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On November 26, 2017, ABuck commented on The Republic of Maldives is Sinking :

It is certainly a tragedy that countries like the Maldives have hardly contributed to climate change, yet are the most effected by it. Therefore, I do believe that developed countries (who have contributed significantly to climate change) have an obligation to help these badly effected nations.

One possible way that wealthier and larger countries could help the Maldives is to invest or donate to an infrastructure fund that could build dykes around the largest islands (i.e. Male). Being below sea level doesn’t mean that the country will disappear. For example, about one third of the Netherlands is below sea level, with one point even being twenty-two feet below sea level! [1] Therefore, if this dyke technology could be introduced to the Maldives before the sea rises too much, it could help alleviate their impending problems. However, tourism would certainly be hit if all the beaches were enclosed by dykes!

Additionally, there was a law passed in the Maldives in 2015 that legalized foreign ownership of land as long as 70% of the land was reclaimed from the ocean. [2] If the Maldives could attract major resorts to build properties throughout their country, it could increase the amount of reclaimed land to buffer the sea level rise, and would help the Maldives attract the attention of citizens from more developed nations.

However, without the help of foreign investment or charity, I think that the Maldives will be affected very harshly by climate change, and may be entirely submerged by the end of the century.

[1] M., J. (2017). Is the Netherlands below sea level?. [online] Netherlands Tourism. Available at: http://www.netherlands-tourism.com/netherlands-sea-level/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].

[2] Cia.gov. (2017). The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency. [online] Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mv.html [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].

As shown in Exhibit 1, fuel cost is the largest category of purchases for LATAM Airlines, so I believe it will be willing to invest quite a bit to decrease usage. However, without some type of carbon tax or cap and trade system, it seems quite unlikely that they will make investments to reduce their CO2 emissions if it doesn’t additionally reduce their cost base in some way without detracting from the customer experience. However, there are improvements, such as replacing heavy in-seat entertainment systems with lightweight tablets, which can significantly improve the customer experience while additionally improving the fuel efficiency of the aircraft through weight reduction.[1]

One area that would be interesting to explore is whether it is actually better for greenhouse gas emissions to upgrade LATAM’s fleet more often. While there are certainly fuel efficiency gains, I wonder whether the high upfront cost of building a new plane is offset by these gains.

One additional idea to reduce LATAM’s carbon footprint is to educate its consumers about the massive carbon footprint of flying, and offer carbon offsets at a small fee. A number of USA-based airlines, such as JetBlue [2], offer this service to their customers and have had some success, at zero cost to themselves.

[1] Engadget. (2017). Why your brand-new plane doesn’t have a seat-back TV. [online] Available at: https://www.engadget.com/2014/08/05/future-of-ife/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].

[2] Jetblue.com. (2017). JetBlue | Sustainability | Offsetting CO2? We’re on it. [online] Available at: https://www.jetblue.com/green/offsetting/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].

On November 26, 2017, ABuck commented on Ghosts in the power machine :

If I were in charge of the GE Digital Ghost program, I would not immediately focus on interoperability with my customer’s other assets. The assets that Digital Ghost would operate on are already integrated into the customer’s system, and the customer likely has some type of control system in place to account for factors such as reduced wind (in the case of a turbine). The value of Digital Ghost is that GE has accumulated a treasure trove of data on its own products, which can then be used to detect future abnormalities in the behavior of these products due to some kind of cyber attack. [1] Integrating Digital Ghost with non-GE assets may not be able to provide the same type of advantages to the customer, since GE doesn’t have significant historical data on the proper functionality of these assets, and it seems unlikely that the other manufactures would want to share this data.

Regardless, I believe that GE has the opportunity to develop a new infrastructure software security group. It seems that their approach to detecting potential hacks is quite revolutionary, and could be monetized. Once again, however, GE would have to gain access to historical data on the performance of non-GE assets. If companies or manufacturers were willing to share this data with GE (even for a price), I can’t see any barriers to GE developing a robust infrastructure security group that functions along the entire supply chain. However, whether GE wants to move into a SAS company is a question best left for John Flannery.

[1] Govtech.com. (2017). GE Teaches Electric Power Plants to Self-React to Computer Hacks. [online] Available at: http://www.govtech.com/security/New-GE-.html [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].

