As the capstone requirement for my recently-completed MBA degree, I was tasked with the creation of a major research paper in lieu of a thesis. The primary difference between the two is that a thesis requires the generation of incrementally new theoretical thought, whereas a major research paper serves as a synthesis of available academic research to support a core theme or hypothesis.

As I possess a substantial background in purchasing, inventory management and supply chain, and in light of recent public discussions regarding the possibility of repatriating the manufacturing capacity that had been progressively “lost” by the United States to China, I chose to focus on what I considered to be the novel topic of the technological enablers that might justify a case for transitioning manufacturing production back from China.

During the course of my research, I encountered and reported upon a number of originally-anticipated themes – that recent wage inflation in China had progressively eroded the opportunity for labour arbitrage that had originally rationalized outsourcing, and that automation and technological proliferation, coupled with lower energy costs facilitated by renewables, were increasingly evening-out the competitive playing field, from a capital and operating cost, and capabilities standpoint. Specific technologies like additive processes, robotics, and artificial intelligence in particular are offering ever-sophisticated and ever-cheaper options to ever-smaller manufacturers that can be deployed on a cost-parity basis across all geographies, on the push-side of the equation.

What was somewhat unexpected, however, was the research I encountered that supports the strength of the pull-side of the equation. My research reaffirmed that citizens, regardless of their publicly-espoused sentiment, are unwilling in practice to pay any form of price premium or subsidy in order to encourage factories to reestablish themselves within consumers’ borders, and therein solidifying the caveat that reshoring can only be possible through the achievement of cost-parity with foreign outsourcers. However, evolving consumer-driven demands for mass-customization (the preference for consumers to be able to personally customize a product, rather than be forced to accept one that has been standardized for a broad global audience), coupled with increasing levels of price-sensitivity, and demands for vendors to achieve increasingly aggressive lead times, compel manufacturers to seek efficient and effective solutions to address such trends.

Central to a consumer revolution of this nature is the rise in size and purchasing power of the Millennial cohort, and, as I progressively substantiated by poring through the countless psychology journals to reaffirm the fact, their most divergent collective traits are shaped by their high degree of narcissism relative to predecessor generations. I was reluctant to pursue this specific theme initially because it detracted from my core focus of technological enablers, but also due to the fact that Millennials, en masse, are often unfairly characterized as possessing such disparaging traits as selfishness, laziness, impatience, and aggressiveness. Having spent a year with dozens of individuals drawn from the Millennial generation during my MBA tenure, such generic characterizations did not reflect my personal experience, given that I collaborated with superb, intelligent and selflessly hard-working individuals that I couldn’t substantively differentiate through their qualities, from my Generation-X peers. However, as any statistics professor will regularly remind you, “a sample of one is not a valid representative sample”, and I therefore allowed the peer-reviewed data to guide my exploration of this particular theme.

Ultimately, as I discovered through my research, while particular technological forces may enable a resurgence of capacity to transition back to former manufacturing powerhouses as the low-cost benefits of outsourcing are able to be neutralized, complex societal forces may ultimately be the strongest driver of future demand in forcing the repositioning of manufacturing capability nearer to the locale of ultimate consumption. One academic contends that “Only raw materials and data will be transported over long distances in the future” (Matt, 2015), providing us with a glimpse of the dramatic change we might expect to see within the manufacturing, supply chain, and logistics realms, and among the broader society, in the coming years. Whether driven by manufacturers or consumers, we can expect to see a new generation of agile factories proliferating throughout consumer markets in the future.

If you’re interested in reading more, the full text of my research paper can be purchased in both hardcopy and electronic format from a variety of online book sellers, including Amazon.


Today, LightSpeed Retail announced their new product LightSpeed Cloud, a dramatic new offering released as an evolution of their longstanding LightSpeed Pro, Mac OS-based point-of-sale software solution.

