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6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible in the US?

Jerry Cunningham

I know that there has been discussion in the past about 4-10 hour days as opposed to 5-8 hours days and there wasn't much consensus on that.

How about following some Swedish company's lead and shaking things up and offering a 6 hour work day with daily pay that's similar to an 8 hour shift?

Think about it, there's waste in just about every part of our work day that can be eliminated. Even myself as an owner don't feel like I'm anywhere near as productive as I was before lunch break.

I see more potential for positive than negative effects of a 6 hour day. As an owner it will be of great incentive to get as Lean as possible and build efficiency into every aspect of production.

From an employees perspective they get to actually have a life. Start at 7 and leave at 1. 20 minute breakfast break in the middle breaking the day into 2 2:50 minute segments. That will allow plenty of time during the day to run errands and appointments, do chores around the house, be home when the kids get home from school, drive home in the daylight and not the dark, pursue hobbies and interests etc.

Anybody else brave enough to try this?

I've attached a link to one article, but if you Google "6 hour work day" you'll get lots of articles. They pretty much all sound the same though.

Article - 6 Hour Work Day

12/17/15       #2: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Paul Downs

Go for it.

12/17/15       #3: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Leo G

Sure, no problem. 6 hours a day, 7 days a week. Gives you 2 hours overtime.

12/17/15       #4: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...

Funny Leo!
The French do it.

12/17/15       #5: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Leo G

30 hours a week is part time.

12/17/15       #6: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Family Man

These are the kind of silly notions that take place when we are stealing money from our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. Don't worry, within a few years Swedes and Americans will be begging for 30 hours a week and those that do have work will be working 70 and getting paid for 30. Ask the Greeks because where they are at is where we will all be very soon. It is the end of the world as we now it with the only alternative being a world war that will make WW's 1 & 2 look like child's play. So enjoy your eight hour works days while you have them.

12/17/15       #7: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Leo G

8 hours is a short day for me. Normally it's 9 1/2-10, I work weekends too. I couldn't survive on 30 hours a week and get everything done I need to. One man show and all.

12/18/15       #8: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
james mcgrew Member

We do 4-9s and 4 on Friday,, best method so far !!

12/18/15       #9: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Jason Rogers

Great thread - thanks

So much research has been done showing that money (or rather more money) is very low on the list of motivating factors for many younger generations ... so "lifestyle" benefits like a six hour work day may become more common place.
I'd say try it ... you may find that you are now attracting the best talent in town.

I do find it fascinating that I can often accomplish more on a Saturday morning (before anyone wakes up) than I can on average weekdays. In this past year I have experimented with re-creating these conditions during the week - eliminate all possible distractions & be very specific in what I need to accomplish and in what time frame.


12/18/15       #10: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Jerry Cunningham

Attracting better and happier talent is a major concern for me. In my area (York, PA) the labor market is tight and very competitive. All the big companies pay $5-10/hr more than I can, and have a whole list of benefits such as free health, free paid time off, retirement etc. I can't afford to offer any of that at this point.

I also hear from older people that they value their time much more so than money. Even with just an 8 hour work day there isn't whole lot of time left after work to actually enjoy life.

As an owner I look forward to the day of working "just" 8 hours!

The lifestyle benefits to the employees would be great. But I wonder if we'd still be able to get the same amount of product out in a 6 hour day as an 8? I also wonder if employees would start to feel cheated since their earning potential would be capped at 6 hours per day?

I would also like to point out that this should not be a political debate. It's up to us as employers to keep the wheels of the economy turning, and the people who participate in it happy, not the governments.

12/18/15       #11: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Pat Gilbert

What does that do to your overhead cost per hour? IOW your hourly rate would have to be 25% higher. Can you do that?

Also consider that the French take 2 hour lunches so that they can take a mid day nap.

In any case I would not use Sweden as an example of what to do regarding economics.

12/18/15       #12: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Gary B.

