No Piece of Cake

on Wednesday, March 31, 2010

That’s how I would describe the process of passing food safety legislation or really any legislation for that matter. I covered the topic of food safety quite a bit last year, discussing in two separate blog posts the movement of a food safety bill through the House (Some Food for Thought and House Says Yea to the FDA). The Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749) was passed by the House in a simple majority vote of 283 to 142. The legislation addresses the plan for managing risks in the current global food supply chain. The allocation of more resources and control to the FDA is the House’s proposal for fixing the current system.

When it comes to food, I don’t mess around and I expect the same from companies in the food industry. If something in my fridge expired yesterday, I say bye bye today (within good reason). Call me paranoid, call me wasteful, but don’t call me late for dinner. Food is an essential and therefore, I cannot ignore the fact that certain companies do not handle it as seriously as an essential should be handled. The number of deaths in the U.S. that have occurred as a result of contaminated foods is unacceptable and some serious efforts are still needed to make headway on this topic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “each year about 76 million illnesses occur, more than 300,000 persons are hospitalized, and 5,000 die from food borne illnesses.”

Healthcare legislation has been the Senate’s focus for quite some time now. With this legislation now signed into law, the Senate can turn its attention to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) passed by a Senate committee back in November 2009. One company, iGPS, is calling on the Senate to “mandate the latest tracking technology” in its new legislative efforts. iGPS “operates the world’s first pallet rental service providing manufacturers with lightweight, recyclable all-plastic pallets embedded with RFID tags. The RFID tags in iGPS plastic pallets allow products to be easily traced at numerous points along the supply chain, providing a way to pinpoint and contain contaminated products.” iGPS’s Chairman and CEO, Bob Moore, makes a good point in saying that “pallets are an often overlooked, but key component of our nation’s supply chain. At one point, almost every food, pharmaceutical and countless other consumer products have been on a pallet. We need to take all possible measures to ensure that pallets are not harboring bacteria or pathogens that can affect our food supply.” iGPS recently issued a press release to stress the importance of this technology as the most recent HVP (Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein) recall disrupted our nation’s food supply chain and impacted more than 100 products.

The global food supply chain only continues to grow and while we wait for change, change that will hopefully have a positive impact on all players in the food industry (producers and consumers), I invite you to take control of your own personal food supply chain and get a better understanding of what you are eating, where it comes from, how long it will last, and how to store it properly. Another organization that is stressing the importance of safe food is Apple. Maybe it’s because of their name and logo, who knows, but I came across a few Food Safety News articles that discuss certain iPhone applications that can help any consumer take control of what goes on their plate.

Still Tasty, GoodGuide, and Food Watch New York are just a few of the applications that can help you find the information you are looking for. The Still Tasty app, managed by StillTasty.com, is described as the “ultimate shelf life guide – in the palm of your hand.” This app answers all of your questions about how long your food stays safe and tasty and how it should be stored. With GoodGuide, you can simply scan a barcode in your grocery store and recall information will appear as well as any harmful ingredients in the product. Food Watch New York allows you to “look at a map and see which restaurants near you have failed inspections.” This app uses the New York City Department of Health’s data in delivering the information you need. To learn more about these applications and others related to food safety, visit Food Safety News. These applications help you be less wasteful (maybe I should take some tips) and more aware of what you are putting in your mouth. It’s important to realize that you don’t need an iPhone to become more knowledgeable about the food you are eating. You can simply visit the websites that manage these applications at StillTasty.com and GoodGuide.com.

In a recent WSJ article, Senator Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) is quoted in saying that “food safety legislation could reach the Senate floor around Easter and be ‘on the President’s desk by May.’” Only time will tell.
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Saving the City's Budget through Trash and Soda

on Tuesday, March 30, 2010

As previously discussed in my last post, The City of Philadelphia provides public services to its approximate 1.54 million residents (and according to the Census Bureau, it looks like the population is growing for the first time in over 50 years).

In order to pay for all of the public services for its residents, Mayor Nutter recently proposed a $3.87 billion budget. This includes just $33 million in spending reductions, compared with $146.6 million in new taxes and fees, a figure that would rise to $185 million in future years.

