August 20, 2012 9 Comments
Value stream mapping is defined by Wikipedia as “a lean manufacturing technique used to analyze and design the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service to a consumer. At Toyota, where the technique originated, it is known as “material and information flow mapping”. It can be applied to nearly any value chain.” While I’m no expert on Lean Management, I suspect a good part of it is formalized common sense. This isn’t a tutorial; on lean management anyway but, it does offer some insights, not readily apparent.
This is the current drought map for the US.
It’s a pretty ugly map.
Furthermore, if you look again at it, you’ll see that what is often called the corn belt is almost all listed as D2 or higher. Why do I write about corn again? It’s the most American of crops. It’s native to the new world to start with, it’s good to eat, it makes good whiskey, it makes pretty reasonable fuel, and it can be used to make almost anything else. It is incredibly versatile, that’s why we grow and use so much of it.
We’re good at growing it too, when I was a kid in Indiana, a farmer was doing really well to harvest 60 bushels per acre. Now here, in Nebraska, 200 bushels per acre is routine. Think about that, cause it’s really amazing.
It seems like nearly every year we have a record crop, but not this year, I saw a report last week that this years crop will be the worst in six years. That’s going to echo through the economy, ranchers are already selling cattle early and some are starting to sell cows. Cows are where calves come from, as opposed to the calves that are raised for market, it can take years to replace good cows, so ranchers try very hard not to. This year they really haven’t got a choice. In addition, because the EPA mandates that ethanol be used in gasoline, fuel prices are going to go up, corn is used in many, many food products, and it’s also used as a feedstock in making plastic. Corn is a basic necessity to American life, It’s value stream touches each and every one of us, and most of the world as well. And its going to be a bad year.
It could be worse though, here in Nebraska a very high proportion of our corn is irrigated, it has to be to get a good crop. of the standard the market requires. So for the most part our crop will be pretty good, not as good, from what I hear and see, but pretty good. But corn during the peak growing season can use up to an inch of water a day, a center pivot irrigating a quarter section of land will pump about 4-600 gallons of water per minute, it will take about 24 hours at a minimum to put an inch of water on the crop.
So that’s close to ¾ million gallons of water in each of those circles in that picture in 24 hours, most of it’s pumped by electricity (sometimes diesel and natural gas are used) it can take anywhere from about 20 to 300 horsepower motors to run the pump. That takes a lot of energy.
So here’s a value stream for you. somewhere about 50-70% of Nebraska’s economy is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture, inability to irrigate will cut that market by at least half, I’d call that severe, ‘dirty thirties’ severe or worse. Here’s another one, a lot less corn on the market and we’ve already talked about what’s already happening here.
How could that catastrophe happen? Easy, King Coal,you see we generate about 60% of our electricity with coal, we have nuclear and we have some wind and hydro but our base (the power we depend on) is coal and nuclear, mostly coal, and the administration and the EPA have declared war on coal. The rest of the corn belt, while not as irrigation dependent as we are, need affordable electricity as much as we do, and you guys in the cities do too.
Think about this, we’ve had a drought this year, it’s also been pretty hot, how do you think your nice sealed office would be on a 102º day, without electricity, no computer either you realize, cel phone either once you run your battery down. We’ve been lucky this year, we’ve had usage warnings and unscheduled outages but we’ve managed for the most part but, our coal plants are still running, for now. It’s possible to convert them to natural gas, although not cheaply, and the cost per KWH is about a third higher. Ready to have your light bill go up by 30%?
But there are other value streams involved here as well. I don’t know as much about them so I’m going to let the Lean Submariner tell you about them. He is a lean Six Sigma expert so he really knows what he’s talking about.
It’s a “black” thing; you obviously don’t understand Mr. President 1
Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I learned some lessons on how the economy works
It’s a black thing and that black thing is coal. Southwest Pennsylvania has produced coal for energy and steel as long as most folks can remember. The area was blessed with an overabundance of this material that literally comes right out of the ground and has provided generations of people with jobs for centuries.
When you talk about helping the middle class, the economics of coal is at the heart and soul of this region. Immigrants of every type came here in the 1700-1800’s to dig holes in the ground to bring it to market. They risked their lives and their health but the results were nothing short of amazing. This nation that we helped to build (yes, we did build this) was fueled by the energy and materials we made using that energy. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it did the job. We did the job.
But the current administration and their EPA cronies have made coal Public Enemy Number One. They are convinced that coal is an evil and insidious enemy that must be stopped. Obama even said that in his lead up to the election. He was going to make it so expensive to use coal, it would cease to be an effective energy source. I am willing to bet that since this state went Obama in the last election, the people here were either not paying attention or did not think he was serious.
The once vital economy of this country and especially this region has been the prime victim of his liberal and uninformed ideas. It has led to some interesting changes in the Mon Valley.
But who is really affected by the closing and marginalizing of the mines? After all, its kind of ironic that the labor union led by Trumka would be the biggest loser in this attack on an American icon. Are there other victims?
Yes there are and the list is a lot bigger than you would suspect.
A picture says a thousand words.
The picture above is looking down on the Monongahela River near a small town called California. This was coal country. It all starts with those chunks of coal being dug from the ground by people and machines. Its dirty, it burns and gives off unwanted bi-products, it needs careful handling in large quantities and it vexes environmentalists who are willing to sacrifice an entire region at any cost. What it also represents is something called a Value Stream: Money for countless generations of Western Pennsylvanians and many more beyond the valleys.
First Value Stream: The Mines.
The miners were paid decent wages with benefits and health care plans secured by their unions. That money went to buy houses, cars, food, vacations, luxury items, educations for their children, clothes and other consumable items. Their communities benefitted from this through taxes, Churches benefitted from tithing and gifts, and all of the retail and service people benefitted by having paying customers. Retail stores and building supply companies grew and prospered from the wealth created by these miners. …
Mac’s last paragraph is telling on how serious this is:
Last note: The valley still has local fairs and festivals this time of year. I went to one this afternoon and noticed the local democratic party had a little booth set up. This particular Township has been a died in the wool blue area for as long as anyone can remember. I walked by it and saw some literature for the local congressman and a few local issues near to their hearts. It wasn’t until I started to walk away until I realized something.
There was not one single Obama-Biden sign, poster, picture or sticker anywhere in sight. Not one. Oh, I know they were probably there, probably just below the table. What a difference four years makes.
Continue Reading It’s a “black” thing; you obviously don’t understand Mr. President.
- Southern governors call for waiver of Renewable Fuels Standard (southeastfarmpress.com)
- Nebraska shuts off irrigation due to drought (blogs.desmoinesregister.com)
- Severe Drought in Eastern Nebraska (ndjmom.wordpress.com)
- US farmers expect poorest corn crop in a decade (news.yahoo.com)
- Nebraska farms ordered to halt irrigation amid drought (reuters.com)
- Midwest corn crop ravaged by drought (kansascity.com)
- Worst drought since 1956 shrivels corn, soy crops (reuters.com)
- Ethanol from Corn is a Dumb Idea! (tclabz.com)
- ETHANOL WAIVER: Iowa Corn Farmers React (whotv.com)
- Food corporations’ big drought play (salon.com)