The Costco/Amazon/Walmart comparison is really important, but beckons the question of whether it is in Costco’s long term interest to compete with Amazon and Walmart online directly. First, so much of Costco’s value proposition is based on selling in bulk, which translates to lower unit costs. However, in this model, the customer bears the cost of transportation of the good from the Costco warehouse to their home. Since many of these items are quite heavy, I am concerned that Costco may lose its price advantage (and, therefore, value proposition) if they had to cover shipping costs that don’t currently exist. Additionally, at least in my experience, a significant fraction of the items sold at Costco are not on the shopping list of the consumer when they enter the store. Rather, the stores are laid out in a manner very conducive to “impulse buys”, which greatly increase the overall cart value. Creating a similar model online is extremely difficult.

I am also quite concerned about Costco’s strategy to sell to non-Costco members (for a premium) on their e-commerce platform. While it may be in Costco’s short term revenue interest to do so, I believe it deviates wildly from their current strategy. Further, if non-members are able to shop online, it disincentives these individuals from becoming a Costco member, and degrades the value of a Costco membership to all of its existing patrons.

Overall, I think that Costco requires some sort of online strategy, but it will have to follow a model quite different than that of Amazon or Walmart.

Well-written piece!

While an import tariff on Mexican goods would certainly increase Corona prices in the US, I believe that the $2 billion investment in Mexican plant or brewery expansion would still make sense for a couple of reasons. First, Corona is one of the most popular beers throughout the entire world (#10th most popular in 2016) [1], so it still makes sense for the rest of the export market. Second, it seems that the primary reason that Corona is made in Mexico is so that it can be branded a “Made in Mexico” beer, something absolutely crucial to it’s brand identity. Even if the tariff increased Corona prices in the US, I don’t think that Corona would shift all of its productions to the US, as it would destroy much of the brand equity.

Unfortunately, if Constellation Brands shifts part of their supply chain to the US, I think they would have to fire a portion of their workforce. However, as stated above, I believe that they will keep a significant portion of their operations in Mexico so that they can continue to call their beer “Mexican.” Possibly, they could move some of their workers from closing plants to these expansion sites.

Finally, it is interesting to see that the stock of Constellation Brands is now over $220 per share, a 52% increase since January! [2] It looks like they are definitely doing something right!

[1] Hines, N. (2017). The 10 Best Selling Beers In The World – 2017. [online] VinePair. Available at: https://vinepair.com/articles/10-biggest-beer-brands-world-2017/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].

[2] Finance.google.com. (2017). Constellation Brands, Inc.: NYSE:STZ quotes & news – Google Finance. [online] Available at: https://finance.google.com/finance?q=NYSE:STZ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].

On November 26, 2017, ABuck commented on Foxconn in the Age of Isolationism :

Interesting read!

I would disagree with the notion that the benefit of multinational supply chains is eliminated with higher global labor prices and increased penetration of automation. If the only purpose of multinational supply chains was to access the cheapest labor, then wouldn’t all companies just operate in the country with the cheapest labor? Rather, I think that lengthy supply chains take advantage of technological specialization from different regions (i.e. LED screens from Korea) [1] that is independent of labor cost.

Additionally, there are two reasons that I believe that Foxconn will be able to compete with highly automated, local competitors. First, Foxconn understands the importance of automation and seems to be actively pursuing an automation strategy, with the goal of 30% automation by 2020 [2]. Second, much of Foxconn’s business comes from absolutely enormous customers, such as Apple, that require a partner that is able to handle the manufacturing of hundreds of millions of Apple products. While local job shops could handle small runs, larger customers require the scale that Foxconn provides in order to meet their customer demand.

I would be curious to learn whether Foxconn’s move is truly part of a strategy to localize their supply chains, or part of a greater strategy to build positive publicity and goodwill towards themselves.

[1] Shih, W. (2016). What You Won’t Hear About Trade and Manufacturing on the Campaign Trail. [online] Available at: https://hbr.org/2016/05/what-you-wont-hear-about-trade-and-manufacturing-on-the-campaign-trail [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].

[2] The Verge. (2016). iPhone manufacturer Foxconn plans to replace almost every human worker with robots. [online] Available at: https://www.theverge.com/2016/12/30/14128870/foxconn-robots-automation-apple-iphone-china-manufacturing [Accessed 26 Nov. 2017].