So where is the additional money coming from? Well of course its residents. Mayor Nutter has also recently proposed a $300 annual trash fee and a tax on sugary drinks which would be the largest in the country. He was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer as telling us Philadelphians "nothing worth having in life is free."

The $300 annual garbage fee - which would raise about an additional $108 million - is akin to a 10 percent increase in total Philadelphia property tax collections, which stand at about $1 billion

The tax of two cents per ounce on sugary drinks will not prove cheap for those unable to break their soda habit, either. Drinking two 12-ounce cans of sugared soft drinks a day would add up to an additional $175 in taxes a year.
Together, the two new fees represent a 4.9 percent increase in Philadelphians' overall general fund tax and fee burden. Mayor Nutter says these new taxes were necessary to fill a budget deficit of up to $150 million. Whether others agree with him and its approved is still yet to be determined.

So what is the city doing on a daily basis to reduce spending and ensure they are getting a fair market price for the billions of dollars in goods and services they purchase every year with our money?

In following posts, I’m going to review the city’s Procurement Department, the types of bids it runs, its bid process, who is eligible, and how they ultimately decide who to award the business to.

At the end, we all have to pay one way or another – “death and taxes.” However, I think one question the city has an obligation to ask is how much of what we pay is unnecessarily wasted.

If the city utilized Source One’s strategic sourcing services, many of these tax increases would not be necessary. Please feel free to give Source One a call Mayor Nutter (215)902-0200, we’d be glad to help.
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The Hidden Costs of Employment

on Monday, March 29, 2010

In this economy and unfortunate period of all time highs in unemployment rates small businesses are being more careful than ever when determining how much help they need. Of course everyone thinks it is a great thing when your small business begins to grow and you need to take on employees in order to balance the work requirements. Think again. The costs included in hiring, training, and continuously employing staff members can be very high, even higher than the potential profit increase from expanding the business might be. Costs that can go into a new employee range from federal and state taxes, health and worker’s compensation insurance, paid time off, as well as time spent for training the new individual. A recent article highlighted on CNN Money indicates that on average an employee who is paid $14 per hour might cost the company as much as $20 per hour. The government is offering tax breaks to employers who hire the unemployed, but is that enough? Payroll for a small business can account for as much as 70% of its operating expenses, as indicated in the article. In some cases it may be more beneficial and cost efficient for a business owner to step up their hours and try to cover the additional work themselves.

Now what about those hidden costs? You know, the costs that you don’t necessarily think of when you consider hiring on an employee or more employees. These include all of the small and large fringe benefits, such as coffee and water, daycare, additional office supplies and services. When running the business alone there are fewer regulations and costs to include than when you take on an employee even part-time. Now consider what it would cost the company when they hire the wrong person. The company then loses all of the hiring costs, which can include background and drug tests as well as all of the material costs and time wasted on training. These are just a few things that business owners need to consider when deciding whether or not their bottom line can take a hit on a new employee or if they can just handle it themselves.
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$62K of Our Tax Dollars Spent on Snacks!

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According to this article on Space.Com, NASA's Inspector General office recently found that $62,611 was spent on snacks, for get this, a recent Procurement Conference.

The conference was for 317 attendees who were gathered in Baltimore, MD in December of 2008 for a conference that was intended to train staff on procurement issues. The overall cost of this single conference was $495,173. The article goes on to talk about a more recent conference in Atlanta with a food budget approaching $60K that not only paid for snacks for NASA employees, but also contractors and anyone else that wanted to attend the event.

NASA agreed with the Inspector General's findings that their conferences are excessive, and they plan to draw up new guidelines for spending in the "next month or so".

For an organization that already has lost significant public funding, and is at risk to lose much more, to take a year and a half even identify these issues, let alone address them is absurd.

Hey NASA, think about hiring a Procurement Service Provider to help plan your next event!
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Wild Goose Chase

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Here at Source One, we've been living in unimaginable fear day to day. Fear of what you ask? Fear of a goose attack! But it's time we start fighting back! Below is information that Source One needs to exchange blows with the infamous male goose that lives in our front yard (found at http://www.ehow.com/).