LightSpeed Retail has been producing retail point-of-sale software for the Mac for nearly a decade, and moving to a cloud-based solution is a natural evolution of this product.

Unlike the LightSpeed Pro product, LightSpeed Cloud was not written from scratch.  LightSpeed Cloud comes to LightSpeed Retail via an acquisition of the pre-existing Merchant OS cloud-based POS solution, which was then re-tooled to LightSpeed Retail’s look-and-feel and other specifications.

I’ve been both a user and a reseller of LightSpeed’s Mac OS-based “Pro” product for many years, so I was surprised and excited to see their press release today.  I dove right in to sign up for a free 14 day trial to take the new product for a spin.

After establishing your account, there are a few brief screens to complete in order to set up your account.  You’ll need to provide LightSpeed Cloud with some basic info such as business name and address, categorization of your businesses’ industry, and you’ll need to tell it whether you’d also like to activate some of the Optional Modules such as Service (if your business needs to record service repairs for clients), Advanced Item Types (such as serial numbers on your inventory items), Gift Cards (which you can issue and track with an unique number), or the Time Clock (employee time tracking for payroll).  After that you’ll just need to record your sales tax rates.  LightSpeed Cloud, incidentally, does allow you to track multiple sales tax rates for those jurisdictions, like mine where there is both a Federal and Provincial sales tax.

Once the initial setup is completed, LightSpeed Cloud will ask you to schedule an optional appointment with one of their employees (AKA “Customer Heroes”) to answer any questions you may have.

Add a few inventory items, then you are ready to begin invoicing.  It’s not unrealistic to say that you can begin generating invoices within minutes of signup.

Generally speaking, LightSpeed Cloud allows you to manage and invoice your inventory, print invoices, purchase and receive inventory, print price tags, manage your customer database, track employee work hours, and generate a myriad of reports.  Its Multi-Shop feature allows you to manage inventory in, and sell inventory from, multiple warehouses/stores, and its Service module allows you to manage customer service repairs.  Additional add-ons are available to integrate with Quickbooks accounting, Shopify ecommerce, Perkville customer rewards and social networking management, and Mailchimp email marketing campaigns.  There is also a Public API available to allow you to build your own custom add-ons or integrations with existing solutions.  The full feature set is available here.

LightSpeed Cloud can also be used with bar code scanners, credit card swipers, and cash drawers, to provide a complete POS solution.

As a cloud-based application, LightSpeed Cloud runs via any HTML5-compliant web browser.  Unlike its Mac OS-only predecessor, this means LightSpeed Cloud will operate on any platform – Mac OS, Windows, Linux, Android Tablets, Chrome Laptops, etc.  There is also an iPad app available on the App Store which appears to offer the same interface and feature set as the web browser version, with the main difference being that it is touch-driven.

LightSpeed Cloud does not have the broad and robust feature set of the venerable Mac OS-based LightSpeed Pro app (yet…) and there is no official upgrade path from the Mac OS app to Cloud.  LightSpeed Cloud, as it currently stands, would be well-suited to small-to-medium sized businesses that are just starting out, or are transitioning from an older and less-robust POS solution.  It is possible to import your existing Inventory and Customer databases in to LightSpeed Cloud.

The initial [low] costs of setting up a LightSpeed Cloud installation are the major benefit over the LightSpeed Pro (Mac OS) app.  I have performed plenty of very basic single-user LightSpeed Pro installations in the past that would have been well-served by the new Cloud version.  LightSpeed Cloud carries an price as low as $69/mo for a single cash-register with 3 employees.  Compare this with the single user version of LightSpeed Pro at $1098, plus an additional ~$1200 for the entry-level iMac the software would need to operate on.  Thus it would take 33 months to reach cost-parity with the Pro version.  We can also presume that Cloud will receive ongoing feature enhancements – new fields and buttons will simply magically appear on your browser window from time-to-time.  [Incidentally, receiving new feature upgrades in Pro requires an ongoing renewal of a Maintenance subscription, starting at $399 per year for a single user.]

