Tues. Aug. 11, 2020 – some economic pondering…

Still hot.  And humid.

Got a smatter of rain yesterday but mostly it was sunny and hot.

I did my auction pickups.  Got a pair of small vacuum formers, with about 6″ square working area.  They were school “industrial arts” tools.  I’ve wanted to make or find a small one for a while.   Didn’t have time to test them, I’ll hopefully get to that today.  They add a tiny bit of capability to my home ‘makerspace’.

One of my pickups was at a moving company/warehouse/shipping logistics company.  I spent a few minutes talking to the guy running the place, asking how their business was, how was the rest of the country, etc.   It started when I asked about the next auction.  He said they had no idea when it would be, as they were depending on other warehouse/ cross dock facilities to move stuff to them.  He said they couldn’t predict or guarantee how or how long freight would take to move around the country.

Freight that moves by truck doesn’t actually typically move from your dock, onto a truck, over the road to your customer’s dock, to be unloaded.  That’s called ‘point to point’ service and costs more.  What happens more usually is that a local service picks up your freight, takes it to a warehouse or cross dock facility.  There it’s unloaded, and sits briefly until it can move to a trailer moving in the correct direction.  Then it gets loaded and moves to the next cross dock, or regional hub, where the process repeats.  It’s kind of like packet routing on the internet.  Eventually it gets near where it is supposed to be, and a local carrier will take it that last couple of miles.  Sometimes your pallet or crate moves with only a stop or two, sometimes it bounces around.

The problem comes, and what is causing his company all the uncertainty, is what happens when one of those hubs/crossdocks/warehouses shuts down because of COVID cases.   Then your freight is stuck there until they reopen.  This is happening now and is causing delays.  Completely unpredictable delays, and fairly long ones at that.

I asked him what his impression of the overall economy is, and he said they cut all the deadwood out of his office, and now they are busier than ever.  He sees the same thing happening elsewhere.  Fewer people are doing more work, and it’s more efficient because of keeping the best people and sending the rest home.  He also thinks construction is currently more efficient because they have fewer ordinary people in the way, ie. less traffic means road repairs happen faster, etc.  He’s not seeing economic devastation everywhere.

Just a data point, from someone with a nationwide network.

I am not sure what to make of it.  I’m seeing some amazon items take weeks to get here, but next day on other items.  I know that there are delays in shipping and it makes sense with what he told me.  Not a good thing, if true and widespread, that’s for sure.

My wife says she’s starting to see delays and disruptions with her manufacturers and distributors.  The pace of new projects is slowing, and deliveries for existing are being pushed out in time.  A lot of office build out work is probably now obsoleted – no one will want to be ‘hot desking’ if and when they come back to the office, and likely a whole lot less office space will be needed with a lot of jobs converted to work from home.  That is a bit worrying, when things had been continuing on pretty much as before.

My last observation is that there were newbies picking up at my ISD location.  People are looking at buying and reselling as an alternative to whatever they were doing.  I don’t consider that a good sign.

Take a hard look at your own situation.  Do a bit of ‘what if’ concerning your income.  Look at your expenses, and think about what’s really necessary.  What will help you get through this?  If it won’t help, might be time to cut it out.  I’m going to try to do that, we’ll see how it goes.

As a counter to cutting back on some things, you might consider spending money on stacking some necessities 🙂

nick