To Stop a Goose Attack

Step 1- Pay attention to the actions of the male goose when you enter his territory. If he sounds a warning, that is your signal to leave the area.

Step 2- Show no fear. Geese are particularly attuned to body language and a show of fear may increase the intensity of the attack.

Step 3- Maintain eye contact. Geese have excellent vision and interpret loss of eye contact as an act of fear.

Step 4- Stay calm. Don't yell or try to hit the male goose. The female may join the attack and then you will be in real trouble.

Step 5- Keep your body facing directly toward the goose. Never turn your back on an attacking goose.

Step 6- Walk slowly backwards if the goose hisses at you or spreads its wings. Use your peripheral vision to avoid tripping over obstacles.

Step 7-Continue facing the goose and back slowly away at a 90-degree angle from the goose if he flies up at your face.

Step 8-Make your escape and exit the area through a gate if possible. Geese rarely fly over a fence.

If you've encountered an irate bird such as our notorious winged friend let us know how you prevailed!
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NJ School Budget - What's your district cutting?

on Friday, March 26, 2010

Chris Christie is cutting away at NJ's huge deficit and the school budget is one of those areas getting some trimming. The proposed tax budget would spend $820 million less on public schools next year in about 600 school districts. The money that is allocated to the districts is used for financial aid, salaries, and educational programs. Now local districts are scrambling to figure out how to budget their funds which means loss of jobs, program cuts, and my taxes are most likely going to go up. An article in the Star Ledger said that Schundler (state education commissioner) will encourage districts not to raise property taxes. Thanks for the encouragement, but what I really want to know is if he is providing the districts with suggestions. Are there any other cost savings options for the budget? Looking at the bigger picture, is there an opportunity to consolidate some of our school districts? NJ has 21 counties and over 600 school districts. If there was some consolidation, there would also be a reduction in all those superintendent salaries (a majority of them all making over $100K a year). I'm afraid the the impact of these budget cuts on the local level are going to be on the dedicated teachers that are trying to make a difference. Stay tuned to your local budget and how this will affect you. Be ready to vote on April 20th.
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Be Careful Where You Google

on Friday, March 19, 2010

We all know the search engine Google and its vast power to find just about anything you need on the internet. But did you also know that Google works constantly to restrict various content around the world? Google’s mission statement is “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful”, according to the article reported by CNNMoney.com. However with so many countries having strict policies against particular topics, Google spends a great deal of time sorting out what it can and cannot allow displayed. For example, in Germany, France, and Poland pro-Nazi material or content is illegal to publish so Google avoids displaying links to any sites related to that type of material. And did you know that in Turkey internet users are not allowed to use YouTube at all within its borders? I found that interesting, I wonder if they can track you streaming YouTube content on your iPhone. Then again I am not about to be the one to find out!
From a positive point Google does not display links to any sites containing child pornography in any country regardless of laws and policies. They also do not allow content to be linked in which the host site does not have the copyright to. Google works closely with governments around the world to provide access to internet content and in the process controls two-thirds of the world’s search results. In these efforts they face challenges and are not always viewed in the most positive light. So just keep in mind that when you are visiting abroad and searching for the best place to get a bite to eat or place to shop for souvenirs, be careful where you Google!
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Mother is watching you!

on Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fleet managers are always concerned with what their employees are up to…are they visiting customers, are they on time, are they visiting their loved ones?

Mobile Resource Management tools will put you at ease. They offer a variety of solutions including real time monitoring of vehicles and on-demand dispatching of work orders. Drivers will have constant contact with the home office and will be less likely to stray.

This will result in:

  • Streamlined processes
  • Better route planning - GPS tracking
  • Reduced accidents or unnecessary speeding violations
  • Vehicle observation - Engine check, service requirements
  • Reduced operational costs
  • Reduced fuel costs
  • Customer satisfaction - On time appointments and Real time communication for changes, scheduling conflicts, additional requirements

…and will inevitably lead to a company’s increase in productivity, additional revenue, and decreased operating expenses.


There are a multitude of carriers who offer cost effective solutions for managing your workforce. To help find the right one for you, please contact Source One Management Services, LLC. Source One is a leading procurement service provider who helps companies reduce spend and the overall cost of acquisition through the application of proven sourcing and purchasing strategies, best practices, people and technologies.

