Robots Will Take Over Construction Industry

How many times have we heard politicians promising to bring back manufacturing jobs to the United States? Maybe I am over thinking it, but unless you are manufacturing some very expensive items it will be a challenge to offer American workers minimum wage to stand on an assembly line and put together key-chains and such. Come to think of it, there are some very expensive items like all of Apple’s products that have low material cost and sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Those components would be great to manufacture in America and pay workers a decent wage. But, wait, why manufacture here when they can pay a couple of hundred dollars a month to do it overseas? And so the problem continues.

 

As sales director for Union store fixture and mill work installations I understand now more than ever how important labor unions are to our work force. With many Americans working harder than ever we see many corporations cutting shifts to less than 30-hours so they are not eligible for health benefits. We are becoming a country of part time workers, which is not going to sustain us to raise families and live the American dream.

 

Thanks to Labor Unions like the International Brotherhood of Carpenters, which we are members of, there are some safeguards for us. An honest wage for a day’s work by skilled workers who are well- trained and focused on quality and safety.

 

We often sit around and discuss the future of our children and the new generation when it comes to what types of jobs will be available to them. Tech comes up a lot. It’s a growth industry, not only in the USA but overseas as well. With the world becoming smaller (thanks to the internet) it also becomes more competitive and price conscious.

 

Many manufacturing jobs have been replaced by computers and robots. A bottling plant for a beverage company can replace 100 human workers with a series of robotic stations and only 2 human workers to turn them on and off. More people unemployed by technology. Many young college graduates have studied robotics in the hopes to build a career in that field. Now, here is the kicker (and It is real)… There are companies that are actually designing robots capable of building robots!

 

Now let’s get onto construction! We as union carpenters, while more states embrace “right to work” are still feeling secure that a man with tools will always have a job. Well, I felt the same way until I researched the robotics industry and found a startling new concept: Robotic construction workers!

 

Yes, it’s true, according to Science Journal, a prototype of a new robot referred to as “termes” has been developed that may one day revolutionize the construction industry. Engineers provided the robots with construction blueprints, and then left them alone. The TERMES built the structures by observing and reacting to the other robots around them—with no further instruction from humans.

 

Because they work independently, the same construction plan can be executed by a dozen TERMES or a hundred of them. Because their directives are so simple—put down a brick that fits in the building plan, where no one else has laid one down–they require little processing power. The prototype TERMES use specially built bricks to construct towers, castles, and pyramids. The researchers say they could also handle simple tasks like laying sandbags down before floods. While the prototype robots are about the size of a desk phone, researchers say they could eventually scale them up or down

 

Imagine construction sites where human workers are union store fixture installersreplaced by robotics. Carpenters and construction workers can be displaced by the robots and the sites requiring only minimum supervision.

 

While this technology is still in prototype, the reality is that they have successfully created the beginning stages of its development. While those of us middle-aged carpenters may not have to contend with R2D2 taking over our jobs, future generations may very well have to deal with this new technology that will threaten their livelihood.

 

My advice to those up-and-comers in the industry….become a shop steward so you can watch over the robot workers!

 

There is an interesting video put out by Harvard that shows these Termes in action: http://youtu.be/LFwk303p0zY

 

About the author:

Martin Chase is National Sales Director at Store Force, Inc., leading Union store fixture installers providing clients with fixture and mill work installations around the country. Martin can be reached at 631-672-3150 or by email at: unioninstallers@gmail.com

 

 

 

Manufacturing In America?

wholesale merchandise, manufacturingThis month just some fodder to think about. Since the election of our president (twice!) there was a good deal of talk about bringing manufacturing back to the United States. The idea is great and it stirs up a lot of cheers from the crowd. But the reality of doing this really is quite different that the concept.

 

If you are talking about very high end goods like cars, then yes, manufacturing can be done in the USA. The product has enough margin to sustain localized manufacturing. How many people do you know who build cars? The talk was about all types of manufacturing to get our factories buzzing again. That is a much harder scenario.

 

When it comes to wholesale merchandise, do we really think that we will be able to manufacture here as opposed to overseas? The conundrum is that dollar store merchandise made here in the USA would be considered $5 store. Because citizens of the USA are trained on bargains and deals, it’s very unlikely that they will pay double or triple for a product because it is USA-made. The concept of USA-made gets a lot of cheers until consumers need to open their wallets to pay for it.