Bearing in mind that this is a Cloud-based app, this means you’ll lose access to inventory and invoicing temporarily if your Internet connection drops or if LightSpeed experiences technical problems in their data centre – but it also means you don’t have to maintain your own server and you don’t have to deal with the technical challenges associated with that (including remembering to perform local backups, and the possible theft of your server).

The only other thing I’ll mention as a caveat is that MerchantOS appeared to use Amazon for their hosting, so I presume that practice will continue under LightSpeed Cloud’s oversight.  For those of us not operating our businesses in the United States, this means that under the terms of the Patriot Act, the US Government has the legal right to look at your data without a warrant (because it physically resides within their boundaries).  Some of us outside of the US are not comfortable with a foreign government reviewing our private customer data and financial info, so be aware of that.  If your data resides on your own server, only you have access to it.

As many business applications transition from proprietary OS-based applications to the platform-agnostic Cloud, it has been a foregone conclusion for some time that point of sale software would follow this trend.  While LightSpeed Retail isn’t the first company to enter the cloud-based POS space, their longstanding experience in building a feature-rich and graphically robust solution will surely make them a leader in this new space.

For the past couple years I have been blogging about how to save money while roaming internationally with your mobile phone, by providing instructions on how to obtain cheap domestic SIM cards, and by pointing you in the direction of smartphone apps that enable cheap or free voice calling.

I have been a business owner for over 20 years and have a great deal of experience with finding more efficient and inexpensive ways to run a business, so I figured it was time I broadened my horizons a bit and talked about more than just data roaming.

In the coming days and weeks you’ll see more frequent posts, covering a much broader range of business topics.  Thanks for watching!

For the past couple of years I have been blogging to Canadians and others about how to save money on international data roaming by obtaining foreign SIM cards in advance of traveling.  I had expected that for us Canadians, the bulk of my posts would become redundant with the CRTC’s introduction of the Wireless Code yesterday.  Outrageous international roaming fees were a core topic of discussion when designing the Code, so it was presumed these would be addressed and brought down to earth.

The purpose of the Wireless Code, as stated by the CRTC, is threefold:

  1. make it easier for individual and small business customers to obtain and understand the information in their wireless service contracts;
  2. establish consumer-friendly business practices for the wireless service industry where necessary; and
  3. contribute to a more dynamic wireless market.

The CRTC includes very specific elements in its new Wireless Code, but the component that is relevant to this blog is that which discusses international data roaming.

Section E.2. of the new Wireless Code, entitled “Cap on data roaming charges” specifically states:

  1. A service provider must suspend national and international data roaming charges once they reach $100 within a single monthly billing cycle, unless the customer expressly consents to pay additional charges.
  2. A service provider must provide this cap at no charge.

Many of the national and regional newspapers carrying the story are reflecting that this new standard will eliminate bill shock and limit data roaming fees to a single maximum fee , implying that international roamers could surf with abandon knowing that they would only pay $100 extra upon return.  Even the title of this section of the Code implies that.  But as far as how I interpret the code, this is not really the case.  All the Code says is that wireless carriers are legally obliged to disable data roaming on a consumer’s account once their bill reaches $100.

Canadian consumers have been complaining about the high cost of data roaming for some time, and it was hoped that the new CRTC code would actually regulate these fees and bring them in line with international roaming fees that consumers in other countries pay.  All this new rule achieves though is to force wireless carriers to shut off data access once a consumer has accumulated a $100 roaming bill, which could take as little as a few seconds in most regions.

The other kicker is that these new rules apply only to new consumer contracts signed after December 2, 2013, so it does nothing to protect those of us already under contract.

