Sustainability Product Selection Metric

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Metric proposed by Marcin Jakubowski in order to select the key technologies needed for lozalized, sustainable manufacturing (Permafacture).


"1. Market size - This the value created in US dollars. This is measured by either: (1), the value of goods and services themselves, or (2), the value of goods and services displaced by the given product. This reflects the starting volume of production that may be substituted via localized, flexible production. If the market is large and distributed, then ubiquitous business opportunity exists from localization. Score: 3 points for a billion dollar market, 6 points for 10 billion, and 10 points for a 1 trillion dollar market and higher, and values in between. Note that most of the products chosen fall into the score of 10, because they are essential.

2. Livelihood creation – Number of livelihoods worldwide that can be created if localization occurred. Score: 0 point for 1 new job per 100,000 people, 5 points for 1 in 1000, and 10 points for 1 or more in 100, and values between. See Appendix D: Metric Notes, for discussion on Livelihood Creation, to understand why all products manifest the highest score.

3. Liberatory potential – This is the fraction of peoples’ time that may be freed due to elimination of particular costs of living, by using the specified product. This is due to features of: long product lifetime, items that allow production for self-sufficiency, and Factor 10 cost reduction of the product. Score: This is based on the 9-5 workday standard, which is really 8-6 for travel and recuperation inherent to benign crap jobs. This is essentially 10 hours per day, 5 days per week. Thus, 0 points corresponds to insignificant work time reduction, 5 points is 15 minutes reduction in work time, and 10 corresponds to 1/2 hour liberated per day. If all products contribute 1/2 hour, then they add up, essentially, to the elimination of the need to work, outside of minor expenses. Note that this leaves only the economy of leisure – ie, engagement in only voluntary activity beyond one’s need to make a living - as the only valid pursuit in life. This program assumes self-sufficiency in physical needs, and also in political needs (self-governance), security (believing in peace but sleeping with a gun under one’s pillow), education (augmented self-learning), and health (via diet, preventive health and fitness practice, and a quality lifestyle). Note also that such a program is unrealistic for many today, but may become feasible for many people in the future. The need to work to make a living will be insignificant if localization contributes significantly to healthful lifestyles.

4. Population affected – Fraction of the world’s population, outside of indigenous cultures, that uses the product. Score: 0 points for every 1 person per 100,000 that uses the product, up to 10 points for every person on the planet using the product. This includes the industrialized and non-industrialized world.

5. Localization potential – The measure of how much likelihood exists that production will be localized, as opposed to produced via global supply chains by large corporations. This is determined by a number of features:

a. Fabrication infrastructure cost – Fabrication equipment and tooling required for producing the specified product. The lower the infrastructure cost, the higher the chance of small enterprise startup success. Score: 0 for >$10k capitalization cost, 1 for >$5k, and 2 for ≤$5k. This reflects the capitalization barrier.

b. Labor value – Marketable value contained in labor of production, indicating earning potential in a local economy. This value also includes efficiency – if production takes too long, then the item in question becomes too expensive, and a product becomes unmarketable. Thus, only efficient production, such as utilization of manufacturing automation, has a high labor value. Score: 0 for unskilled labor, or <$10/hour; and 1 for >$10/hour, and 2, $50 and up per hour.

c. Material costs – Product cost embodied in materials and wearable supplies involved in the production process. The lower the material costs, the higher is the potential for small enterprise to succeed by virtue of minimizing capital risks of supply chain management. Score: 0 for >$10k material costs, 1 for <$5k material costs, and 2 for <$1k material costs.

d. Technological complexity – The number of distinct components or parts that are required for a product. The lower the complexity, the more durable and serviceable the product. Design optimization is based on reducing the complexity to the absolute minimum without sacrificing performance. Low complexity means that the enterprise may be learned readily by producers. Score: 0 for high complexity – requires a year or more of full time training to acquire the skill. 1 for medium complexity – requires months. 2 is for low complexity, such that only a 1-4 weeks are required to learn the enterprise. Note that all products chosen carry the highest score, by design. For example, we choose a Boundary Layer Turbine as the product of choice for power conversion – as opposed to solar cells- which are much more complex to manufacture from scratch in a one or few person operation. We are assuming the training of skilled workers, not people with two left hands.