 

The other end of that is the manufacturing itself. How many people do you know will want to work on a factory assembly line making minimum wage to assemble widgets? Even if a factory could employ American workers for minimum wage, that is still double, triple or beyond what they pay their counterparts in other countries.

 

So, we have a double edge problem. We really should manufacture here but we really can’t afford to either make it, or buy it after it’s made. And unless the product is a high margin one, companies will not consider cutting into their own margins.

 

By the way, and I never understand why the millennials never take offense to Apple when they are “Occupying Wall Street.” Here is a company that employees poorly paid workers in China – exploits them and charges $600 for a cell phone here in the USA. This is a great example where we CAN manufacture here in the USA and maybe instead of costing $5 to make an iPhone it would take $10 – still leaving a big margin and allowing American workers the opportunity of employment.

 

I often think of the Apple scenario and wonder why our President hasn’t reached out to the mega tech gurus over there … then I realized that he’s a Blackberry guy! And we all know what’s happened to Blackberry!

 

Your thoughts?  Please share.

 

 

 

Crucifying The E-Cig

wholesale e-cigs 1I am not a smoker – tried it when I was a teenager and just never liked it. I have nothing against smokers, some of my best friends are smokers! Now, let’s get to the politics of smoking.

 

I live in New York, a city that talks the talk of liberalism and freedom, except when it comes to smoking, big gulp drinks, trans fats and other things deemed not good for us by our elected officials. When smoking cigarettes was banned in restaurants and bars I, along with many smokers thought that it was a good idea. Smoking in enclosed spaces is neither healthy or sanitary. However, the city went as far to ban smoking in outdoor public parks as well as on city sidewalks! That’s a bit crazy. I get it, smoking is unhealthy and the plan is to make it inconvenient so smokers will quit. The city also taxes cigarettes big-time, which makes a pack now around $11-$12 each.

 

Let’s consider that the tobacco lobbyists are some of the most powerful who influence government leaders. Politicians can’t argue that smoking is good for people so they make a stand telling people they should quit, put warnings on labels, all the while knowing that it won’t make much of a difference. But they can tell their constituents that they care and they are doing something. Well, if you want to do something, you can ban the sale of cigarettes as a drug, but that’s not going to happen, is it?

 

So, taking the lead that maybe, just maybe, lawmakers are playing footsie with big tobacco, now comes the e-cigarette.

 

The e-cigarette comes in a variety of strengths and produces a vapor, believed to be harmless and is certainly one of the most formidable competitors to big tobacco in the last many decades. Who likes competition? Who likes a smoke-free product that may help cutting down on smoking and lung cancer? Certainly not big tobacco. And what about cities like New York who maybe got a bit of pressure from the lobbyists to rally against the e-cigarette. New York has decided to add e-cigarettes to the smoking ban. What would have been an alternative to cigarettes gets snuffed out with a few signatures!

 

And much of the stories and arguments that abound are that e-cigarettes are new and studies are inconclusive about their risks and benefits. Let’s make this simple – the benefit? Even if a smoker doesn’t quit smoking by using an e-cig, what benefits do traditional cigarettes give a smoker? And as for the risks, we already know for a fact that traditional cigarettes cause cancer, rotting teeth, wrinkled skin and death in many cases. Let’s go worst case scenario and e-cigs cause the same maladies. No, instead, the FDA and local cities are “protecting” us by allowing us to buy killer tobacco cigarettes but banning and speculating on the possible dangers of e-cigs.

 

Really!

 

 

What do you think? Share your comments with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trickle This…

trickle down economics 1Many folks continually criticize the GOP for what they call Trickle Down Economics or Reaganomics, still, as bitter and persnickety as these folks get, perhaps they miss the point. You see, if you give money in social programs the businesses and corporations get the money anyway within a few transactions and the poor are left with their hand out for another free fish the next day, still poor.

 

If you help businesses with incentives to help foster the economy or steer it where you will, it will move slightly in that direction and hopefully those economic gains will propel lower prices and more market entrants and jobs, thus, more competition and lower prices. Does this really work? No, in the end all you’ve done is create a mechanism for crony capitalism through lobbyists, but if you give money to the poor that doesn’t work either because you make people weak, helpless and reliant on a government that can never really give them all they desire, not to mention that the lobbyists on the left, labor unions for instance also unbalance the fairness of the game and that creates wage inflation.