Want to continue to surf economically when roaming?  Stick to our plan:

  1. Buy an Unlocked phone, or pay to have your subsidized phone unlocked, so you can use any mobile phone carrier’s SIM cards
  2. Buy a domestic SIM card when you arrive in the country you’re traveling to, or buy one in advance
  3. Use a VoIP app on your smartphone (Fongo, Skype) to bypass the traditional telephone network to make and receive traditional telephone calls
Fongo iOS

I’m a bit late on the draw on this one, but last month Fongo made a bid to acquire recent mobile entrant WIND Mobile for $1 plus 49% equity in Fongo.  It’s hard to say whether this was a serious offer, or whether Fongo was posturing for publicity.  Nonetheless the offer was quickly rebuked by WIND, with their Chief Regulator Officer countering with an offer to buy Fongo for “…$1 plus half of his sandwich…”.

I’ve written quite a bit about Fongo over the past two years, as it is at the forefront of the Canadian market insofar as the convergence of VoIP over mobile data is concerned.  I’m also a believer in the software and an active user of it.  They produce apps for Android and iOS, and they also provide a home phone adapter so you can continue using your regular home phone over your Internet connection, instead of the more costly options available through the traditional phone company.

Fongo states that their goal is to ultimately become or partner with a national mobile data carrier to become a “4th option” to the big incumbent national carriers.  Their stated target is to offer a voice and data plan for $15/mo by the end of 2013.

The irony is that we’re already there.  I have blogged extensively about how you can ditch the voice aspect of your Canadian mobile phone plan by opting for one of the many inexpensive tablet or iPad (data-only) plans currently available, side-stepping their traditional voice network by using a VoIP app such as Fongo (or Skype, or TextPlus, or another option).  Data-only plans start at just $5/mo with some of the big-three.  Couple this with Fongo’s free services, and you have a mobile phone plan for just $5/mo if you’re a super-light user.  $15/mo is more realistic for regular voice users though.

Ultimately our mobile phone carriers will morph into pure wireless Internet providers, since voice is just another service that is carried over Internet Protocol.  It takes a company like Fongo to disrupt the market and force those changes though, because our big three carriers know that once they lose the ability to bill for voice and its myriad of options and surcharges, they’ll lose a huge part of their revenue.

The newswire is abuzz with the latest gouging story, at the hands of Canadian mobile phone carrier Rogers.

Burnaby, BC resident Matt Buie recently returned from Mexico and discovered that his son’s active video-viewing while away, generated 700MB of data roaming with a resulting bill of $22,000.  Even though Buie was aware of the high cost of roaming, his son managed to switch his iPhone out of Airplane Mode, and in to data-roaming hell.  Rogers did eventually reduce this bill substantially, but only after significant effort on Buie’s part, and ultimately after he went to the media to make his case.

Many of us have been in Buie’s situation.  I initially began seeking out roaming options, and blogging about it, after being faced with a $700 bill after failing to properly calculate the math on a miniscule amount of usage in Mexico, and Fido’s subsequent lack of respect for my 11 years of customer loyalty in reducing this.

For some of us, we can’t simply shut off our connection to the Internet while traveling.  Many of us need to at least check in with the office from time-to-time, and throwing up a wall may have unintended consequences.  We have also become accustomed to constantly being connected and sharing our experiences with our friends and family in real-time.

The best way to travel is to remove your home SIM card from your phone altogether, and only roam on a domestic SIM issued in the country you’re visiting.  In the case of Mexico, you can either prepare this in advance through one of the services I have blogged about – Travelers Telecom or, or set one up upon arrival in Mexico.  Using a domestic SIM, Buie’s usage would have cost less than $40.

And if you’d like to avoid the cost and inflexibility of Canadian carriers’ voice plans and contracts while at home, ditch your voice plan altogether by setting up a cheap data-only account and making voice calls through an app.  You can reduce your mobile phone bill to as little as $5 per month.

