The Logic of the System
By: Rolando J. Vivas
“Give a monkey a brain and it will swear it is the center of the universe”
I worked almost 15 years ago for a food producing company, when I got there, the main problem was the price of pork, which was “controlled by unscrupulous meat packers” that according to the management sold the product at exorbitant prices for “pure evil”, the reality is that that company, despite its size and national scope, still thought that “the world revolved around them.”
I am fascinated by geopolitics as it helps you think in a systemic way, we are part of a global system, and what happens in other parts of the world, without a doubt affects us in one way or another, the pandemic has helped us to understand it better than never, and although it is not easy to understand, geopolitics greatly influences the quality and price of the tacos at the corner stand.
At that time I began to investigate the situation beyond simple cause and effect, and I was able to understand that the packing companies in Mexico, bought pork in the US and Canada, because the national product was insufficient, of poor quality and of uncompetitive price, I understood that pork was a “commodity”, that is, a product without differentiation, whose price basically fluctuated, apparently due to the laws of supply and demand, Adam Smith would have been proud of me, but…
It turns out in the first place that the USA, where the product is produced and processed, despite being known as the “champions of the free market”, several companies tend to put a not so invisible hand in the dynamics of supply and demand, stopping the sacrifice or sending to the freezers the product already processed, creating an artificial shortage that caused the global prices of this product to rise suddenly, thus controlling the previous one in global markets, something similar to those that are done on a much smaller scale with lemon and avocado in the states of Colima and Michoacán.
While the US they control the supply, China controlled the demand in those years, such as the number one consumer of this product, so much so that China has protected itself by buying from the main companies producing this meat in the world, the giant Smithfield in the US or Granjas Carroll, the main pork producer in Mexico (where an influenza outbreak originated more than 10 years ago that threatened to become a global event, but was well tackled by the Mexican authorities at that time).
The next step was to understand the cycles of process and consumption, which went to heaven during the Chinese New Year and fell drastically during Lent (or Semana Santa), when Catholics worldwide tend not to consume meat, at the same time, understand the fluctuations of the dollar, to look for those windows in which he had to buy all the possible product to achieve 6 months of inventory and ensure a competitive price for that period, per year, two or three windows were presented, and the pork well frozen can be consumed up to one year after slaughter.
Thus, I was able to redesign the process oriented to those windows, to the opportunity purchase of dollars and the use of storage spaces, and even using national labor, much more competitive in price than that of the United States, in this way when I managed to understand the system In full, the so-called “big picture”, I was able to make the management of that company understand that despite the fact that the main raw material was subject to external pressures and international conditions, there were ways of assuming control of many variables within our sphere of influence, in the end, systems thinking helped us not to feel like victims, but to give us a new level of control and power.
Thinking in a systemic way, understanding the complete dynamics of our environment, far from making us feel defenseless with respect to the external, allows us to detect and provide solutions to complex situations, in the long term and in our internal spectrum, which impact the results we want to achieve , if we speak for example of the current health crisis and the pandemic, we will understand that although ending the pandemic seems an issue beyond us and being a situation on a global scale, we ourselves in our individual environment can do a lot by constantly washing hands, through social distancing and through the use of mouth covers and face masks, in reality we are not so defenseless and we can do a lot to influence a large scale, today more than ever we know that we are part of a whole global ecosystem, we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that what It happens on the other side of the world, it will not affect us, the great lesson is before us and we cannot ignore it.