 

There was an interesting article recently in Star Dem [star] com which is a Democrat propaganda website which spouts all sorts of socialist blather [in my opinion]. The article was titled; “Trickle-down economics’ is real,” by Frank L. Miller of Denton and published on January 19, 2014, a light news day Sunday of course, as this sort of nonsense probably wouldn’t fly too long during the business week, because those in the know would hammer the article very quickly. Nevertheless the article stated or attempted to purport the following;

 

“Thomas Sowell had me going there for a minute with the headline, ‘The trickle-down economics lie,’ My first thought was that he was finally acknowledging that this economic theory was a bust. But no, he was actually suggesting that there never was any such thing, not even in J.A. Schumpeter’s 1000-page book. What is ‘trickle-down economics?’ Well, according to Wikipedia, it’s ‘tax breaks and other economic benefits to businesses and upper income levels to benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole.’ Sound familiar? This is precisely what President George W. Bush did when he granted the tax breaks for the rich, breaks the Republicans were willing to shut down the government to maintain.’

 

Now then, Trickle Down economics is a derogatory term used by donkey-driven democrat political operatives, just as they used the “Bush Doctrine” of preemption as if he thought of it, when in reality it came from the early 1700s from Karl von Clausewitz in his treaties “On War” which is still used by military strategies to this day and even Sun Tzu had spoke in similar terms in his writing “The Art of War” and this just goes to show how the Democrats rip off the narrative and splatter the news and Internet with seventh grade level debating points, serving them up to the mindless masses to try to convert the people to their viewpoint and maintain synergy amongst their brainwashed followers.

 

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Small Businessman’s Response to State of the Union

state of the union 1Allow me to spend a few minutes sharing some of my thoughts about the recent State-of-the-Union address by President Obama. Regardless of who you or I voted for, we are still Americans and want the best for all our fellow citizens. Unfortunately, the last few years have been everything but the best for our “folks” as Obama likes to call them.

 

While I am a realist and understand that the government and President cannot cure all the ailments of the country, there are some worries that perhaps they are making things worse. The healthcare debacle has been discussed over and over. The people who like it are the people who benefited by it – others, not so much. As a small business owner I have seen our rates raised almost 25%, not exactly what was promised. Plus some of the doctors have been dropped from our insurer, or have dropped the insurers. Anyway, I think it’s safe to say, politics aside that the notion of affordable healthcare is a good one, but the realities turned out differently.

 

Then we have the topic that drives me crazy. President Obama explaining that we need to “re-educate” the working class for the “new” jobs that we are missing out on here in the United States.

 

Let’s address this from the top. We know many well educated college graduates who were top of their classes over the last several years when they graduated. Now they are top of the unemployment lists. So, the well education are amongst the least employed right now. For whatever reasons you want to blame, whether it be health insurance changes, minimum wage arguments, etc. we have a wealth of highly educated young people who cannot find jobs. And we have employers who take advantage of that by offering unpaid internships and low wages to them. Check out Craigslist under help wanted and see how many ads are for unpaid internships. Yea, and the chance of turning that unpaid position into a paid one… you figure the odds.

 

So, we need to re-educate Americans for the new manufacturing jobs that President Obama refers to. MANUFACTURING?! Really! So our well educated, well versed young “folks” should be trained to work the factory line. Let’s face it, manufacturing these days consists of cell phones, some auto work and other traditionally robotic and limited motor skill jobs. Yes, I can see how Americans will pour into the Apple factories to put together the new iPhones. Move over Foxconn (Apple’s China factory), where workers just got a raise (because of media pressure) to $350 a MONTH!

 

Oh yes, manufacturing will come back to the USA. Let is not forget that it left because outsourcing was so much cheaper and Americans did not want to work for pocket change. But our President is going to bring back the factory jobs to America. And our college graduates can line up for those jobs – maybe Obama’s new $10.10 minimum wage will kick in and they’ll make the big bucks. College loans be damned, our new work force will work 80 hours a week at the factory to make a dent in paying back their loans.

 

These are the same Americans that Obama things will work for $10 an hour in a factory producing products, like the iPhone that sells for $600 – equivalent to almost two weeks of USA min. wage (under his new $10.10). Good luck with that!

