The book The Goal is a story about a manager whose manufacturing plant is not exerting sufficient production numbers and efficient and cost effective inventory levels. The main character in the story is Alex Rogo, the plant manager of UniCo which is a division of UniWare located in Bearington, Massachusetts which is the very city that Alex grew up in. UniWare is the parent company of UniCo which manufactures components needed for the assembly of products produced by other unrelated manufacturers.
The story picks up on what was supposed to be an ordinary day at UniCo but when Alex gets to work on this day his supervisor, Bill Peach, comes into the plant and practically turns everything into frenzy. After Alex puts out all of the fires that Bill had set, the two of them sit down in Alex's office and talk. Bill tells Alex that production has gone down in the six months that Alex has been the plant manager of the Bearington facility, and a furious customer, Bucky Burnside, has an order that is overdue, and Alex must get that order shipped before he ships anything else. Bill also says that if the plant does not turn around in the next three months, he will make a recommendation to the board to close the Bearington plant. .
A few days later, Alex hears more of the same at a corporate meeting and figures out why Bill was upset. After the meeting Alex finds a cigar he received from a chance encounter from and old physics professor from his college undergraduate days. He reunited with his old teacher while waiting for a flight at O"Hare, Alex wandered into an airport and found himself sitting next to the physicist named Jonah. Alex and Jonah start talking, and Alex mentions he is going to speak at a seminar on robotics and their impact on productivity. Alex tells Jonah that his plant has more robots than any other plant in the division of UniWare. Jonah asks Alex how much productivity has improved because of the use of the robots.