How Small Processes Are Costing You Big Bucks

charlie_imageIn 2009, when I was taking over all my dad's farming operations, he said something very interesting about efficiency. He said, “Everytime you move grain you lose 2-3% of your grain.” Being the prideful guy I am, I immediately tried to prove him wrong. I know I could think of something that would contradict that.

After much thought, I realized (like I often do), that dad was right. When I do transfer things from one container to another I do lose some of the contents.

Let me give you some examples:

  • Paint
  • Oil and Gas
  • Oatmeal
  • Cereal
  • Milk
  • Flour
  • Sugar


This list is along way from complete, but you get the point. If you transfer goods from one container to another, then you are losing 2-3% during each transfer. That is why it is smart to limit the number of transfers. Let's go back to the example of the farm and the farmer harvesting the crop.

  1. Farmer combines the corn and dumps it into a wagon – loses 2.5%
  2. Farmer takes the corn to the bin to be stored for the winter – loses 2.5%
  3. Farmer removes corn in the spring to take to the local elevator – loses 2.5%
  4. Elevator transfers corn (via train) to Chicago to be milled – loses 2.5%
  5. Train transfer corn to mill to be processed – loses 2.5%

Now let's say that farmer produces 200 bushels of corn on just one acre of land. Let's follow this process of losses resulting from transferring goods and see how much the farmer ends up with.

  1. Combine to wagon – 200 bushels * .975 = 195 bushels
  2. Wagon to bin – 195 bushels * .975 = 190.125 bushels
  3. Bin to elevator – 190.125 * .975 = 185.372 bushels
  4. Elevator to Chicago bound train – 185.372 bushels * .975 = 180.738 bushels
  5. Train to grain mill – 180.738 bushels * .975 = 176.219 bushels

Isn't that amazing? More than 12% of the initial produced product was lost in being transferred just fives times. You wouldn't think handling something multiple times would produce such a loss by only handling it five times. What makes it worse is to think about how many bushels are lost from a 160 acre farm that produces 200 bushels/acre. 28,000 bushels could be lost from just one small plot of land.

In terms of efficiency, I believe that the entire farming industry could gain a lot of efficiency in taking out steps 2-4 by containerizing all the corn that is produced in the field, and put directly on a train. If some type of efficiency could be made to offer shipping containers at the end of the field that farmers could dump directly into, and then placed on a train, then it would be possible. The farming industry wouldn't need to re-handle the corn in putting it in a wagon, putting it in the bin, and transporting it to the elevator.

What's this got to do with us sub/urban dwellers?

So how does this relate to your suburban lifestyle? Well…think about it for a second….what product are you handling multiple times before you actually go to use it? The same can be true of the examples I listed at the top of the article. Now the problem is how do I become more efficient with even the small things?

  • Handle the product less times
  • Make bulk preparations – for instance, make multiple meals all the same time.
  • Handle in larger quantities

I'm sure there are other ways that you can gain efficiency in handling products. The whole point in changing your thinking is that there are tons of areas in your lifestyle that are very inefficient and wasteful. What is preventing you from changing? Is it time? Is it lack of trust in your abilities? Regardless of what your excuse is realize that your lack of action is costing you while you do nothing.

I'd love to hear from our readers on what areas you improved in. What areas are you focused on? Are you riding a bike to work everyday and sold your second car? Are bulk prepping 20 meals at a time? Are you freezing large amounts of meat? Are you automating your finances? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear your efficiency money saving tip.

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