Thursday, July 6, 2017

Centralized Production and Management - Employee Relations

In this post I'll be using the auto industry as an example because it is a good one. There are a lot of good arguments for centralized manufacturing and structure, and buying local/domestic. When businesses build with a centralized strategy, they save on travel expenses, reduce communications problems and costs, achieve better control, and stimulate the domestic economy. Also, with all of the travel and distribution, fuel costs are driven up along with the demand for foreign oil.

One exception with centralization is large computer hardware/software companies, because they need to invest a lot in research in order to stay on top, so the bottom line with costs is really important.

Companies often opt to manufacture abroad because they face incentives, less regulation, reduced costs, and attractive currency exchange rates. Some people think this is beneficial to the foreign economies and it may be in certain ways. However, the jobs created aren't always ideal, and with modern communications and resources these places can usually develop their own economies.

With economics, people need to look really closely at the domestic and local economies, and what people are doing, what they should be doing and what they shouldn't be doing or "other things." Where are the opportunities? People need to minimize the "other things" and with this opportunities are very important.

When the auto makers shut down a lot of the domestic factories in the early eighties, some of the large problems were poor management - employee relations/communications, and a lack of focus. Using this industry as an example, what do these people (management and employees) want to do? In this case it should be build cars. Management could have made sacrifices if this is really what they enjoyed doing and if they appreciated the community more. Unions were an issue, but employees needed to understand the realities and work with them better. Sometimes a pay cut is better than no job.

With domestic production, some of the problems can be solved with more safety education, thereby reducing compensation claims, and more efficient regulation so it isn't cost prohibitive.

A lot of people don't even think about these things when they buy a car, as an example, but the reaching effects can be amazing. One of the less obvious effects of having a lot of poor people is they spend a lot of their money at "thrifty" establishments that are undesirable, because they can't afford to shop elsewhere. Also, economies of scale are important. The more these companies produce, the lower their costs, which affects export numbers.

Centralized Production and Management - Employee Relations

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Media Literacy and Critical Thinking

Mainline media is a business. They convey a lot of sensational material. A lot of the local crime news relies on police reports, affidavits and press releases as sources. The news doesn't accurately reflect criminal activity. There's an interesting article from The Dart Center which can serve as an aid in interpreting news coverage, and discusses the effects.

This may fall under information or legal literacy, but sometimes there is a way something is presented, then there is what actually happened. Sometimes if you turn the story around and look at it the other way, that is what actually happened.

Actually, people need to look really closely at the situation and circumstances surrounding an event. Sometimes the victim is the criminal. Who is the suspect? What line of work is he/she in? Who are their relatives? Sometimes something happens where there is a victim, and someone else gets blamed. Someone might want a story. A story can function as advertising and serve someone's interests.

Then there's the evidence: police reports can be hacked, medical records can be hacked and witnesses can be hacked. Just about anything is hackable when it comes down to it.

What can be done to improve this situation? People can demand more progressive news coverage, and repercussions from investigative reporting can be minimized.

Media Literacy and Critical Thinking

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Literacy Rates

Literacy rates need to be improved if better economic balance is to be achieved. High literacy rates are important enough, but digital literacy is also crucial in an information society, and people need to be literate before they can be digitally literate. One example of the need for digital literacy is the irresponsible use of cell phones. Cell phones are not toys, yet some people use them to reach out to emergency services a lot more often than necessary. This places stress on resources and has other effects - it makes the workers' jobs more stressful. Hence qualified individuals may not be interested in the positions, and the application pool is reduced.

An educated workforce is necessary to compete in a global economy, and education spending should be given a top priority. Education levels are correlated to productivity, entrepreneurship, societal functionality, economic equality, income, safety, etc. And, a more economically balanced society is healthier for everyone in several ways.

An education system can be dysfunctional. For example, in the days of slavery, slaves were kept uneducated in order to keep them down. Several employment application assessments test for verbal and quantitative literacy. Are some companies trying to screen out the illiterate or are they seeking them out? Illiteracy is a weakness.

Literacy Rates

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Market Rate Housing

The size of an average new house has been increasing for a while. One source says 250% over the last sixty years. Recently, there's been a growing movement for tiny houses. It's important for people to ensure that practical sized homes are still permitted, say 700 to 1000 s.f.

Cities and counties usually have minimum square footage requirements for the construction of single-family houses. In the early twentieth century, houses under 1000 s.f. were quite common. That isn't always possible today.

One of the reasons the availability of smaller houses is really important is the cost of building new apartments and multi-family units. Nowadays, these types of structures often require costly features such as thicker drywall, sprinklers, emergency lighting, and hydrants as a result of "code creep." People need options, such as small houses.