 

Then there are the “shovel ready” jobs that the President has promised since he ran for election the first time. I love this group of jobs – as I have NEVER in my life ever met anyone who actually worked on a road or bridge. But maybe that’s just me and your neighbors have a shed full of those shovels at-the-ready and go out every morning digging the roads or welding a bridge.

 

So, with all the rhetoric of the State-of-the-Union I am afraid that the speech gave us nothing new and less to be hopeful for. The thought of bringing factory jobs back to American is great, IF they pay the wages Americans need to survive on, but they won’t. And the flipside is that cost of goods will raise, thus affecting retail sales, etc.

 

I don’t know about you but I’m heading over to the hardware store to pick up a few shovels so I will be ready when I get Obama’s letter to report for my shovel ready job. Maybe I’ll get to work on the George Washington bridge here in NY, if Gov. Christie hasn’t shut it down for the day!

 

What’s your opinion? Share it with us…

 

 

 

Showrooming – the saga continues

showroomingMany of our readers know the term “showrooming” but in case you are not familiar I will explain. Showrooming refers to shoppers who go to a store to see and feel the merchandise and then go online to buy it somewhere else, cheaper.

 

This has been a real problem for many retailers, especially the electronics giant Best Buy whose sales were certainly effected by this act. Of course it is completely within the law to window shop and compare and as retailers we realize that we cannot control the shoppers. I think it’s tacky when the shopper starts scanning product bar codes to use an APP on their phone to locate the product closeby at another store at a lower price.

 

Everything can’t always be cheaper! That’s just a fact of life. It costs money to run a store and shoppers will soon lose their window shopping when more and more stores close up because of no shopper loyalty or willingness to pay a dollar more to support your local businesses.

 

Many retailers have tried to fight the showrooming by switching to their own bar codes but found that APP’s also worked with product names and model numbers. So much for that. Then retailers like Best Buy became more proactive with their shoppers – using their sales force to engage shoppers on the sales floor. Not so easy to take snapshots of bar codes with a sales associate standing next to you. Also, the sales associates were able to discuss the product and pricing as well, and in many cases offering a price guarantee.

 

The price guarantee and trolling the sales floor worked for the electronics giant – BUT, and this is a big  but….the store’s margins diminished and they turned in a not so rosy profit picture after the holiday season.

 

So, in essence you can tackle the showrooming by being proactive on the sales floor and offering price matches but it will effect your bottom line. How long can you go seems to be the new wave of retailing. Thank you internet!

 

Ideas? Opinions? Share with us.

 

 

 

Barney’s NY – Racial Profiling?

JZ IMAGEWell, the newspapers love good stories and this last week it had a field day here in New York City. It appears that a young African American shopper was buying an expensive belt at Barney’s New York store and was stopped by two plainclothes policemen who questioned him about the purchase. I will spare you the details as I am sure you are up to speed on the idiocy of their interrogation.

 

Here is the problem that I am having. Barney’s is a retailer who services tens of thousands of customers annually. This incident, and one other that was just reported after the “victim” discovered you can actually sue and make bank for this, seem to be somewhat isolated incidents. I do not imagine that Barney’s has a discriminatory policy against minorities as several of their brands they sell are fashioned for urban youths.

 

Could this possibly have been extremely poor judgement by the cashier at the store, or the NYPD (they have at times shown lapses in judgement)? I am surprised that the store let the story get away from them by not addressing it immediately. How about some press showing that you are firing the employee (if it were their fault), or questioning the police. But instead Barney’s let the media go into a frenzy, which will probably result in major reputation damage ruining decades of retailing success.

 

Let’s go even one step further! Now the call is for Jay Z to pull his products from the store! And the poor (not in the cash sense) guy is getting blasted as the bad guy for not lashing out against Barney’s. This is the ultimate in misdirected anger, and of course where there is misdirected anger there is Al Sharpton.

 

I am certain that Jay Z is not the only African American designer with products in Barney’s and the onus is not on him to police the apparent one, possibly two, poor judgements against shoppers – which we still do not know was because of the clerk or the police department. I agree that IF Barney’s has a discriminatory policy against any race or religion they would deserve the wrath of Sharpton and his crusaders, but I believe this is far from the case here.

