Automobiles Go Ahead
A NEW task of armament production is now being superimposed upon the automobile industry. Can it undertake this without sacrificing its regular duties of providing good and inexpensive transportation for the American people?
Competition is the lifeblood of the automobile industry — competition plus the driving energy and vision of the men in the industry for whom success is merely a temporary resting place, and temporary failure merely a challenge. That fact has stood clear in recent years when depression threatened the whole philosophy of this country. It was the spirit of competition, for example, that made the late Walter Chrysler, in the nadir of the 1932 depression, spend $9,000,000 to retool for a new Plymouth model so that the following year the number of Plymouths sold passed the previous 1929 record high. It was the driving energy of Chrysler Corporation, which entered the decade of the thirties selling less than a tenth of the automobiles purchased, that brought it out selling about one in every four. It was the vision of that famous triumvirate, Sloan, Knudsen, and Kettering, that helped to develop so many outstanding improvements in automobiles and has maintained General Motors in both high esteem and high estate. It is the spirit of Henry Ford, pioneer of them all, whose challenge last summer of 1000 planes a day dismayed realistic aircraft and automobile producers, that has achieved the impossible before and has the opportunity to do it now on a government. contract for 4000 aircraft engines. It is the spirit of Packard, Studebaker, Nash, and others of the smaller companies which have refused to sing their swan songs in the face of severer competition, that has enabled them to revise their production methods sharply, and to continue with success.
Today, after the longest and most devastating depression in American history, after years of political jousting that has inhibited investment in industry as a whole, the automobile industry finds that (1) its capacity to produce automobiles and trucks is greater than it has ever been; (2) its productive equipment, its factories and machinery, are better than ever; (3) its organizing, engineering, and research talents are more fruitful; (4) its product gives far greater value; (5) its employment is steadier, and there are more man hours for each unit of production; (6) its wages are higher and its hours are shorter.
‘Maybe we could learn something from the dressmakers who change styles with every season,’ Mr. Kettering once observed. ‘They carry over only a very little from the past and obsolete their product four times a year.’ A casual remark, but significant. The automobile industry learns from other industries. It reveres change.
Vitally important is industry’s increased reliance upon machines. This does not mean that men are unimportant, for hourly wage rates are at the highest level in history, up 30 per cent since 1930. But the industry has concentrated the skill of its personnel in its tool and die and machinery shops. This skill has created greatly improved tools and machinery and better dies, which require less expertness, perhaps, for workmen to handle and consequently less allowance for margin of error.
In essence, the application of skill in the manufacture of automobiles has moved from the manufacture of the automobiles to the making of the instruments which make the automobiles. The model change each year takes its toll of obsolescence among tools, for with the mass-production methods of the automobile industry some new tools and machines are needed for each new model, as well as sometimes a whole new set of dies. More than $300,000,000 a year is spent by automobile companies just to replace worn tools and build new plants, to set up new dies and install better equipment. Henry Ford is said to have made the warning that sufficient progress in production was impossible unless one fifth of the plant and equipment was scrapped each year.
This procedure is good for the automobile industry and is equally good for the national economy. The machinery manufacturers are helped and stimulated to produce better machines by being assured of a market. Workers in the machinery industries find increased employment, with corresponding benefit to all consumer-goods industries. And the economist at last can find something to view with satisfaction.
For a specific example of how this has worked, suppose we turn to Buick, one of the largest self-contained automobile plants in the world, and a division of General Motors.
When Harlow H. Curtice, who began his business career as an accountant , was moved from the headship of the big AC Spark Plug plant in Flint to the general managership of Buick in 1933, he found his new division in a run-down condition. In fact, its pulse was very weak. Sales had dropped to 42,000 cars in 1932. People were saying that the slimpocketbook era would kill off all t he more expensive cars.
After extensive studies and surveys, Mr. Curtice started spending money to rebuild his factory and machinery, and above all for new tools for new models. From 1936 to 1940, one fifth of all the Buick factory capacity was replaced by new buildings. And the machinery and equipment were steadily improved: today about 70 per cent of the machines in the Buick factories are less than ten years old. To put it another way, since 1935 more than 81 per cent of total capital invested in Buick plants has been ploughed back into plant improvement.
Total investment in the new 1941 models runs into eight figures, including the largest model tool bill for any year in Buick’s history except 1940. This is all the more impressive when it is realized that Ford, with over three times the volume of production, spends annually about $5,000,000 for new tools and machinery for style changes. However, Ford expenditures for plant extension and replacement during the past six years have been $169,152,000.
