Saturday, May 23, 2020

Normalizing the economy

I want to expand on a concept that I implied in several earlier posts.

The premise is that life will "normalize" more quickly if smaller geographic regions are allowed to dash out ahead of Michigan in terms of economic (and freedom of association) freedoms. I used the word "percolate" which implies liquid seeking its way through a jumbled mass of material attempting to hold the liquid back.

Like nearly all vague and obscure concepts, it has applications in real life. It has been studied. There are formal disciplines to optimize it. One of those disciplines is sometimes called Theory of Constraints and one of the gurus is named Eliyahu M. Goldratt.

One of the prime killers of productivity is unnecessary coupling or linking together of events. Let me share a few examples:

Imagine two production lines that make welded steel structures that are used to make automobile bodies. One line makes parts for the left side of the body and the other line makes parts for the right side. The parts are almost mirror images of each other and the equipment set is nearly identical.

The electrodes that contact the parts when making spot welds are a consumable part are need to be replaced on a periodic basis. That interval can be anywhere between 3000 and 10000 welds for a robotic welder.

Each welding robot has a counter and it alerts the maintenance department twenty minutes before it reaches the end of its allowable electrode life. That way, the maintenance technician can be waiting at the cell, tools and parts in-hand when the cell trips out.

All of the robots in the cell go into the cap-change position when the first robot trips out. The maintenance technician locks out the cell and changes the cap. Then he pushes a few buttons and the production worker resumes making parts.

These two hypothetical production line have a total of eight production workers so the impact of a robot "stepping out" should be (five minutes * 1/8) of its gross productivity.

That is how it is SUPPOSED to work.

How does it work in real life?

All eight workers walk off the line to the cafeteria and the entire line is down for a half hour.

Their thinking is "Station 3 went down. I work in Station 2. There is no point in me building in my cell when the station down-line isn't pulling parts"

And the folks on the left side rationalize walking away with the logic "They cannot build bodies if they don't have parts for the right side. There is no point in us "building up the bank" just so the assholes on the next shift can sit on their butts."

The maintenance technicians don't quibble. They change all of the electrodes on all of the robots, which might take half an hour.

The supervisor doesn't see the issue. That is the way it has always been done. Plus, he supervises forty employees and something is always going in the ditch somewhere.

Back to the design intent of the system: The engineers who designed the line placed ten part buffers between each cell. In theory, they would typically run at about half full. If the cell upstream of your cell went down for maintenance then you could build out of the five parts in the buffer supplying your cell. If the cell downstream of your cell went down then you could pack the buffer for an additional five minutes before you tapped out.

The system was designed to have buffers between the cells to decouple them. The cells were still coupled together via human nature.

Another example:
Suppose there is some project that needs to get done at home. Let's say you want to redo the backyard patio. You want a new BBQ rig and the Mrs wants new pavers and landscaping.

One way to do it is for you to buy your BBQ without consulting the Mrs and the Mrs to contract the landscape work without getting you involved.

The other way to do it is to insist that they be done together. The Mrs wants to know what your BBQ looks like so she can coordinate the color palette. You want to be involved in the landscaping to ensure there is enough room around the BBQ rig to move a 400 pound hog and a skid-steer loader.

Guess which way of doing it takes longer?

Back to normalizing the economy
Insisting that "we are all in this together' and insisting that smaller sub-regions cannot be de-coupled from the other parts of the state guarantees that normalization will take a very, very long time.

One of Eliyahu M. Goldratt's metaphors is of a group of Boy Scouts hiking up a mountain. Herbie is a younger, fat kid with a case of soda-pop in his backpack. Guess who is the slowest kid?

One part of Goldratt's solution was to unpack Herbie's backpack.

That solution petrifies metropolitan areas. The analogy of unpacking Herbie's backpack is to allow less urban areas to operate at their potential and open-up ahead of Detroit. Then, employers in the Detroit area would out-source to those areas that were not drunk-and-disorderly.

What would that do to Detroit's tax base? Yup, it would vaporize which in-turn would further crater Michigan's budget.

There are elements in the government that are loath to sever Michigan's financial generosity to Detroit. They would insist that the ship be sunk before making adjustments.

Well, the ship is sinking. I can feel the water sloshing around my ankles.

1 comment:

  1. That addresses part of what I like about the way some Governors are letting the local counties decide . Governor of Texas has for sure set out limited orders and recommendations but has also left a lot of the choices to local Govt. Where the Governor has jumped in lately has been as much to open things up rather than close off ( Encouraging local power grabbers to back down). One county near the border went into heavy lockdown. I used to live there. Politically it was a risk because the locals didn't like the lockdown. However, I know many are hard heads down there and don't like to listen to authority anyway..a light touch gets no response. Sure enough the second the county eased up they went off like it was Spring Break.
    I don't know about Michigan but one trend I am seeing in Texas goes something like this. Pretty much the entire state has just about had it with rules and lockdowns no matter what any level of Govt says. We all were told at first things would be 2-3 weeks or so. Some grumbled but most went along. Well that was almost 2 1/2 months ago. Everyone can see how Walmart is open but local mom and pop stores were kept closed. Some people died but other than nursing homes so far this hasn't been Ebola on steroids super virus. The rules haven't made sense to most of us, some seem political. Information from the US Govt changes almost daily and so Hell with it !! I still wear a mask and many do. However, many are going on with their lives. Not going to live in fear forever. For a while you coudnt even take a boat out fishing. Insanity. Things are moving forward down here. Still some limits but most things are open or will be soon.
    A last thought in regards to normalizing the economy. Thank-God the Senate has slowed the rush in Congress to push out even more money. More people than I can count telling me they make more money on unemployment than they did working. One friend that has done alright working ( and who has an " essential job" that now has her working from home was mad to be working. Yes....upset to have a job. Her reasoning ?? Unemployment was paying about $25 a week more than she made working. She would rather set and watch TV and get paid ( more) than working her 40 hours.
    Also an slightly off topic question. Did Michigan activate their National Guard. Most states did. Someone I know in Texas was activated. He doesn't know when he will be sent back home. We are hearing a very strong rumor they will get sent home on his 89th day of activation. Why is that important ? If he is active 90 days he become eligible for a number of VA benefits. In typical Govt fashion some bean counter apparently wants to make sure the National Guardsmen don't get those benefits. Have you heard anything ?


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