A Moral Example of Salami Slicing

 Posted by on 26 June 2008 at 11:47 pm  Business, Cool, Ethics
Jun 262008

Remember that technique which showed up in the plots of movies like Superman III, Hackers, and Office Space, where someone would change bank software to take fractions of cents from transactions like interest payments and funnel them all into one account? Nobody misses a fraction of a cent — but given enough transactions over time, the sum can really add up! That’s what they call “Salami Slicing.”

Of course it is stealing in cases like that, but the same idea of accumulating vast numbers of tiny values that are hardly noticeable could legitimately pay off, too.

Consider this fact about driving your vehicle: left turns often require waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, taking a little more time and gas on average than right turns do. Now, this doesn’t make all that much of a difference to most of us (just like the above fraction of a cent we may or may not get in interest from the bank) — but if you have a fleet of 90,000 big brown trucks that follow the routes you schedule for them each day to deliver packages, then adjusting your software to minimize left turns could really add up!

Last year, according to Heather Robinson, a U.P.S. spokeswoman, the software helped the company shave 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes, which has resulted in savings of roughly three million gallons of gas…

That’s some serious scratch, especially with the price of gas today! I love it — kudos to the brain at UPS who saw and brilliantly exploited this little fact.

[HT: Jason]

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