e. Sourcing localization – Local feedstocks reduce cost and enable a secure supply. This is critical for robust supply chain management strategies. At best, feedstocks are to be found on-site – such as solar energy, earth, wood, metal, etc. If they are found within a land-based facility, then they are essentially free. Score: 0 for remote feedstocks, 1 for mixed feedstocks, and 2 for predominantly local feedstocks. Note that in our product list, all products display the lowest score at present – simply because there are no local metal, semiconductor, or other materials producers – as these are procured via global supply chains. Note that this localization may exist in the future – as small scale metal extraction (aluminum from clay), semiconductor purification, biplastics production – may occur on the bioregional or local scale.

f. Ecological design - integration of a particular production system with nature (as in a land-based Global Village) and other enterprises in the set of 16 technologies. This ecology is covered in its own section below, IV, Product Ecology. Score: 0 for limited integration, 1 for good integration, 2 for excellent integration.

g. Design for Disassembly (DfD) & lifetime design – Durable products are favored for purposes of localization, in so far as they contain maximum value. If true cost accounting is considered, then lifetime products add value based on product lifetime increase. For example, a lifetime car may have the value equivalent to 5-10 disposable (planned obsolescence) cars. Score: 0 for planned or perceived obsolescence, 1 for significant DfD and lifetime features, and 2 for nearly complete DfD and lifetime design.

h. Scaleability – The facility with which larger (or smaller) products or yields may be produced, without major design changes, via modularity, and with proportional (as opposed to nonlinear) increase (or decrease) in price. If a flex fab device is highly scaleable by design, then it has a wider range of applicability, and can capture a wider market. Score: 0 for non-scaleability, as in the whole system must be redesigned; 1 for scaleability with nonlinear price increase; 2 for full scaleability and linear price increase.

i. Cost of Waste– The fraction of competing product cost embodied in waste, such as intellectual property (IP) and competitive waste. IP spans product, process, and organizational design – which is deemed as waste here because it is generated redundantly by each market player, while costs are passed on to the consumer. The lack of access to product blueprints and design rationales is the most common reason why many producers hold a competitive advantage. This is also the reason for high entry barriers to new economic players – thus fostering centralization. Flexible fabrication is favored when a large fraction of competing product cost is embodied in waste- simply because there is a great business opportunity in reducing this waste. Open source products have the advantage of eliminating the entire cost of said waste, and land-based flexible fabrication facilities owned or co-funded by stakeholders may reduce costs even further. This score is measured qualitatively as: 0 for little or no waste in the mainstream product, 1 for about 25% of the price in waste, and 2 for ≥50% waste. In our list of products, the only ones that score low here are alcohol production and metal casting– for which IP is available in the form of widely available or purchased plans.

j. Feedstock abundance – The worldwide distribution and supply of feedstocks involved in using particular products- such as abundance of clayey soil worldwide for compressed earth block production. The greater the distribution, the more wealth can be distributed to various communities. Score: 0 for centralized availability, 1 for bioregional availability, and 2 for local availability.


Marcin Jakubowski:

"Note that the Product Selection Metric must be considered not for individual products, but for products within a product ecology. Cascading Factor 10 cost reduction occurs when the availability of one product decreases the cost of the next product. This is visible particularly with energy production – the solar turbine electric generator, running on free solar energy, yields drastic cost reduction of any other product where fuel costs are the primary cost. As another example: wheel electric motors - or low-speed, high-torque electric motors are one of the enabling features for low-cost electric cars, tractors, or electrically-driven sawmills. Specifics of cost reduction must be examined on a case-by-case basis.

Note also that our context is a land-based facility. This allows for provision of local, natural feedstocks, and it helps to reduce operating overhead.

The metric score is the total of the 5 main sections, with 10 point maximum for the first 4 sections and 20 for the fifth. The score goes up to 60 for the perfect product.

The metric addresses: (1), Jefferson’s formula for democracy by distribution of the means of production, (2), essential tenets of the localization movement, and (3), wide impact for economic transformation via decentralization. We challenge the reader to propose other products that should be on the list based on their score."

More Information

  1. P2P Metrics