When the war broke out, a certain young French engineer saw great opportunity in shell making. He was immuned from military service, he had a little capital of his own, and with Government aid he set to work. Within four months he had built an enormous plant on the banks of the Seine almost within the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. In six months he had enlarged his capacity so that he was producing 15,000 shells a day. Last summer he sent for the agent of a large American machinery company: “I am going to make automobiles in series after the war.” “In series” is the French way of expressing quantity output.
“All right,” said the American. “What can I do for you?”
“Simply this,” said the Frenchman. “I wish to order sufficient automatics to meet the demand when peace comes.”
This is the spirit of the awakened French industry. I know of half a dozen automobile and other producing establishments who are making plans to manufacture popular-priced cars when the war is over. This output will not only affect the sale of American cars in France, but will also interfere with the market for our cheap machines in South America. Already France is making every effort to increase her Latin-American trade. She has immense sums of money invested in Brazil and she will follow up this advantage keenly.
It is important for us to remember that France like England will have a well oiled productive machine after the war. It will not only be better but bigger than ever before. The German ill wind that devastated the northern section will blow good in the end. Hundreds of factories operated by hand labour before the war will now be equipped with American labour-saving machinery. The products of these machines operated by cheap labour will be in competition with our own commodities manufactured by more expensive labour in many of the markets of the world.
Formerly the French artisan could produce an article almost from raw material to finished product: now he has learned to stand at an automatic and labour at a single part. In short, he is becoming a specialist which makes him a cog in the machine of quantity output.
What is true of machines and men is also true of money. The old wariness of the French banker in underwriting industry is passing away. He is thinking in terms of large figures and vast projects.
I could cite many examples of the new Gospel of French Self-Supply. Before the war France manufactured lathes that were beautiful examples of art and precision. The firms that made them were old and solid and took infinite pride in their product. Now they realise that output must dominate. A simple type of machine has been chosen as model and will henceforth be made in large quantities.
Then there is the sewing machine. Before the war two groups—Anglo-American and German—controlled the French market. By the ingenious use of export premiums, the Germans had the best of it.