Thursday, January 10, 2013

Improving Food Supplies

This is not a blog about food waste, although I just heard on NPR this morning, that 50% of food is wasted annually (over $2 billion). One of the problems is lack of proper preservative capabilities, either the food itself or its storage. Another is overbuying and throwing out expired products (more common in the U.S.). This brings up some interesting considerations because world food production and population growth have created predictions of shortages.

One solution is much smaller grocery stores. These new stores would only carry high-turnover products like bread, milk, certain vegetables, fruits, meats etc. Just like the corner 7/11 or Wawa. So how would we get our food? We'd order it, either online or by phone, and it would be delivered within hours or a day tops. Companies like Schwans, Netgrocer and Walmart are just a few. Go online, enter your zipcode and you will know immediately whether they deliver by hand or by mail. Walmart has advantages because you can also find their coupons easily.

This new system would have many advantages. Cutting down on waste is the largest. Instead of stocking shelves of products that MIGHT get sold, definitive orders would be known. With Just In Time provisioning, manufacturing and production at all steps in the process would be decreased and much more efficient. Big box stores could cut their high overhead with smaller physical footprints, and could even open more, but smaller high-volume stores. Store employees lost in this old system would still be needed to take orders, pack, organize and deliver delivered and mail-ordered products.  This could work for ALL products, not just food, although it's critical to our survival to produce and store foods and liquids more efficiently.

Companies doing this would be good investments, because the handwriting's on the wall. The trends can be seen. We can't continue our current grocery store model which is extremely inefficient and has very low margins to begin with. Other good investments would be the USPS, Fed Ex, UPS etc., as well as recycling facilities and products for packaging, and paper mills producing cardboard. Trucking and distribution facilities would also be improved and increase. All these things result in more jobs.

Storage products like refrigerators and freezers would also need to be increased and manufactured cheaply, another good investment. Particularly half-sized refrigerators and freezers.  Companies like Omaha Steaks are leading the way in this trend away from grocery stores. So are local Farmer's Markets, which are also increasing, along with locally grown food facilities, gardens and farms.

Look at Amazon today. Take ordering a book for example. It may be in the warehouse ready to go, or it could be Print On Demand (POD). Either way the book is on your doorstep within three days. Not bad. And POD books are easy to print and ship. No waste from unsold inventory. No storage costs in overflowing warehouses. And cutting down the Cost of Goods Sold is a priority for every business. In the future, producing food and liquids to order will be done similarly, to a large degree.

According to, there are over 223 million PCs in the U.S. The total population is only 310 million. So Internet use is booming and will only grow, especially since many schools teach keyboarding in their curriculums, and PC prices are stable. And with software programs that test for viruses and malware on websites and in emails automatically, use will continue to burgeon. Most everybody trusts PayPal, for example.

Are you comfortable ordering online? Is it much of a stretch to order your groceries online? I don't think so.

Rodney Richards copyright 2014

Check out my bipolar journey with happy interludes in my memoir Episodes available no from, as well as my other longtime blog, ABlessedLifeinAmerica on Google's Blogger!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Shadow Metric System

Americans are spoiled. Yes, we still weigh things in gallons instead of liters, use pounds instead of kilograms, and feet instead of meters.Even after more than ten years of having a dual labeling system -- which is a completely unnecessary expense and drag on innovation and productivity. eHow says "The meter has been adopted by virtually every major nation except the United States. The metric system is also used by scientists worldwide."

Oh, we could attribute this to the lobbyists who are pushing its continued use, or to the legislators who refuse to change it. But it comes down to polls and comfort. Polls, because most Americans don't want to change, they're too familiar with it, and legislators who have given up trying to change it.

We even teach the metric system in schools, along with "our" system of weights and measures. This is emblematic and demonstrates clearly a central fact of human nature. We don't like change. However, that's too bad. There comes a time when it becomes critical for survival. Okay, so use of the metric system doesn't seem like such a big thing.

Tell automobile manufacturing companies that in the U.S. Almost 8 million cars and trucks produced annually, yet only a small fraction are "American" i.e. 75% or more of the vehicle is made from American parts.  Many American cars use nuts and bolts, for example, measured in inches. (I think) There was a time when this was true for all American vehicles. Those days are long gone. All foreign cars use metric sizes.

I got my first metric socket set from Sears in 1969, after I bought my first vehicle, a 1962 VW Bus. I had to change the alternator on the bus, and needed the right tools -- metrics. Soon after Janet and I were married in June 1971, we inherited an old Rambler American from her parents, We called it "The Tank," because it was so big and awkward. I had to buy an American-sized ratchet and socket set to work on it. It probably only cost me $10. In those days I was able to do oil changes, gap and change spark plugs, adjust the carbeurater etc. Of course, it's tough just doing an oil change now.
But on a very minute scale, you can see that more expense is involved with maintaining two standards. Multiply this millions of times, and the need to maintain and make machines that can produce both types of products etc. and you see my point. I don't believe in change for the sake of change, but changes like this have a tipping point (see Malcolm Gladwell's book of the same title).We have passed ours when it comes to metric many years ago.
So let's save time, money and effort and adopt the metric system formally. It really will make life easier, and it won't take us that long to get used to it, I promise.

Rodney Richards copyright 2014

Check out my bipolar journey with happy interludes in my memoir Episodes available no from, as well as my other longtime blog, ABlessedLifeinAmerica on Google's Blogger!