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Theory of Constraints Tapped to Accelerate BP’s Gulf of Mexico Cleanup

Rarely does a business management theorist get a chance to prove himself by taking a key role in the fast-breaking news story of the year. And even rarer does it lead to concrete success.

That was the opportunity presented to Pinnacle Strategies CEO Mark Woeppel when BP surprised him with a call for help fighting the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The call would lead Pinnacle on an international mission to boost output of spill fighting equipment and then to help organize a historic mop up — the cleaning of more than 10,000 boats, ships and rigs.

As the magnitude of the spill became clear last April, BP put out the order to buy all material that could possibly be of use. But it found the entire U.S. production of critical cleanup resources was not enough. Oil was spreading — often where no workers, booms, skimmers or other equipment existed to contain it.

As with many success stories, Pinnacle’s involvement started with an incidental connection. Clint Wood, the BP executive in charge of supply, recalled a time years earlier when he briefly collaborated with Woeppel to boost production.

Now, Wood needed decontamination suits, boats, detergents, real estate for clean up sites, containment boom, dock space, boats, and other scarce material. More than equipment, Wood realized he needed to mobilize minds.

“I sifted through old e-mails and found one of Mark’s marketing letters,” Wood said. “I’ve always been an early adopter. I wanted to see if we could use Theory of Constraints to increase throughput.”

Within 48 hours of Wood’s Friday evening phone call, Pinnacle launched a marathon of visits through North America and Europe to work with BP’s key suppliers to increase production.

One early visit was to a Walker, Michigan factory. Prestige Products was asked by BP to supply as much oil containment boom as it could…

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