We do the same as James...

4- 9 hour days
4 hours on Friday.

The guys love getting out at 11am on Fridays. Even when we do work overtime, they still get a full 2 day weekend.

12/19/15       #13: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...

First off, you will probably be working a 30 hour week to avoid the penalties associated with Obama care....but you won't be getting paid for 40!

Secondly, you can name several countries that take long lunch hours, short work weeks etc. but those countries are not mentioned when discussing the top economies of the world either.

12/19/15       #14: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...


The OP was talking about scheduling as a way to improve incentive systems and you want to talk about Obama? You need to get a hobby.

For what it is worth yesterday's Wall Street Journal had quite an extensive article about labor shortages in Nebraska. They wrote about a lot of pretty unique incentive systems being used to attract and retain workers. Based on that read the OP's ideas aren't so far off base.

12/19/15       #15: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Pat Gilbert

"labor shortages in Nebraska"

That is funny, if that were the case certainly Larry would have mentioned it?

12/20/15       #16: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...

A few months ago there was someone on this forum touting some similar idea, trying hard to convince us that the younger generation will change labor as we know it because they know how to work smarter, not harder. Like that's the first time we've ever heard that expression.

There's a very simple answer to all of these ideas, and the answer is that it will not work in a capitalist system like we have in the United States. Why? Thank
you for asking.

Ambition. There will always be someone who values money, or status, or who has more ambitious plans that will sabotage any plan like this. For every two employees that want to work 6 hour days, there's one that wants to work 12 hour days in order to advance and earn more money. This employee will always find an employer willing to provide them with this opportunity, and this employee will always replace the two 6 hour employees. Out of work and out of money, the 6 hour employees will eventually be forced to put down their fishing poles, kiss their kids goodbye and go work a full day like everybody else.

12/20/15       #17: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Jerry Cunningham

We are are manufacturing retailer and make stock products. As such we don't bill an hourly rate for overhead. It's a relatively fixed monthly rate whether we sell 500 or 50000 widgets a month. But of course you don't have to be an economist to realize the best way to get the most yield out of your factory and machinery assets is to run multiple shifts.

Excellent points Taylor, all your points are actually concerns of mine. I do wonder whether people would feel like they are being cheated out of an opportunity to earn more money being capped at 6 hours a day even if they make 33% more per hour on paper.

I think we can all agree as owners that finding good workers is a major challenge, and waiving the dollar sign around doesn't help. All the huge companies in my area are begging for people and advertise ridiculous wages and benefits packages IMO.

12/20/15       #18: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
james mcgrew Member

I am gonna go Here,,,, We all need to BARK about the lack of education for the industry worker who will not go to college. Shop classes, Arts, Music, Heck We actually had a fully functioning Cabinetmaking program in my district (GONE) We can search til We are Blue, My fear is We are now searching from and for the Bottom of the Barrel instead of Possible talent from a pool of Where We came from. If you get the opportunity to speak to anyone, A voter, A politician, A school board member or even donate or help a local program then take it, We gotta try...

12/20/15       #19: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Pat Gilbert

I think wages have not kept up with inflation since 2007. I think that wages are going to go up a lot in the not to distant future.

I will bet that there will be driver less cars, on the roads, within 5 yr.

I bet that robotics will sweep all manufacturing even more.

The work force is going to grow rapidly starting in about 5 years. This will cause the demand in the construction industry to skyrocket.

IMO the economy always changes and grows in new ways after a recession. So I see that one way or another the millennials are going to be working these jobs, I just don't think they are not going to be Caucasians, as shown by Mel and Blake.

It is natural that anyone is drawn to the most productive way to work. E.G. would you rather dig a ditch with a shovel or a backhoe? I'm not sure that is laziness.

Maybe factory built housing will become a thing?

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12/20/15       #20: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...

Cabinetmaker, perhaps you'd prefer the term "affordable care act", but the effect is the same however you label it.