Other relevant issues include occupancy limits and minimum bedroom number and minimum lot size requirements. Single bedroom homes shouldn't be a problem, especially with the smaller current household sizes. Impact fees can be prohibitive with a smaller house as opposed to a larger, more expensive house because they account for a larger fraction of the total cost.

Market Rate Housing

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Residential Construction Costs

A lot of the modern affordable apartment housing projects "look good." However, they don't always have efficient designs. The structural designs are often inefficient, and the units include numerous unnecessary features. Ideally, a person or family should wish to rent until they can afford to buy a starter house. An entry level/affordable house should be efficient as well. People can improve their homes when they can afford to, thereby not including the improvements in the financing.

When apartments have excessive luxury features, this adds a lot to the costs. If the housing is financed, the costs can double. So, if unnecessary features are included, these cost double as well. If the costs of construction can be cut by 50%, for example, twice as many units can be built on the same budget. Modern building codes make including some unnecessary features more expensive.

If these projects receive public funding, and the costs are cut, the same resources can be placed toward more housing. "Sustainable" is a popular buzz word. A small unit with limited window space doesn't use much energy at any rate. Many of the newer houses are so large that they use a lot of energy regardless of the efficiency of individual components. People should watch that the financially challenged aren't taxed disproportionately when it comes to environmental issues and housing.

Some of the inefficient/unnecessary features often included in modern affordable apartment projects are:

* Expensive on demand water heaters

* Washers and dryers (dryers should be given lowest priority)

* Expensive windows

* Excessive/expensive lighting

* Too many cabinets

* Garbage disposals

* Dishwashers

* Unnecessary hips and valleys in the roofing

* Microwaves

* Too much porch/covered porch space

* Interior wall (sound) insulation

* Sometimes central air conditioning isn't really necessary in mild climates

For examples, most people own microwaves and they're cheap, and lamps are cheap.

Residential Construction Costs

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Globalization and Competition

If people opt for globalization, they need to compete. The alternative to this is protectionism. Regulations can affect a local economy's ability to compete on a global scale. Examples include building regulations and workers compensation. For example, does a competing economy require compensation coverage for its workers and what does it cost? One solution to this is reducing the costs of compensation through education. Sometimes people take more risks when insured.

Building regulations can become cumbersome. Regulations such as these were put in place because of a lack of regulation and the resulting consequences. However, as is often the case with bureaucracies, special interests can become a problem over time and the regulators can be inefficient. The regulators, such as inspectors, need to minimize control issues and facilitate development.

Michigan has recently reduced several regulatory barriers to competition. There can be negative consequences, such as environmental concerns. On the other hand, globalization has environmental effects as well.

Facilities designs need to be efficient in order to minimize waste such as scrap building materials. Some of the safety and energy efficiency requirements are probably a bit excessive. Inspections should be as non-serial as possible. Contractors build their reputations on quality, and this should be taken into consideration. Companies need many incentives to build domestic facilities, as competing economies may offer more competitive incentives.

Globalization and Competition

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Big Data and the Cloud

All of these companies and organizations want people to download their "apps." Besides the obvious security risks associated with installing numerous application programs on a phone, there are other serious considerations. These programs often utilize personal location data.

So why does some company want someone to install some "app" on their phone, just so they can promote products and services? Location data is specifically sensitive. Who wants some random company, organization or individual knowing the whereabouts of their spouse or children, for example. Why would someone want some random person knowing where their wife has coffee every Thursday at 3 PM with a 92% level of certainty.

When an organization has access to this type of information, there's someplace(s) the information is supposed to go to. Who knows where the information actually goes from there. There are all kinds of advertising and promotional tools, both traditional and modern. People should consider the implications before just giving out access to their phones and tablets.

Big Data and the Cloud

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Social Networks

Some people don't realize the enormous responsibilities involved with administering a large social network site. Basically, a social network site is just a large website. It doesn't take very much capital to develop one. All it requires is hosting space on web servers that host a bunch of html files, along with the necessary administration and development.

Today's sites require minimal user authentication. Anyone can go online and open an account and fill out a profile. The companies which own these sites need to be very straight and operate with the highest ethical standards. Some form of advanced user authentication for account holders should be required, such as facial recognition.

In the more developed countries, at least, there are numerous databases with personal photographs. The pictures don't even need to be that current. Most PCs and smartphones have cameras. Someone would just need to upload a photo when they're opening an account, and the site could cross it with its database.

Unless something like this is implemented, the source of information as conveyed through a social network account is uncertain, and the reliability of information is undetermined.

Social Networks