Friday, 15 March 2013

07:47 – Barbara and I have started watching another good Canadian series on Netflix streaming. It’s Bomb Girls, set in a Toronto munitions plant in 1941. With one jarring exception, their technical advisors have done a good job. That exception was a scene that showed the girls sitting around on break (outside the plant, of course) smoking cigarettes. I almost choked on my Coke. The cigarettes they were smoking were filter tips, which didn’t become common until about 15 years after that scene was set. Also, some of the slang seems a bit anachronistic to my ears. For example, the girls use the phrase “head in the game” more than once.

But the tech advisors did get a lot of subtle things right. For example, there’s an accidental explosion and one of the survivors comments that the smoke was black instead of white. The girls fill shells with amatol, which is a mixture of TNT and ammonium nitrate. TNT is oxygen-deficient and produces black smoke when it detonates. Ammonium nitrate is oxygen-rich, and causes properly-blended amatol to produce white smoke when it detonates. So it would seem that the accident was not the fault of the girls who were filling the shells, but of the people who made up the amatol blend. I checked all this against a book I just happen to have on my shelves, the 1941 edition of Chemistry of Powder and Explosives. It’s a great reference resource for anyone who happens to be running a munitions factory in 1941.

Work on science kits continues. UPS showed up yesterday with my case of 60 Sterilite plastic shoe-box bins, which are already unpacked and in use as assembly bins.


12:28 – Back when we incorporated and started selling science kits, one of the first things I did was contact various wholesalers that we intended to use and ask them about credit terms. Most of them pretty much automatically granted $1,000 worth of trade credit, which was more than enough at the time.

Since then, I’ve started paying all of our minor vendors and all but two of the major vendors by credit card. It’s quicker and cleaner. I don’t have to write and mail checks. And our AmEx card gives us a kick-back on all purchases, so it makes sense to use it.

The two major vendors don’t accept credit cards, so I do the PO/check thing with them. Both authorized $1,000 of trade credit when we established accounts with them two years ago. One of them is pretty flexible. I mentioned Katie the other day. When I asked her early on how rigid they were about the $1,000 limit, she said not to worry about going over it within reason. She said if I ordered $1,500 or $2,000 worth of stuff or even more that probably no one would care. She said that if I issued them a PO for $4,000 or $5,000 their credit department would probably flag the transaction. The other vendor is much more rigid. They’ll accept POs up to $1,000, not including shipping (which can be significant, particularly for glassware orders), but that’s as far as they’ll budge. And until I’d paid outstanding invoices, which I do on receipt, I couldn’t order any more stuff from them, unless I pre-paid. Cutting a check for items I hadn’t yet ordered is a pain in the butt in terms of record keeping, so I just never did that.

None of this was a problem before. The typical PO I issued to that vendor might be for $600 or $800, and I seldom issued more than one or two a month. But with our business ramping up fast, I could see that it’s going to become a bigger problem. So I called and spoke to the owner this morning and asked him if he could increase my credit limit. He asked how much I wanted. I told him I was looking at a PO for $1,800–just one line item was for over $600–and trying to figure out how to prioritize items to get the PO under $1,000. I told him that our business was ramping up fast and issuing so many sub-$1,000 POs was going to be a pain in the butt, both for us and for them. So he raised our credit limit to $2,000 and said to give him a call in a few months about raising it further.