Case Study #1: Solar Panels
humanitarian organization made up of a non-profit group and a university-level
engineering course sought to assist a female entrepreneur from an
underdeveloped region in the
The professor in charge of the organization turned to VIA Unlimited as part of an educational initiative to help engineering students understand effective solutions in developing communities. VIA was specifically asked to conduct an assessment of the businesswoman’s capacity economically, culturally, and politically. This assessment was conducted with respect to how the new solar panels would improve her situation. Our work revealed that due to several contributing factors the marginal electrical increase provided by the solar panels would not increase her productivity at all.
analysis framework provided a comprehensive perspective that uncovered
non-engineering limitations of which the professor was unaware. For example, we found a critical weakness in
communication between the aid organization and the businesswoman due to
cultural constraints. We also determined
that relatively simple changes in production techniques and a small investment
in new equipment would exponentially decrease electric consumption, a net gain
far greater than that provided by the solar panels. Additionally, the businesswoman’s profit was
limited by an inability to properly market her product, yet marketing
assistance was readily available and provided by local groups.
Following these threads enabled our consulting team to isolate specific problems across several disciplines and examine the relationships that existed between them. We were then able to explore potential solutions and make viable recommendations. Combining the aid organization’s initial engineering solution with a broader analysis enabled the design to be employed with far greater success.
panels were installed on the original timeline.
The business woman invested in new equipment and modified her production
techniques. The increase in her
productivity was immediate and estimated at greater than 20 percent. The humanitarian organization’s program
received significant regional acclaim for its practical and realistic solutions
to complex problems.
Case Study #2: Air Transportation
The Potential Client
A corporation was awarded a contract to develop an air transportation system in a war torn Central Asian nation. The corporation spent two million USD on training air traffic controllers with no return on investment. This was due to having not taken into account the economic anomalies caused by the regional security situation and local culture and politics.
The corporation faced numerous complex challenges to include construction and repair of regional and international airports, and training and staffing of the facilities. The potential client sought to maximize the use of local personnel, both because of the lower costs involved as well as to promote the economic development of the region. While basic labor was readily available, skilled labor and management was in low supply. Specifically, there were no native certified air traffic controllers. Certification required both competency in air traffic control and fluency in English.
The contractor conducted a standard project management analysis to include review of the infrastructural issues and local training programs. They were aware that the education and certification of local air traffic controllers would require sending the trainees abroad to learn both English and air traffic control skills. Over 12 months the contractor was able to ascertain this data, negotiate training in another country, select candidates, and initiate training. Actual training took an additional two years and cost approximately $2 million. The potential client did not conduct a comprehensive analysis and failed to evaluate how cultural and economic factors would affect the skilled labor pool.
after initiation of the program the certified air traffic controllers returned
to their native country. Starting salary
was $60/month, equivalent to the average pay of a skilled government
employee. Within two weeks all of the
controllers had left their air traffic control positions and had accepted jobs
as English translators for non-government humanitarian assistance organizations. Their average salary in these positions was
$300/month. Within two months the
contractor hired non-native certified air traffic controllers on an “interim”
basis while seeking a new solution to the problem.
story was a primary factor in the development of VIA Unlimited. The principals of VIA observed these events
unfold but were not in a position to influence the outcome. Had VIA been consulted our process would have
considered the realities of the local labor pool supply and demand. VIA would have assessed cultural influences
and recommended compensation strategies which would have drawn on tribal and
family loyalties to increase the probability of labor retention. It is our business to work with our clients
to understand the environment they will work in and avoid undesirable outcomes
such as the vignette presented above. VIA methodology applies a comprehensive analysis which includes identification of economic anomalies.