If you are going to compensate employees the same for a 30 hour week as you do for a 40 hour week they will all be in favor of it up until the point you go broke. If you are going to hire 30% more bodies and work and compensate for 30 hours I would predict a lot of unhappy people. Just as your overhead will remain the same for the month, your employees bills will remain the same. What the employees will discover is that the extra free time with the family takes a lot more spendable cash to enjoy. They will end up having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

45 years ago I was in the navy on a ship stationed permanently overseas. As the ship's captain liked to say, "we were the first horse in the firehouse, and when the bell rings we go" we went a lot. As compensation for our lack of home life a policy of a 30 hour week was put into effect in home port.work hours were 7 to 1, five days a week. The trade off was that there were to be no doctor, dental, legal etc appointments during those work hours. It didn't work because the out sude forces, like doctors, dentist, and all the other things in life did not match or respect our ships schedule. There was no financial issue because we got paid by the month no matter if or when you worked. Trying to run a business will run up against the same issues. This country basically functions on a 40 hour work week.

12/20/15       #21: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...


Eventually we are going to reach a point in this country where it is more economic to pay people to not work than pay them to produce things nobody needs.

One of the pillars of capitalism is externalizing social costs. When some poor lady has to drive down the freeway to go to a job to produce a widget that could be more elegantly produced with a 3d printer using additive manufacturing we all have to pay for the increased acidification of the environment she drives that car in. We all have to eat and 100% of our groceries come from the same supply chain.

The presidential candidates in the last election spent a lot of time talking about jobs but nobody said anything about how to prepare for a world where we can't afford the output of a 40 hour a week manufacturing force. In my city, for example, they decided it was cheaper to provide housing for chronic alcoholics and let them drink there than it was to bundle them up three times a month and take them in an ambulance to the emergency room. It might just be cheaper to provide a basket of goods for the marginally employed than to build a freeway for them to spend three hours on a day to commute to that job to produce things nobody needs.

Additive manufacturing is coming. It is already producing houses in many places in the world. It will probably take over most manufacturing processes in less time than we segued from telephones to fax machines to cell phones. All of that took less than 15 years.

The sooner we anticipate this and build the social infrastructure it will take to support this the more choices we will have. We already have presidential candidates pandering to constituencies much the same way as they did in pre-war Germany in the 1930s.

Imagine what our country would look like if your house cost the price of a car. If you could retire at age 25 why wouldn't you. You only need shelter, food and entertainment. If a house costs $25K what will that do the the value of a $500K house that costs $25K a year to heat and air condition? What would happen to the banking industry if people decided to cut of the soles of their shoes and learn to play a flute instead?

12/21/15       #22: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Jerry Cunningham

The whole premise behind the 6 hour day is to be more productive than you are in 8. Not hire 33% more people to make up for the "lost" 2 hours. For example in office jobs they tell the workers to stay off Facebook and Pinterest and Amazon. There's an hour saved right there. Eliminate unnecessary useless meetings where little gets accomplished. I guess for me that would mean no WoodWeb during the day....

In manufacturing it could be as simple as telling people take your 20 minute poop break at home, and gossip at 1 pm not 7am start of shift. And implementing lean practices so that you can get more work done in those lean 6 hours rather than the business as usual 8 hours.

12/21/15       #23: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Gary B.


A 33% increase in productivity, all day and every day, is quite a serious leap. Do you believe your facility is really that inefficient where you can carve out that large of a consistent improvement?

We have an engaged culture of continuous improvement here. We practice Lean Daily, including a half hour of 3s'ing EVERY morning, and teaching everyone how to identify the different wastes. But some days we still need all the remaining time in our 9 hr day to meet production goals. (The book "The goal" touches on why this is when they explain statistical fluctuations, coupled with dependent events)

From an employer's viewpoint, it seems like you're sticking your neck out. If you go ahead and increase everyone's wage expecting this productivity improvement to cover it, what happens if you fail to realize the increase in work pace? I doubt the employee's will take kindly to going back to their old wage, and working longer hours.

