Monday, December 15, 2008

Local Productivity Increases

One of the things that economists study is productivity - usually measured in output per hour of labor. Increases in productivity ultimately lead to increases in our standard of living. Increases in productivity can come from a number of sources. The Arizona Republic provided some recent examples from local businesses.

At JP Morgan Chase, a change in regulation makes more efficient processing technology possible.

What's new: New automated teller machines allow customers to deposit checks and cash into their accounts without envelopes. The machine takes a picture of the check or bill and sends it to a central processing facility to clear. A facsimile of the check is printed on a receipt, and the customer gets almost immediate access to the deposit.

Before, the deposit envelope had to be physically collected, transported to the processing site, opened and credited to the customer's account.

The new machines are made possible by the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, which took effect in 2004. The measure allows a facsimile of a check, instead of the actual document, to be presented for payment. That has speeded up dramatically the time it takes to process a check.

At Freeport McMoRan, good basic R&D results in lower extraction costs.

At its Morenci mine in eastern Arizona, Freeport uses naturally occurring bacteria instead of commercial sulfuric acid to leach copper from newly mined ore and old dumps. The process benefits the environment and has enabled the company to increase the amount of copper it recovers...

Added productivity: The leaching process eliminates the toxic emissions of smelting process and has reduced production-related energy costs by about 22 percent, according to Freeport spokesman Eric Kinneberg.

At Hickman Farms (egg producer), the latest equipment makes a significant impact.

What's new: Machinery recently installed at a new complex of chicken barns being built by Hickman's in Arlington Valley west of Phoenix can wash, sort, inspect and pack 120,000 eggs per hour...

Added productivity: The new machine can pack 500 cases of eggs per hour with eight employees, compared with an earlier machine that packed 20 cases per hour with five employees.

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