and his work, you can also go here and here.) 



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In the first of this seven part series of thoughts on manufacturing constraints and scheduling, I started with a reference to Eli Goldratt’s The Goal.  Along the way, we placed links to various online sources for more information.  Obviously, the trove of information is deep.  You really should check them out.

In our own consulting practice, usually we find clients simply want some guidance.  And usually, we provide it ourselves.  Sometimes, we refer them to others with a reputation for solving problems. 

For Lean Manufacturing matters, we like to go to our guys Larry Lukasik and Jim Therrien.  They don’t have a website – they’re too busy doing good work helping companies go lean – but we happily connect them with clients with a need in this area. 

Other times, we’ve called in our good friend Dr. Donn Novotny (referred to earlier as the role model for Alex Rogo in The Goal).  Donn’s President of The Goal Institute, and is a master at solving complex problems with logical thinking processes.  He’s a master teacher of TOC and has worked with companies large and small, all over the world.

Frequently, we apply our Business Process Analysis, a modestly priced fixed-fee engagement whereby we help clients identify and resolve their own bottlenecks, constraints and process gaps.  Once identified, we’ve had great success in solving problems with better processes and, of course, software and technology. 

That technology slant seems to be the field-leveler these days.  The clients we have that are really committed to their tech investments gain real strategic competitive advantage – and most importantly, growth, compared to those with fear of the terrain, or whose commitment to real improvement often just doesn’t compare.

The global landscape is changing, faster than most recognize.  The Internet and its associated Widgets of Productivity are changing the landscape for all of us.  You embrace it, exploit it for your own purposes, or get run over by it.

In this series on Drum-Buffer-Rope thinking, I hope we’ve provided a little food for thought.  This stuff has been around for awhile.  And we’ve barely scratched the surface.  Most of it is about logical thinking processes — but necessary ones, at least in today’s manufacturing environment. 

At the least, I hope we’ve induced you to think about your own constraints, and what you can do about them. 

In solving these kinds of problems on a daily basis, our team gets to see a lot of the best (and sometimes, the worst) practices in action.  The common thread among the best of them is smart people leading smart teams operating under the assumption that, really, what other choice do we have?  Adapt and survive.  Else, not.

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A recent article in APICS Magazine reminds us of the complexity of accurately and efficiently planning production in the manufacturing environment, whether you’re in a continuous or a batch environment.

As David Turbide, an independent consultant points out, traditional enterprise planning involves scheduling materials via Material Requirements Planning (traditional MRP) but seldom takes into account whether there is sufficient capacity to carry out the ultimate plan.

This “plan materials first, then check capacity” logic has been around since MRP was first automated in the 60’s.  Too often, conflicts between supply/production and capacity are detected, and changes are made on the fly, often made during or just before setup, and usually involving trade-offs of inventory vs. schedule disruptions or overtime.

The math to resolve this, if even available, is complex.  Rules that drive the process must often be broken, and blindly following rules seldom leaves every production need satisfied.  Besides, humans can still make better ‘special judgments’ than software when exceptions become the rule.

One effective solution comes courtesy from our old friend Donn Novotny, President of The Goal Institute.  Donn’s drum-buffer-rope (DBR) logic and the long heralded Theory of Constraints provide practical, real-world solutions to thorny production scheduling problems.  We’ll cover more of the basics in our next article, but you can find decent overviews here and here.

Donn, by the way — and many don’t know this — was actually the role-model for Alex Rogo, lead character in the seminal manufacturing ‘novel’ of the 1980’s entitled The Goal, which became one of the world’s best-selling business books ever.  We at PSSI have been friends with Donn (who lives nearby) for years, and have sponsored him frequently at customer events and seminars.  Donn and I are even members of a local consultants’ roundtable called the Business Improvement Group, and we’ve referred Donn to clients who faced the very kind of constraints that Donn is an expert at solving.

For those not familiar with these topics, we’ll highlight DBR and TOC approaches a bit this week.  One thing’s for sure: For every problem in business these days there is no shortage of people with proposed solutions.

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