Friday, 22 March 2013

07:51 – Congress has given the US Postal Service no relief, insisting that it must continue 6-day service. However, some in congress, along with USPS officials, have pointed out that congress has not specified which types of mail must be picked up and delivered on Saturdays. So the USPS currently intends to proceed as planned, dropping Saturday pickup and delivery of all types of mail except Priority Mail and Express Mail, primarily packages, as of this summer. This change would have zero effect on our business, as we ship our kits by Priority Mail.

I asked our mailman yesterday how this change would affect him, other than the fact that he’d then be working only Monday through Friday, with weekends off. He said it wouldn’t affect him or any the other full-time staff that had permanent routes. The main effect would be on the employees who covered those routes on the full-timers’ days off. I asked him how many of those would have to be retained to cover Saturday Priority/Express Mail pickup/delivery. He said that our zipcode has 36 routes, all of which could be covered on Saturdays by only two or three people.

The USPS unions are utterly opposed to any changes to Saturday delivery for the obvious reason. If dropping Saturday delivery of first-class and junk mail allows the USPS to reduce staff by a factor of 12 to 18, from 36 to 2 or 3, what would be the effect on employment of the USPS discontinuing 2nd-class and junk mail entirely? Only a small percentage of our mail is first-class. Nearly all of it is 2nd-class (catalogs) and junk mail. If those were eliminated–leaving only first-class, Priority, and Express mail–the USPS could reduce its delivery staff by some very large percentage. If 2 or 3 people can cover this zipcode for Priority/Express mail pickup/delivery, how many more would be needed to add first-class mail to the mix? Four or five?


10:11 – I’ve just been running some numbers, trying to get a handle on what’s likely to happen for the rest of 2013. One of the comparisons I ran was on kit revenues by month versus year-ago. In December 2012 kit revenues were 4.4 times those of December 2011. In January, February, and March 2013 versus the same months in 2012, kit revenues were 6.9X, 2.8X, and 8.8X, respectively, for an average of about 5.7X.

One commenter the other day suggested that I just buy a year’s supply of everything and keep it inventoried. The problem with that is two-fold: first, I don’t really know what a year’s supply is. If I order in enough for 5.7X last year’s kit sales, that’s 1,500+ kits’ worth. Second, there’s the issue of storage space and working capital. So I’ve decided to buy large quantities only of those items that are single-source and, based on our previous experience, are likely to be backordered at some point. Stuff that I can get from two, three, or four of our wholesalers I won’t worry about. So I may end up with 1,500 spatulas in stock, 600 dozen of the thick cavity slides, and so on. That, we can deal with. What I don’t want to have to deal with inventorying is 40 gross of beakers or 750 dozen test tubes or 125 dozen 100 mL graduated cylinders.


12:26 – I just ordered another two cases of the Sterilite 6-quart plastic storage bins from Home Depot. With the case of 60 we just received, that gives us 180 total bins, plus the 37 that I’d bought earlier in the store. I’m going to keep 30 of the bins for building chemical bags, small parts bags, and so on. The other 187 will be used for storage. I just checked and found that the Sterilite bins will easily hold more than 60 of the 30 mL bottles and twice that many of the 15 mL bottles. With our current kit lineup, we have 142 chemicals to store and roughly 100 more equipment and component items. Many of the latter don’t need storage bins. For example, we order goggles by the case of 100, and they stay in those cases. Same deal for items like beakers and so on. Subassemblies like chemical bags and small part bags are much too large for these small bins. A batch of 30 of those bags fills a good-size box, so we store them in, uh, good-size boxes.