Ronald McDonald, 198 Seeds, and the Surging Economy

Every time you chomp into a Big Mac or quarter-pounder at McDonalds, you are tasting a reason for America’s success.

With all the gnashing of teeth about the America’s economic decline, and especially about its trade deficit with other nations, many have failed to note that in the quiet service sector, the U.S has a huge and growing trade surplus. This is important because the service sector is the fastest-growing area in all advanced economies. The service sector, BTW, is where the ‘smart’ industries lie, most notably finance, insurance, education, IT, health, design, marketing, engineering, and many areas of research and development.

The U.S. is driving into that future, fast.

So fast that, according to experts at institutions like the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis[1], the U.S. net trade in services has increased substantially over the last five years. In 2018, the surplus in services was $260 billion, which greatly reduced the overall deficit of the U.S., relative to the large negative balance in the trade of goods alone.

Today, the service sector owns about two-thirds of the economy. The odds are good that its service trade surplus advantage will eventually erase any deficit in areas like manufacturing or coal mining (sorry Senator Manchin) — which have been in decline for decades anyway.

The American service sector advantage can be glimpsed through a remarkable number:

A McDonald’s Big Mac bun is covered by 198 sesame seeds.

Not “about 200”, or “maybe 190-ish”. 198.

Not only that, they are spaced evenly to give customers the optimum sensation of massive coverage and tasty crunchiness (without being, you know, too crunchy).

Spatial data mining or text mining is used on the bun production line to analyze unstructured content (“sesame seeds”) and provides a best view of what lies ahead (198 per bun).

With a production line that runs at about 1,000 bpm (buns per minute), a few extra sesame seeds could result in millions of dollars of loss. Also, a customer complaint about sesame shortage would be equally disastrous.

So image-processing (read: geo-mapping) technology uses cameras in the oven’s bun line to examine images of each bun. Just like it would map the surface of Mars. Analytic programs uses colour graphics to ensure that the oven is adjusted to make each one the right level of brownness.

It also ensures that sesame seeds get distributed in exactly the right number. Like 198.

With a typical factory churning out more than 14-million buns per week, that’s a lot of seeds. World-wide, the company serves 75 hamburgers per second. Let’s say half of them have sesame seeds. Let’s further speculate that the controlled feedback loop of the bun computers goes wonky, so that an extra 20 seeds gets placed on each of the buns. That’s about 95 million extra sesame seeds per year. There are about 15,000 seeds per pound. 6.3 million pounds of seeds wasted each year. Let’s say the seeds go for $5.00 per pound. That’s more than $30-million. We’re not talking peanuts here.

The impact of technology on the service sector is re-defining where you live today, and where you work. People are using the frictionless world of online communications to move from the coasts to the interior, where they can get paid California salaries while living in Hudson, Ohio. If they were working in the mining or manufacturing sector their options would be much more limited…they would be prisoners of the mine or factory location. But have computer, have freedom — in a service economy.

You can control those sesame seeds from anywhere! Count on it.

[1] https://www.stlouisfed.org/on-the-economy/2020/february/us-rise-trading-services

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Barry Gander

I'm a Canadian from Connecticut, so 2 strikes against me. I'm a top writer in 5 fields, & I love finding the Meaning under the passing headlines.