For more information, visit: Source One, Strategic Sourcing Services.

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Reform or Politics as Usual?

on Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New Jerseyans have the highest tax burden in the nation. To balance the budget, Governor Christie has to close a $10.7 billion deficit. His goal is to end New Jersey's "addiction to spending" and to find ways to reduce the taxpayers' burden.

How will he accomplish this task?

Slash state education spending by more than $1 billion
Skip $3 billion in pension payments - NJ pension plan is currently underfunded by $46 billion
Cut property tax rebates
Cut $445 million in aid to towns
Lay off approximately 1,300 state workers in 2011.

Will this plan really help taxpayers? Cutting spending at the state level doesn't mean that taxes won't rise at the local level. Somehow, local governments find a way to keep the status quo and pass the burden on to the taxpayer.

Isn't cutting the property tax rebate really a tax increase? The pension plan hasn't been fully funded in years. It's an accident waiting to happen. Couldn't we cut 13,000 state workers rather than 1,300? True reform would be reducing spending and taxes by 10% and 10% more next year like many private sector companies have. After all, NJ government payrolls swelled in 2009 by 11,300 workers as private sector payrolls fell by 121,000.

I guess I see the Governor's plan as politics as usual. Is he changing the tide? Yes. He could be raising taxes and avoid making any decisions as NJ lawmakers have done 115 times in the last 8 years. True reform to me would be a tax decrease. I guess he has 3 more years to convince me that he is the reformer that he says he is.
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Celebrate All That’s Green Today!

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On a day sunny day like today, who would think about solar power not working enough for green energy? However, it was a different story if you think back a few days ago. After Irish-jigging my way through the monsoon-like rain this past weekend I came across another article which explores even further into alternative energy.

Thanks to government subsidies, wind and solar projects are abound. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (NEF) nearly 8,000 megawatts of new wind capacity was installed in the U.S. in 2009. But thanks to further government backing, geothermal and other technologies are being brought to light. The NEF states geothermal power (extracting heat deep inside the earth) will increase more than 40% by 2013. They also expect “power from biomass – organic material such as wood chips, farm waste, and grass clippings that is burned to produce electricity – to jump by nearly a third over the same period.” And according to market researcher Frost & Sullivan, output from systems that harness ocean waves will rise from nearly nothing to more than 3,000 megawatts which is equivalent to four coal power plants by 2020.

I can just imagine the expense in getting these programs off the ground (or in the ground, in the water, etc) but a positive to these emerging technologies is that they are not dependent on the weather like wind and solar. This helps drive negotiations and financing with a steadier guarantee of electricity supply that utilities will pay a premium for. There are still some cons to these upcoming alternative energy technologies. The Business Week article mentions “newer geothermal plants in California and Switzerland that drill deeper than traditional setups are believe to have caused small earthquakes, leading to questions about the technology’s safety and viability.” Not to mention the rules of supply and demand we all learned in Economics class that investment in biomass may slow if prices for wood chips and plant waste rise as demand increases. Regardless of some shaky ground (I couldn’t resist) private capital investors are surfacing as state and government backing increase.

So as you raise your preferred green beverage of choice today let’s toast to the growing green alternative energy abound! SlĂ inte!
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WTF - Health Care Reform?

on Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I've been hearing about how important health care reform is. Our leaders can't seem to agree on what exactly needs to be reformed...but something has to be done and done quickly. Now, no one wants their name attached to reform, but they still want it done. Today, Erica Werner of the Associated Press, writes that "Democrats defended plans to push massive health care legislation through the house without a direct vote". If health care reform is so urgent and important, then why doesn't anyone want their name attached to it?

