AMERICAN AND BRITISH METHODS.
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The Arguments in Favour of the Use of Proprietary Components in Assembling Chassis for Commercial Vehicle Work.
By Henry Sturtney.
IHAVE read the correspondence and particularly the letter from Mr. Maughlung on tile above sublect with considerable interest, because last month 1 had staying with me Mr. William McNeil, who has for some years been running an engineering shop in Sydney, N.S.W., and who, as one of the pioneers of British motoring—he was assistant manager of Daimler works at the end of last century—has been for years insistent, in season ar41 out, as the result of experience in car repair work in the Dominions, on the necessity for some alteration of method by our home producers, if they are to retain any portion of the Colonial trade. He told me quite sufficient of his experiences, both of motoring and motor repairing, in Australia to show me that there is much in our methods, as compared with those of our American competitors, which is acting as a severe and serious handicap in our efforts to secure and retain trade other than that from European sources.
It is futile and shortsighted for Mr. Maughfling to say, as he does in effect: " Hush, hush! Don't say anything about it. You're only making matters worse, for these factors which are acting against us are facts, and so long as we ignore them they are acting against us, whether we talk about them or not, and to continue merely to ignore them is the policy of the ostrich who hides its head in the sand in the belief that, seeing nothing itself, it cannot itself be
Mr. McNeil is so deeply interested in this matter, from a patriotic motive, that he put in quite a lot of time out of his three months' holiday ' at home" in interviewing the principals of many British firms with whose products he has been brought in touch in his repair shops, and he brought with him, in some cases„ the actual broken parts of the machines, and in others, drawings showing alterations and repair work which had been found necessary to enable them to comply with the requirements of Australian driving conditions. The experiences he related to me as to his varied reception were, in some cases, sad. Few appeared to welcome his well-meant criticisms and suggestions, and one self-sufficient gentleman simply waved him off and told him he need not think that he was going to come there and try to teach them their business.
When Mr. McNeil related to the manager of another equally large and important firm the faulty design which had caused some of the trouble in the car above referred to, he was assured that such a happening could not possibly take place in their ears, because they didn't do things that way at all ; yet, ten minutes after, when going through the shops, the men were found using exactly the same methods which had caused the trouble! And it may be interesting to record—and they should certainly get credit for it—that the only firm which welcomed his criticism and went thoroughly, intelligently and seriously with him into all the points raised, was a commercial vehicle firm—to be particular, Messrs. Guy Motors, Ltd.—the management of which put in many hours going through all their drawings, discussing points raised and making careful note of them, expressing at the same time the view that, what they were after was to improve their vehicles if they could, and welcoming and examining all pointe of practical criticism, based on experience with their machines, which they could obtain. I. have no doubt that the exercise. of this spirit has had much to. do with the excellent standing in the trade which the produce
e20 tions of this comparatively young firm have already attained.
I discussed with Mr. McNeil the various points raised with the firms he saw, and in nearly every `case where failure of their cars had been noted, it was due to the selection of unsuitable material, or points of distinct design and methods of manufacture were faulty, and he wee able to show me that, in most of these particulars, American design and material were different—and successful. It was not so much in matters of broad design (such as ground clearance, wheel track, etc. which everyone knows and talks about and dogmaizes upon according to his views) where my friend found the American system the more successful in practice, as in detail design and factory methods. Such, for instance, as the proper jigging of the frames so that all parts and rivet holes fell exactly into place for assembly, instead of having to be forcibly pulled over and distorted, or rivet holes availed by handfitting to allow the rivets to go in ; the use of hot rivets, or merely " warm" ones, in riveting up ; the use of malleable iron castings in axle casings instead of the tougher steel pressings ; the employment of the same sized axles in two models of very different horse-power and weight, and sitchlike little„ but very important, points in detail design and method where the systems ,pertaining in the two countries differ, to our disadvantage.
The point in all these details is •that, whereas the one system stands up to s.e%'ere service, the other fails, to the disadvantage of the customer, who is the prejudiced party, arid who is the man who has to pay the piper. This leads upto the particular system the correspondence has dealt with, viz., the employment of standardized component parts, as is almost universally done by the American makers, or the British system of all-made-in-the-same-shop. In this connection, I do not think Mr. Maughtling's reference to the number of T.T.S. truck firms which have gone out of business is quite so much in favour of his argument against the American system of the assembly of standardized components as he thinks. It cuts both ways.
In the first place, the facility with which all the principal parts of a commercial vehicle or car— particularly those parts which call for a heavy installation of machine tools to produce—can be purchased renders it .Comparatively easy for a firm without much capital or experience to enter the trade as car makers, and in America, business men are very much more ready to start out in a new business and even to drop their own business entirely for it in times of boom than we are here.
I remember, for instance, when the bicycle " boom " of 30 years ago took the world by storm, one of the firms to drop its own business and enter the bicycle trade was the "Bridgeport Spout' and Wooden Gutter Company," a concern which might too expected to know about as much of bicycles as a jelly-fish does of nuts. Mr. Maughfling takes the post-war " boom " period, when in America. as here, there was, until the Government started unloading its surplus stores, a great shortage of commercial vehicles, and he shows that 90 per cent. of the firms which had gone into the business up to 1919 have gone out of it again : which only shows how few of the newcomers had sufficient capital to stand up in the slumn which followed. In this we had our counterpart here, both with regard to new ear manufacturers, large and small, and, in our case more
particularly,, new garages and agencies, which in the two years after the war sprang up all over the country as in a night, and disappeared as rapidly. When, however, Mr. Maughtling lays stress on the difficulties of owners of the orphan cars made by these vanished producers with regard to spare parts, he forgets that the producers of these standardized parts, the actual makers of the chassis frames, the engines, the clutches, the transmissions, the axles, the steering wheels, and nearly all of the other minor parts which go to make up the complete machine, did
not go out of business; so that if, for example, the Makers °Mho X.Y.Z. truck went out-of business, the makers of, say, the Wisconsin engine the B. and B. clutch, the Cotta transmission, the Ross steering, or the Sheldon axles, with which it may have been built up, -were as able and ready to supply spare parts for their particular components. It is as if the X.Y.Z, people were still going strong and, in this respect, the purchaser would he infinitely better off than if he had purchased an " all-made-in-the-same-shop" machine, for then he would be " in the cart" indeed,