Many of the readers of my blog arrive here as the result of an online search for SIM cards for Mexico.  A new SIM card service was brought to my attention today, so I thought I should let everyone know about it. is a new service that provides SIM cards on either the Telcel or Iusacell networks.  They appear to have a variety of SIM cards available, including Regular SIMs (for iPhone 3G/3GS), microSIMs (for the iPhone 4 or 4S or iPads) and nanoSIMs (for the iPhone 5).  You also have a choice of pre-loading the SIM cards with a fixed amount of airtime.

I have written in the past about how you can purchase a Telcel SIM card after you arrive in Mexico, however I am always keen to pre-purchase my SIM cards prior to visiting a new country, so I can begin using my phone the moment the plane touches down. appears to be another service that accomplishes this.

Prices range from US$19.95 for a Iusacell SIM pre-loaded with 50 Pesos (about US$4.00) worth of airtime credit, up to US$59.95 for a lusacell SIM with 3GB of Data and 450 Pesos (about US$36) worth of airtime credit.  Prices include shipping (to you in advance of your trip) and payment is via PayPal.

I have no affiliation with this company, I have not tried them yet and they are not paying me for this mention or any sort of affiliate credit, so I can’t vouch for them at all.  If you try them and have a comment about your experience, whether good, bad, or neutral, please post it in the comments section so we can all learn from your experience.

Since payment is made by PayPal, you do get a certain amount of protection if things go bad for some reason though.

One thing to keep in mind when you review their web site is that they use the same symbol for Pesos as we use for Dollars ($) so when you see a SIM that includes $70 MXN of airtime, this is 70 Mexican Pesos.  The conversion rate at the moment to US (USD) or Canadian (CAD) dollars is approximately USD/CAD$1=12.5 Pesos, thus $70 MXN = $5.60 USD/CAD$.

You can also contact on their Twitter account at @mexicosimcard.

Rogers announced today that they will be changing their unlocking policy, which is great news for travellers and International SIM card users.

Rogers customers who pay the full unsubsidized price for an iPhone (as in a pay-as-you-go activation) are eligible to have their iPhones unlocked immediately.

Beginning some time in March, Rogers customers who are under contract can have their iPhones unlocked 90 days after activation.  Previously these customers had to wait until their full term (usually 3 years) had ended.

Unlocking still incurs a fee of $50 in either case, and it can be done at any of Rogers’ retail stores.  Previously, unlocking could only be done by calling their customer service phone lines.

The CRTC will be holding hearings next week with regards to their draft of the potential Wireless Code, and it’s widely believed that they will be instituting limits on carrier unlocking, so this move seems to be preemptive of that.

According to Rogers’ Community Management Specialist, this policy will also extend to their Fido and Chatr brands.

Rogers also announced a new United States data roaming rate today, offering 50MB of data over a 1 day period for $7.99.  While this is still more expensive than roaming with an international SIM card as I’ve described in my prior posts, this is a significant discount relative to past roaming rates.

If you purchased your iPhone for less than $300 when new, or if you didn’t consciously purchase an “unlocked” phone, you can pretty much guarantee that it was subsidized by the carrier, and is therefore “locked” and can only be used by their network and their SIM cards.  Not only does this limit your ability to move between domestic carriers, it also prohibits you from using SIM cards for carriers in other countries while traveling.

Locked iPhone

Results from GSX for a locked iPhone

The easiest way to tell whether or not your iPhone is locked is by simply inserting a SIM from a different carrier.  If it’s locked, you will receive an error message.  Short of this, there is also another way to tell whether your iPhone is still locked. offers a service that allows you to type your IMEI number in to their web site, then they’ll tell you whether or not it’s locked or unlocked.  You can take their service one step further however. ultimately uses Apple’s Global Service Exchange (more commonly known as GSX) web site to obtain information from

Unlocked iPhone

Results from GSX for an Unlocked iPhone

Apple’s servers to determine whether or not your iPhone is locked or unlocked.  GSX is not a public web site, but is rather a system used by every Apple Authorized Service Dealer in the world, including the Apple Store and Apple Authorized Resellers, to manage repairs of Apple products.  You can therefore contact your local Apple Store or Apple Dealer to obtain this information.  I’m sure your local Apple Reseller will even do this by email for you – they’ll just need either your iPhone’s serial number or IMEI number.  I have attached a couple sample screen shots to show you exactly what data GSX will provide.

