Recently I had a debate with a friend over what is good for the society multipurpose machines or vehicles or efficient specialized machines and vehicles?
My friend’s assertion was that society is better off if we use experts, specialists, machines and equipment. 1 bus for commuting, 1 truck for transport, 1 tracker for ploughing the fields would consume less fuel, time, give more comfort and be less costly for the society than having 4 tractors doing all the above purposes. A tractor is a multipurpose vehicle which can do almost anything under the sun, but that does not mean that it should be regularly used to do it. After all its common sense that the wheels designed to function in mud and fields would consume more fuel on tarred roads.
My assertion was that there are 2 costs associated with any machine Capex and Opex. It is well known that most agricultural families might have needs that require them to work in the fields, transport produce and passengers. However they might not have the financial means to own 3 different vehicles for these specialized tasks. Also even if they can, they won’t be able to fully utilize them and hence making it expensive for the society.
For Opex, one has to take a leaf from the Queuing Theory. Multipurpose vehicles can adapt to the needs of the day. They can be deployed on the fields on one day, as trucks on another and as busses on the third. This way there will not be shortage in any of these varied areas and hence the rental that a farmer has to pay for these equipments would also be manageable. Finally the cost to the society is rental + operating cost. End of the day it’s the economics that guide these decisions in life. As long as village economy feels that their needs are not so large to justify specialist vehicles they won’t have one.
The debate could not be conclusive because soon we drifted to the professional services space. We questioned that for a company/team/project is it better to hire generalist or specialist. When is the tussle between expertise and flexibility which of the two should be given precedence.
Hence I am writing this post to ask for opinion from the readers.