Five years ago the efficiency expert was regarded in England as an intruder and a quack; to use a stop watch on production was high crime and treason. To-day there are thousands of students of business science and factory management. In the spinning district girls in clogs sit alongside their foremen listening to lectures on how to save time and energy in work. Scores of old establishments are being reborn productively. There is the case of a famous chocolate works that before the war rebuffed an instructor in factory reorganisation. Last year it saw the light, hired an American expert, and to-day the output has been increased by twenty-five per cent.
The infant industries, growing out of the needs of war and the desire of self-sufficiency, are resting on the foundations of the new creed. “Speed up!” is the industrial cry, and with it goes a whole new scheme of national industrial education. The British youth will be taught a trade almost with his A-B-C’s.
Formerly in England the standardisation of plan and product was almost unknown. For example, no matter how closely ships resembled each other in tonnage, structure or design, a separate drawing was made for each. Now on the Clyde the same specifications serve for twenty vessels. England has gone into the wholesale production; and what is true of ships in the stress of hungry war demand will be true of scores of articles for trade afterward. The old rule-of-thumb traditions that hampered expansion have gone into the discard, along with voluntary military service and the fetish of free trade.
Typical of the new methods is the standardisation of exports, which have increased steadily during the past year. In a room of the Building of the Board of Trade, down in Whitehall, and where the whole trade strategy of the war is worked out, I saw a significant diagram, streaked with purple and red lines, which shows the way it is done. The purple indicated the rosters of the great industries; the red, the number of men recruited from them for military service. No matter how the battle lines yearn for men, the workers in the factories that send goods across the sea are kept at their task. This diagram is the barometer. For exports keep up the rate of exchange and husband gold.
England is creating a whole new line of industrial defence. The manufacture of dyestuffs will illustrate: This process, which originated in England, was permitted to pass to the Germans, who practically got a world monopoly in it. Now England is determined that this and similar dependence must cease.
For dyemaking she has established a systematic co-operation among state, education and trade. In the University of Leeds a department in colour chemistry and dyeing has been established, to make researches and to give special facilities to firms entering the industry, all in the national interest. A huge, subsidised mother concern, known as British Dyes, Limited, has been formed, and it will take the place of the great dye trust of Germany, in which the government was a partner.