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Value of Labor

2007-02-02 16:16:24.620395+00 by Dan Lyke 4 comments

Other notion that's been with me recently has been pondering the value of labor. In many cases, you can buy ready made goods in this country for less than the cost of the parts to assemble them yourself. That implies that labor has a negative value: Put these parts together and they're worth less.

Actually, it doesn't, it says that inventory management and capital costs override the costs of raw materials and labor, but everybody in a white collar job who isn't doing engineering is involved in streamlining those former two attributes? That's where the economic value of management and sales comes from. Isn't it?

[ related topics: Economics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-02 21:02:10.443272+00 by: Dan Lyke

So the other explanation for this, and one that may actually be closer to the truth, is that the raw materials let you build a much higher quality version of the product, because as a consumer purchasing the raw materials you have a basic knowledge of what it takes to build a quality product.

Kind of like fast food...

Which leads to the second question: With my current obsession with tools, I've realized that many of the products I previously thought of as quality are compressed down with the cheap tools, somewhere on the bottom tier of the scale. But short of putting in a lot of energy into learning all about the particulars of a thing, I've no guarantees that paying more is actually getting more.

Further, especially since I've been whining about the atrocious and rapidly degrading service we've been getting from Cingular of late, I'm learning that most consumers are completely taken in by advertising: "Really, I've heard that they're supposed to have the lowest number of dropped calls?" "Where'd you hear that?" "Uhh... their ads, I guess."

How does one figure out what quality is? Seems like an awful lot of work...

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-02 21:57:43.574386+00 by: petronius

The question is: how much quality can you afford/need? A professional mechanic will spend a lot on a precision, well made set of wrenches and drivers, and they will make his work easier and will last many years. If I buy a wrench for the 2/3 times a year I need it, a cheapey from the bargain bin will do fine. It might take me a little longer to change the nut with the ill fitting Made in Bangladesh tool, but it's no big deal. For the mechanic, take that extra 5 minutes X 50 nuts a day...... the better tool makes sense for him, but maybe not me.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-02-02 22:31:59.733445+00 by: Dan Lyke

Which brings me to: Perhaps part of the "tools were better in the old days" attitude is that back when people used tools more often, and there was a smaller overall market, the balance tipped the direction of the part time tool users subsidizing the full-time tool users.

Now the serious tool users have to either buy much more expensive tools, or buy and destroy more of the cheap tools, because the low end of the market is no longer subsidizing the high end.

As for how much do you need? I've asked that question a couple of times, and low balled it a couple of times, but when I learn better I realize that there were things I simply couldn't accomplish with the cheaper tool, even though I thought the two levels of tool were functionally similar. So I'm still not sure where to answer that.

#Comment Re: made made: 2007-02-03 13:45:41.893025+00 by: m

The cost and quality of tools. As noted by petronius, this is an optimization problem. I have a fondness for well made and highly functional tools just for their own sake. But given my variety of interests, I often have a mix of the best tools that I can find, along with the mediocre and some downright garbage -- the worst that Harbor Freight has to offer. They all have a purpose. It involves my expectation of frequency of use, the accuracy that I think I need, and how much damage I think the tools will do to me. My reason for my first Festool purchase was to obtain a low vibration sander that caused a minimum of pain to the CTS and arthritis in my right hand. This experience has led to the recent purchase of the Festool dust extractor, which also performs beyond expectations. I probably will not buy a Festool jigsaw, because I have a good bandsaw. I have a very high quality set of Bessey and Incra clamps which meet most of my needs. These are backed up by some reasonable quality clamps which I use occasionally, and really cruddy ones that I throw into the mix when I but rarely need even more clamps.

I make at least qualitative attempts to optimize my tool dollar, and I suspect that is what most people do. Of course there are those who buy the cheapest no matter what -- they hold down the cost of all tools for the rest of us. There are also those who buy what they perceive to be the best, even for only one use. They also increase volume and competition at the high end, and hold down the costs for the rest of us. Over the years, tool prices have fallen and quality has increased significantly.