The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 1 (April 21, 1927)
Production Engineering. — (Part X.) — “It Does Apply to Us”
I have always found it necessary to keep a very wide open eye for the fellow who says, when anything different is proposed, “That's alright for the other fellow, but it doesn't apply to us.”
Very often I get it this way, “Yon can't do that!” Yes, quite often I meet the can't man!
Then again one meets the unacknowledged attitude of “We have been doing it this way for donkey's years, why change?”
It is often very difficult to meet the actual person behind these sentiments, especially to-day, when we really have a lot of reorganisation work of one sort and another, all progressing together.
On the other hand it is not at all difficult to know what is progressing and what is not progressing, because a very simple record system continually shows that the “O.K. flag” or “finished” mark is not yet put on the chart, and while these matters will, in due course receive the proper attention, I am endeavouring to influence those particularly, who say the above things, to think along modern lines of thought, so that the utter uselessness of such attitudes will sooner or later appeal to them.
Early in December, while travelling South, I read that book “The Secret of High Wages” by Bertram Austin and W. Francis Lloyd, two English engineers. I was glad to read that book, because the “It doesn't apply to us” fellows surely did get busy and criticise it. When an Englishman starts in to boost American methods, he asks for trouble—and is seldom disappointed. However, I say “It does apply to us” even though these authors didn't—to my recollection—mention railways. I find a close relation to their findings in what we are doing to-day on the New Zealand Railways.
The authors abovementioned state that, among the more important of the fundamental principles of industrial management—discovered as a result of exhaustive inquiries and observations—are the following:—
The lettered paragraphs are quotations from the book, each being followed by my comments thereon.
The success of an enterprise is, in a large measure, dependent upon a strict adherence to the policy of promotion of staff by merit and ability only.
Promotion by merit and ability is the basis of the system now in operation in the Railway. From the business viewpoint, who is there to argue against this being right.
It is more advantageous to increase total profits by reducing prices to the consumer, at the same time maintaining or improving quality, with a consequent increase in the volume of sales than by attempting to maintain or raise prices.
Increasing Profits by Reducing Prices and Doing more Business.—In the Railway Service the whole country are our shareholders. If we can produce more, at the same cost, in any of our shops; if any office or depot can be run more efficiently; if in any way, service can be bettered or cheapened, our customers—the public—and our shareholders—also the public—are entitled to that extra profit, whether in the form of better service or reduced tariffs.
Rapidity of turnover makes for comparatively small requirements of both funded and working capital, i.e., the capital required for shop space (including equipment) and the finance of work in progress.
Rapidity of Turnover.—We are reorganising and rebuilding our workshops in order to assist in rapidity of turnover. We are scheduling and planning work in order to hold our expensive rolling stock a minimum of time out of service while under repairs. Idle equipment costs money, in whatever form it is, either human or material.
The productive capacity per capita of labour can be increased without limit, depending upon the progress made in time and trouble-saving appliances.
Use of Labour Saving Appliances.—The Department, in conjunction with its reorganisation scheme, is installing modern machinery and appliances to replace the old and obsolete methods.page 29
It is better that labour should be rewarded by wages bearing some relation to output rather than by a fixed wage, the amount of the wages earned by any one man being in no way limited. Contrary to the general belief in Europe, high wages do not necessarily mean a high level of prices. It is to the advantage of the community that the policy of industrial management should be directed towards raising wages and reducing prices.
Payment by Results.—The Premium Bonus System proposed for the Department's workshops is the most extensively used modern system of payment by results.
A free exchange of ideas between competing firms should be advocated.
Exchange of Ideas.—The Department is sending its officers abroad to exchange ideas, with other countries. It is a curious fact that railways, even in competition with each other for business, are not in competition with regard to details of operation, and there is an unseen Railway Brotherhood in the world that “opens like a book” to any that seek information. There are, therefore, no secret processes to guard, and likewise no reason “not to know.”
Elimination of waste is an essential factor in the attainment of national prosperity.
Waste Elimination.—In our new workshops there is a “Reclaim Department” provided for, to solve the waste material problem. The Stores reorganisation work is designed to cut down waste stocks. The Workshops reorganisation is designed to reduce waste labour.
It is important that every possible attention be paid to the welfare of employees.
Welfare of Employees.—Our new workshops contain “Welfare” apparatus, in the form of better sanitary, washing and drinking and feeding facilities; also social, library, instruction and committee rooms. That Workshop Committees should take a hand in all these things is part of the scheme.
Research and experimental work are of prime importance to progress.
Research and Experimental Work.—The Government has just established a Department of Scientific Research, which is the beginning of a development to which the only limit is ourselves.
Never mind the “Ah! but,” fellows—reason each problem out for yourself.
Illustrating one of the new, heavy service locomotive wheel lathes, under test at Messrs. London Bros. Works, Johnstone, near Glasgow, prior to shipment to New Zealand. It will turn wheels ranging in size from 3 ft. to 6 ft. 6 in. diameter. The lathe is driven by a 40 horse power motor, and the loose headstock is adjusted along the bed by means of a 7½ h.p. motor. Push button control is also incorporated on each slide rest for starting, stopping, and inching.
The estimated weight of lathe (complete) is 40 tons. No difficulty should be experienced in turning 6 to 7 pairs of 5 ft. diameter locomotive wheels per 8 hour day on this modern lathe, as compared with 2–3 pairs on existing machinery in the workshops.
Messrs. London Bros. write:—“This 6 ft. 6 in. wheel lathe is capable of giving an output of a pair of wheels per hour, which we can confidently say is unequalled by anything made in this country or America.”