 

As retailers, we can all learn a valuable lesson from this episode. First and foremost don’t discriminate and more importantly react quickly when an employee or an outside entity does something to damage your reputation and your business. By Barney’s not hitting this problem on the head immediately it has spun into a media nightmare for them, and one that will not go away easily. All it would have taken is for this mega corporation to get in front of the story, which they did not.

 

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Economic Woes Continue – Antacid Sales Skyrocket!

wholesale merchandiseWell, there is no doubt that the recent economic woes caused by the Government shut down and idiocy on  Capital Hill have created anxiety for small retailers and wholesale merchandise suppliers, I found the following interesting news worth sharing with you.

 

The latest issue of MMR ran a large article on drugs and vitamins and their increases in the industry. Lo and behold one of the largest growth markets has been the Antacid market which has grown to over $93 million in sales with some brands showing as much as a 74% increase in growth!

 

Could this be related to the economy? Like a bad sit-com where the boss is swigging Pepto at his desk, there could certainly be a correlation to these numbers and reality. Let’s look further – the personal adult market has decreased over 6% but sleeping aids are up over 28%. Do the math. The country’s population is suffering from indigestion, having less sexual activity and having trouble sleeping!

 

Thank you, Mr. President and all our favorite Congresspeople. The takeaway from this article is that your store should be stocking up on Tums and Gas X to keep your cash registers ringing.

 

Just some things to consider from the leading magazine for wholesale merchandise, Retailers Forum. Thanks for reading and hopefully you’ve enjoyed this little insight.

 

 

Smartphones Gaining Retail Dominance

wholesale merchandiseAn interesting new study has been released that shows consumers are using their smartphones and tablets as shopping tools at a higher rate than reported previously. Over 55% of all retail-related internet time is starting on a smartphone or tablet as opposed to a desktop computer system.

 

Interestingly though, consumers were less likely to complete a shopping transaction on their smartphones and completed those transactions while on their desktops. Clothing and accessories were the category leaders for online shopping.

 

The motivation for the use of mobile devices has been shoppers who are “show-rooming,” looking for cheaper prices while inside the store! Almost 2/3rd’s of the users were visiting the stores website or APP while they were inside the store, to see if there were online discounts, etc. They went online in hopes of finding a better deal.

 

Another interesting fact was that men outpace women in making mobile purchases using their smartphones, indicating that they may be more trustful of using mobile devices to transmit credit card data, etc.

 

Welcome to retailing in the 21st century. Highly competitive in every way with margins cut to the quick for the retailer. Good times!  Retailers Forum magazine and website welcomes your comments and opinions. Feel free to comment on this article and others. Remember to join us every month for the best wholesale merchandise sources in the industry!

 

 

 

 

NYC Wholesale Expo – 2 Day Format

NYC-Wholesale-Expo-Sept-2013-0101Just back from the NY Wholesale Expo at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. Having done wholesale merchandise shows in New York I realize the need for this wonderful regional show to connect wholesalers and east coast buyers and couldn’t be happier that the New York show tradition continues.

 

Over the last several years there has been a lot of changes in the merchandise shows around the country. There is a resurgence of regional shows that are doing very well across the country and while the shows bring in less traffic than the mega-shows in Las Vegas, they are quite important to the local regional markets.

 

NYC Wholesale Expo Sept 2013 002One of the major changes for the NY Wholesale Expo was the creation of a 2-day trade show instead of the standard 3-4 days. This is unique and I have not seen this done before, so asked several of the wholesalers at the show how they felt about it. The response was overwhelming that as long as they got orders from the show, they were ecstatic about being able to compress 3-4 days into 2. And from what I was able to view at my day at the show, there was excellent order writing so I think most exhibitors were happy about the shortened show time.

 

Personally, on smaller regional shows, this new format is ideal for both the buyers and sellers. Having two days to explore the smaller show leaves plenty of time to view all of the merchandise as well as interact with the exhibitors. Being someone that drives in and uses the local lot for $50 a day, cutting a couple of days off the show can save money also!

 

Congratulations to the NYC Wholesale Expo for pioneering a new concept in shorter, more intense trade shows and for continuing to develop the New York City market, which we feel is one of the most viable in the USA!

 

What did you think about the show, or the new 2-day schedule. Blog with us!