12/21/15       #24: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Dropout Member

Ok, so the first question is who are we giving the benefit to, the employer or the employee?

If the idea is to give the benefit to the employee, then the onus is on them to make the changes needed to justify the increased hourly wage, i.e. pooping at home.

Why would I invest $ in lean and extra equipment etc just so I can raise my employees wages by 25%? I invest for my own benefit.

It did occur to me that this type of system already exists - piecework. As long as standards are set and maintained, the high producers are rewarded, either by making more $ in an 8 hour day or going home after 6 hours.

I have worked under such a system, and it worked well for me. You need the right employees though.

12/21/15       #25: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Pat Gilbert

The consensus seems to be that this idea is a gimmick and not likely to succeed.

Ideas that have been proven to work:

As Gary mentions, Lean

Bonusing for production, I have tried this for a many years, doesn't really work.

Keeping statistics for production does work, but only for the whole shop not individuals.

I certainly would set individual quotas for the day though.

I ate at In and Out Burger yesterday. It never ceases to amaze me how productive these guys are. I asked the counter people a few times if In and Out Burger has an appeal, as in is it cool to work there? They said yes. Don't know how you are going to get that in a cabinet shop. But I will say hiring the right people trumps anything else you will do. The old saying that a bad apple will spoil the whole bunch , the reverse is also true, a good apple will raise the bar of the whole place.

It may be that those good apples are undervalued. Especially with the demographics that are coming down the driver-less pike?

Organization works, not just with the physical part of the shop but regarding the assignment of duties. E.G. a foreman who is watching production all the time. A salesman who is driving in business all the time. The alignment of efforts and the certainty that it creates more than justify the work to set this up. Think E-myth.

12/21/15       #26: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Leo G

It also depends on what you are producing. In and Out Burger has an absolute menu. Meaning they produce such and such and that's it. Procedures can be laid out to get this efficient.

My business, custom woodworking it's a lot harder to do. Making 10,000 of the same box it'll work much better for.

12/21/15       #27: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Pat Gilbert

Yup, something to think about as well.

But that is not my point.

12/21/15       #28: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Econ 101

This whole thread is a rehash of what has already happened and failed in Europe.

Never mind the Swedes or the Norwegians or the Danes, the French put it into law decades ago.

The 35-hour work-week.

Not with the idea that you could attract better employees with fewer hours and more flexibility, but that you could work less and get paid the same or that the same work would be spread over more people. What could possibly go wrong?

The answer is that everything went wrong. It didn't work. At all. The average Frenchman now works 1561 hours/year (mandatory 5 weeks of paid vacation + 12 paid holidays), as opposed to 1920 hours/year (2 weeks + 10 holidays) in the US.

The French, on average, actually spend 81% as much time working to earn 67% of what the average American earns.

That's based on French per capita GDP of 37,728 versus US per capita GDP of 55,904 in 2015 according to the IMF.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29_per_capita

The nominal unemployment rate in France (their and our rates are both bogus measures) remains twice the rate in the US.

Lots of vacations, lots of fun, lots of flexibility. Except if you're in France. Then it just means less job creation, because all of the incentives act against it.

The French tried to repeal their 35-hour work-week. That failed in 2014. They're still trying to get rid of their bad idea and they're still stuck with it.

Would any serious employer in the US survive offering 40 hours of pay for 30 hours of work?

Not likely.

12/21/15       #29: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
David R Sochar Member

I can imagine the same argument was heard when we went from a 6 day workweek to the current 5 day workweek. Or before that, the 7 day workweek changed to the 6 day workweek. History has a way of repeating itself.

Henry Ford wanted to make a product where the people that made it could afford to buy it. He succeeded, but a few years later, he had the military come in to shoot and kill employees on strike.