If you have a locked iPhone, there are services and add-in circuit boards to allow you to circumvent the carrier locking, but I have never been a fan of them as they are only successful for a short period of time before Apple creates a new software update to disable them.  I’m also very suspicious of the third-party services that offer unlocking of the IMEI.  From what I’ve read, some of these services involve having a mole working at the carriers on their behalf, and therefore the unlock could be reverted by the carrier if the leak is discovered.

The better way to go is instead to pay your carrier directly to unlock your phone.  Depending upon how deep you are in your contract, you may or may not be allowed by your carrier to do this.  This engadget article outlines the costs for each carrier (ranging from $35 to $75) and links to instructions.  For US readers, AT&T has a handy unlock request form here.  To have the freedom to switch from the carrier you bought your phone from, to another carrier, your iPhone must be “unlocked”.  Your carrier collects your fee, presses a few buttons in their system, and your phone is permanently “unlocked” and able to be used with any carrier’s SIM cards.

If you intend on traveling internationally, shell out the extra money (usually about $500 on the iPhone) for an unlocked iPhone, and the freedom of being able to roam with international SIM cards will easily pay for itself on your first trip.

Last year I first posted about how foreigners travelling to Mexico might obtain a SIM card in advance, through a service offered by a company called Travelers Telecom.  While I still stand behind my usual method of paying a slight premium to obtain a pre-activated SIM card prior to departing for a new country, I did receive a lot of feedback on that post and felt it was prudent to provide an update.

The purpose of my blog is to inform how one might pre-purchase SIM cards for any given country, so you can begin using your phone the moment your airplane hits the tarmac, without paying the onerous data roaming fees levied by your home carrier.  I have a surplus of frequent flier miles and often travel vast distances for short periods of time, and simply don’t have time to waste hunting around for SIM cards after I land.  It’s also important to me to be briefed in the latest cat même’s before I get off the plane.

Not everyone is as crazy as I am however, and some of you vacation for 2 or 3 weeks at a time, providing plenty of time to set up an account after you arrive.  There have also been some recent changes in Mexican law that make it easier for foreigners to set up mobile phone accounts on their own.

Until 2011, the Mexican government required that all mobile phone (technically, SIM card) registrations needed to be supported by a CURP number.  A CURP is functionally similar to a US Social Security Number or Canadian Social Insurance Number.  Unlike a SSN or SIN though, CURPs can be issued to foreigners who are seasonal residents of Mexico.  A foreigner would obtain a CURP by visiting the local city hall where they’re residing in Mexico, and show their passport and FM2 or FM3 Visa.

Having said that, a CURP is no longer legally required to activate a SIM card, however it is necessary to show your passport to activate it.  I use Telcel, but I presume a similar process will work with the other carriers.  SIM cards in Mexico are available at a number of sources – grocery stores, Oxxo, etc.  Normally these are activated through the phone itself or online, but those processes require a CURP.  To activate with a passport, you’ll need to actually visit the local dealer’s office.  You can find the local Telecel offices here.

If the office is in a major tourist centre like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, you may be fortunate and be able to speak to someone in English, and you may also be dealing with someone who is used to activating accounts for foreigners without CURP ID’s.  If, however, you encounter an office that refuses to accept anything but a CURP even though it’s not required anymore (according to postings by expats in Mexico in related online forums, this is common) or if you don’t speak Spanish and they don’t speak English, you may be out of luck and should have instead pre-planned based on the info in my earlier post.

Either way, whether you buy your Telcel SIM before you leave, or after you arrive, you’ll save a fortune relative to what your home carrier would gouge you to roam there.