There is an old nursery rhyme about the the 3 little pigs and the wolf. The first house was made of straw, the second built using sticks and third was of brick. Brick can be decorative, last for many years, and for generations the bricks were put up by hand. The book SAM or semi-automated mason is about the people who lay bricks for a living and an idea or bootstrap engineering operation who to make their lives easier with a machine which can lay bricks. The book SAM – One Robot, a dozen Engineers, and the Race to Revolutionize the Way We Build was written by Jonathan Waldman, published by Avid Reader Press, NY, 2020.
For generations, masons or brick layers laid brick by hand, using mortar and ensuring the bricks were in a straight row. People have a limit although similar to every other endeavor there are faster masons. The construction industry accepted the conditions and it has worked well for them. The construction industry which is one of the largest employers in any economy, worked with what it knows will work. That is important for any business idea, just because you can build a better mousetrap, will anyone want to buy it? In the book, it took years before SAM was operational, although it is not the standard. The robot does lay bricks faster and with a clean finish, sometimes 3 times faster.
The book also touches on the history of the masons and the union and the Business Round Table efforts to break the union to keep costs down. The Business Round Table included some of the biggest companies in the US and used phrases such as rising wages; unskilled work, executive pay; wage madness; monopolistic unions; wage-price spiral.
The Engineers at a firm in Rochester, NY called Construction Robots were trying to make a machine which would make brick laying easier for the workers and the construction companies. In order to make SAM work the machine would need the use of lasers, cameras, wi-fi or electronics, robot hands to grip the brick, a device to ensure mortar is put on the brick and to lay the brick in order to do the next one. If it sounds complicated it was and is and you can see SAM on You Tube. It took 20 years to accomplish and the engineers learned and they went along. In most inventions, it is idea, plans, money spent, where does more money come from and how do we make our money back?
Linking to dividend paying stocks, fortunately when companies make money they have the ability to both give money to shareholders and reinvest in the company, sometimes buying start up companies with great ideas. Often it is easier, for profitable companies are involved in making money – the sales and distribution aspect, not the inventing. Inventing stories are wonderful to listen to and the economy needs them to grow, but as investors you are looking for does the market for the invention or idea can it be sold at healthy margins.
There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.