Once upon a time, workers had no idea how much time they worked beyond all the hours where it was light. Then, the town put up a clock, and suddenly they knew how many hours they worked in a day. There were several movements to not allow the peasants the knowledge of telling time, but these eventually gave way to the new technology.

Just like LGBT rights, health care for all, gender equality, the right to be left-handed, and more - the 6 hr day will eventually come over the land, like it or not, for better or worse.

12/21/15       #30: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...

You make some good points David.
There was a time once when the gains the LGBT community has achieved were unthinkable. I forecast in the future the Woodweb will have a special forum for the CPTCFF (Clarinet Playing Transgender Cabinetmaker Fly Fisherman) community.

Another unthinkable idea is putting a sales tax on all stock market transactions. On the day you buy a stock you obviously have enough prosperity to afford a tenth of a point and on the day you sell a stock you have the cash flow to do so.

This tax will be used to retire the US debt and make us a great nation once again. It might cause some injury to the banking industry that depends on the churn but this is not an intrinsically productive class anyway.

12/21/15       #31: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Pat Gilbert

The CPTCFF, that is funny Tim.

The debt will never be retired , IOW not an issue as long as the Fed does it's job on inflation .


The issue is not whether or not there is a 6 hr day but who creates it. IOW the 8hr day was not a government mandate. It was afforded by the technology afforded by the free market.

12/21/15       #32: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Econ 101

David, your mythology is incorrect.

Henry Ford bumped his employees' wages for one reason and one reason only. He was sick and tired of extremely high turnover.

Not because he cared whether anyone he employed could afford his product. There were millions of other people who could do that with no help from him.

It was the utter boredom of the assembly line that caused his problem and his solution worked. Turnover declined dramatically in the face of higher wages.

An assembly line might be totally boring, but if you pay enough money you'll find people who will work on it and be happy to do so and to have the job for as long as it lasts.

Meanwhile, the 40 hour work-week has been the standard for 75 years. I don't give a rat's patootie whether it goes on forever or turns into something else.

Who knows? Maybe the future of "work" is two hours/day. I certainly don't know.

We do, however, know for a fact that the French have reconsidered their ill-considered excursion to a statutory 35-hour week as they don't seem to much like their crummy relative economic results.

They have a lot of other employment restrictions which are also a problem, but at least they seem to be waking up to the general employment problem they face.

Many French would no doubt say at this point that it's hard to return to reality after all of the fun with other people's money now that they've run out of it.

The French may or may not enact reforms, but it's not likely that we're going to deviate from the 40-hour week anytime soon.

12/21/15       #33: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Econ 101

Hi, Pat. Here's a couple of things.

The federal debt may never be retired, but it has to be slowly inflated away. Doing that over the next 20+ years will probably turn out to be the Fed's main job.

We can't stand positive, real 10-year interest rates much above zero, so look for a lot of Fed tolerance for numerous "temporary blips" in inflation, all obfuscated by the usual obtuse, anti-inflationary, BS language.

Little here, little there, pretty soon we've made a big dent in 13 trillion. 2% inflation goes to 3%?

Ah, relax, no big deal. And there goes an extra 130 billion/year in real value. Poof! Up in monetary smoke. Sorry, bondholders, we're the Fed and that's what we do.

3% is about 400 billion/year in eroded value, so 30 or so years from now, the real value of the entire current net debt of 13 trillion is minimal.

Moral of the story? Avoid owning any bonds you're not happy to own all the way to maturity. Own stuff instead. Stocks, real estate, whatever. Not bonds.

There's always more than one way to skin a cat, right?


The 8-hour day may not have been a government mandate, but the 40-hour week WAS a government mandate in law in 1940, down from 44 hours previously.

They'll never learn.

12/21/15       #34: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Pat Gilbert

Re the mandates, some states are mandating a minimum wage. But it isn't going to happen. Employers will simply automate or hire fewer employees.