The article goes on to say"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to shield lawmakers from having to vote directly on the Senate passed health care bill because it's unpopular with House Democrats". All I can say is WTF! Health care represents 16% of our GDP and our government is going to pass a reform bill that is unpopular and no one wants their name on it. Can you explain to me why we are in this fiscal and economic mess? Sounds like a sourcing project that is politically based with no specification. Have you ever been involved in one of those? Do they even know what is in the bill? Has anyone read it? How much will it cost? Why bother. You and your future generations will kick in for the tab.
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Defense IT Acquisition Reform

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Information Week posted an interesting article titled "Congress Targeting Defense IT Acquisition Reform" The article is a summary of an interim report issued by the House armed services committee panel on defense acquisition reform. The report specifically says that IT acquisition programs are "managed in such a document-intensive, process-bound way that defense IT system deployments typically take about 3 to 5 times longer than deployments in the private sector, and can be outdated several times over once they are delivered." The report (warning pdf link) itself states "Last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that on the then 96 Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) the Department had experienced $296 billion in total cost growth and an average of 22 months schedule delay."

The article continues to explain that Defense Department officials are urging reforms in the Department of Defense's process of IT acquisition. After doing a quick scan through the interim report, I noticed a common theme that comes out of all of these congressional reports....
  • The metrics we have in place are ineffective at measuring success,
  • & We need to hire more people.

Unfortunately, it seems that variations of these reports are produced multiple times every year, with the same identified problems, yet no resolution ever takes place. In fact, just last June I blogged about a different government study that said they had poor metrics in place and needed to hire more staff.

One important aspect that is missing from this latest report, and every report monitoring government procurement effectiveness, is that the government continues to follow the poor practices of allowing their suppliers to write the RFP (or in this case, the actual procurement process) for them. As we blogged before, allowing the suppliers to have too much control in the procurement process will absolutely lead to higher costs and confusing specifications that limit the buyer to a single solution. The report does identify a need to move to more open architecture, but does not address specific examples of how to get there. Having spent some time consulting for the government in IT procurement, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the government is more guilty of this practice than any private company I have ever seen. In fact, most of the "consulting" firms that they have in IT procurement are in fact suppliers, such as SAP, or resellers/agents of those suppliers, which of course will always help write "best practices" that conveniently put them in the front-runner position of any technology acquisition.

We will have to follow this report as it develops more, however it seems like another expensive study that identifies major problems (that translate to wasted tax payer money), and the end resolution will be to hire more consultants and staff without producing any results.

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Isn’t Everything Negotiable? Part 2

on Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alright, so I have officially completed my bridesmaid’s gown shopping fiasco. Here is a tip from an experienced shopper, be careful when negotiating with certain retailers. They are not all very keen on those extra-thrifty shoppers. You need to get a good feel for the type of business owner you are dealing with before launching into negotiations. Needless to say, I tried to negotiate the price of the gown I selected for my bridesmaids and was not as successful as I had hoped. It turns out that they already had the lowest cost around and the only reason the other shop was so eager to bid lower was because their markups were much greater. This is where you need to do your research and know what you are working with. But I would not deter you cost savers out there to always try, it can’t hurt to ask!

I think consumers need to be comfortable with the purchase on all different levels. Not only should you be getting the best price but you should be concerned with the brand and business itself. Doing business these days is about building relationships. Of course this does not apply to all types of businesses. I do not expect to build a relationship with my checkout person at the local grocery store or the person I ordered my coffee from at Dunkin Donuts. However I would expect to build a relationship with the place where I get my car serviced or where I do my banking. These types of businesses require a relationship in which the consumer is entrusting the business with something of importance. This goes the same for business to business relationships. Building a solid relationship with a supplier is very important when it comes to conducting future business relations with them. Many businesses offer the same types of products and services for similar prices. What makes the difference in many cases is the relationship that the business can offer and what benefits the two parties can achieve from that relationship. As a business you can benefit from a strong relationship with your supplier(s) through receiving discounts or deals and they can benefit by you ensuring your business is with them in any future dealings, among other reasons.

As a consumer I had dealt with the dress shop that I am working with currently in the past and was satisfied with the level of service and pricing. And just as an added note, they did end up taking the price of the gown down even more than they had originally offered from a 10% discount to 15% so I think it worked out well in the end. The business may also receive business from the bridesmaids I have when it comes time for their weddings if they appreciate the relationship they build while dealing with the shop. Word of mouth can be one of the most powerful tools in business so to all those who deal with customers who might be a little grumpy that day or difficult in general, keep in mind that even they have friends and you can be sure they will pass along their opinions, both good and bad.
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