Another example the Federal Gov't mandated there would be no wage hikes in the 40s. Employers who were languishing from a lack of workers (sound familiar) because of the war, istead offered health insurance as a way around the mandates. This unintended consequence was the seminal event that led us to Medicare.

IOW they cannot mandate a minimum wage or wage controls as there will always be unintended consequences.

Econ 101

We are on the same page re the Fed, I was being sarcastic, "doing their job"

That is good information on bonds.

They can't raise the interest rates because
of the debt service?

My thinking is that for inflation to get going you need 2 things, an increase in the money supply, and an increase in the demand. The prior we have in spades thanks to the "wonderful" work of Greenspan and Bernanke. The latter is still in the incubator, but will impact the economy, big time, in about 5yr. This seems like inflation will be inevitable at that point IOW the 70's on steroids so at that point they will have to have a rate hike?

Also in about 15 yr the last of the boomers will be retired which will create an impact on medicare and the Federal budget.

So which dynamic will prevail, how will this play out?

12/21/15       #35: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Pat Gilbert

Another point is that the main problem right now with finding employees is demographic.

That peak at about 20 on the 2012 chart is now about 23, so they will be entering the work force soon.

Also notice that peak is a lot bigger than the boomers peak. Keep in mind that the main thing that drives the economy is demographics. For a real mind blower look at the other two graphs.

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12/22/15       #36: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Paul Downs

Pat: The increase in money supply from QE is sitting in banks, not circulating. They are being paid .25% interest to do absolutely nothing with it, and so they aren't lending it. That's one reason there's no inflation right now, and may not be in the immediate future.

12/22/15       #37: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Pat Gilbert

True enough but the main reason is there is very little demand. E.G. housing sales are at historic lows right now.

12/22/15       #38: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...
Pat Gilbert

This is why construction has been tanking since 2007. It would have tanked no matter what but the Fed meddling made it much worse.

As you can see the last time house sales were this low was in the early 80s. Then they had 18% mortgage rates. And even at that the recession only lasted a few years compared to what we have now. This is the main reason that cabinet shops have been languishing for the last 7 years.

Notice how this graph correlates to the 2012 demographic chart posted above.

Housing drives the economy as people make life time financial commitments (starting in their mid 20s) when they have children and buy a house. The commercial activity follow this.

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12/25/15       #39: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...

alternate option -- pay by the project and workdays could shrink down to 3-4 hours per day.

I found that paying my workers by the project solved a few problems. they were more motivated to be super-productive during their time in the shop. and minimizing their time in the shop by getting stuff finished efficiently, without loosing income.

when paid per hour, some tasks of projects would get dragged out, maybe still within the 'normal' acceptable time it takes to do it, but still had lots of wasted time when it really got down to it.

switched to per project pay and suddenly they seemed interested in finding ways to reduce time by batch processing or grouping certain steps together, etc. They wouldn't have done that before because it would have meant they lost out on potential hours. But now they realized they can be double or triple productive in a 3-4 hour motivated work session, make as much money as their friends make in 2-3 days, and they still have the entire afternoon/evening off to live their life.

I benefit by having projects out the door quicker and having a better handle on predicting final labor costs.

I also enjoyed having the shop to myself during the afternoons so I could focus on creative processes without all the employees distracting me.

12/29/15       #40: 6 hour Work Day....Is it Possible i ...

I'm quite sure most employees would LOVE to be paid the same for 40 hours in a 30 hour period... who wouldn't?...

But this comes down to equilibrium... in the trade-off, let's say you could actually get the employees to do 40 hours of work in 30 hours so as not to blow out your budget and be forced to lay people off... While it may happen initially, it absolutely will fall off over time...

We are awake for 112 hours a week, assuming an 8-hour sleep cycle... even with a 40 hour work week, that leaves A LOT of time (62-72 hours / week if you account for commute) for personal stuff and it's been mentioned how much one can get done on a Saturday morning...

Exactly how much time do we need "off"? if 30 works, why not 20?


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