The Buick management calls these figures the ‘price of success’ — and well worth it, too. From the 42,000 annual level in 1932, Buick sales are now running at an annual rate of 350,000. And the automobile is better in every way.
Let us go into the automobile plants themselves and see how this money was spent and how productive facilities have been improved and increased. But one word of caution before we begin. We cannot see everything — the plants are too vast for that. And we cannot expect to see neon signs flashing ‘ Progress ‘ over the important improvements. Some of the most vital changes, such as reducing the weight of a part or increasing tolerance from 1/1000 to 1/10,000, are scarcely visible. For the improved production methods of the last decade are on the whole evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and are not always noticeable save to the technician. The offensive toward better production is being waged on all fronts, big and small.
The shock troops in any such struggle as this in the Buick plant are called Process Men. Their job is to keep up to the minute on all the latest improvements. They are all-round men, with experience in engineering as well as production. Buick has twenty of them. Not only do they inspect every new part going into a Buick to determine whether it is being manufactured and assembled in the best possible way; they also travel around the country on the lookout for new machines and new ideas. If a superintendent of a division or a foreman has an idea for a better production method — and they often have — a Process Man is called in immediately.
One of the first steps taken by the new Buick management after assuming control in 1933 was to condense the three short final assembly lines into one long line, into which led a myriad of conveyor belts and chains (7½ miles of them now) all bearing finished parts ready for the final assembly. At that time the many nuts and bolts on the automobile were tightened largely by hand tools. Since then special high-cycle tools run by electric motors have been installed over the final assembly line so that the worker has only to reach up in the air, pull down his tool, apply it, and then let it rest in mid-air again. Practically all of the five hundred men on the final assembly line have this tool, which is not only faster but more accurate than the hand method. At about $65 a tool, that is one definite expenditure that has helped increase Buick efficiency so that a car a minute, sixty an hour, is the regular schedule on the final assembly line now as against about forty-five with the obsolete methods and machinery of 1933.
Another easily visible improvement is the testing machine at the end of the assembly line which assures that wheels and tires are in perfect balance at high speeds and under bumpy conditions. Until a few years ago it had been necessary to drive the automobile around the yards, at a considerable loss of time. Now the engine is accelerated up to fifty miles per hour while the wheels spin around on a revolving steel wheel imbedded in the factory floor.
In the Buick foundry great changes have been made. For instance, a new sand-mixing and sand-drying unit has been installed. This mixes the sand automatically, screens it, and accurately weighs the oil and water that are added to the sand. A new shot-blasting machine — developed by Buick with the collaboration of outside engineers — to blast away the sand adhering to castings has reduced the cost of this operation by approximately 50 per cent.
Not only have better machines been added to the foundry, but the plant layout has been redesigned to permit more economical handling of materials. The result is that the same-sized foundry can now turn out three times as much as when it was erected thirteen years ago.
Nor have these savings been made at the expense of labor. It is true that specific operations require less labor than they used to, but additional operations have been added as more and more value is built into the car in greater durability and riding comfort. The result is that there are more man hours of labor expended on a car than formerly. Mr. Knudsen has said that ‘the industry need make no defense of labor-saving devices.’ The fruits of these devices make work lighter and are given to the public in the shape of cheaper cars or better cars for the same price, thereby creating greater new-car sales and consequently greater employment.
Mr. Edsel Ford has recently drawn up some interesting figures on this point, with reference to his company. For the three years ended February 29, 1936, the average number of man hours of labor for each car produced was 179.13. For the three years ended November 30, 1939, it was 201.95, or an increase of 13 per cent. And since hourly wage rates have advanced, the labor cost per unit is far greater. In 1934 the labor cost per Ford was $119.41; in 1939, it was $197.84, or an increase of 65 per cent.
Let us go back still further, to the days of the famous old Model T, which, you remember, you could have in any color as long as it was black. In 1926 the amount of payroll and outside material purchases per Model T (in all 5000 parts) was $454.42. On the Model A, with its 6000 parts, this was $526.84 by 1929. And ten years later on the V-8, with approximately 16,000 parts, this figure was $683.23. Obviously the companies have been able to absorb these higher costs without raising their prices only by means of more efficient production.
I have said that added value is being constantly built into automobiles. Take the remote-control gear shift on the steering wheel, which has become universal. Formerly a lever with a ball on the end of it was run up directly from the transmission, and with it you shifted gears. Then the engineers devised the new control, which met with public acceptance. The new remote control requires forty parts, compared with only a few parts for the old. Yet it doesn’t function any differently. All these parts have to be designed, tooled, and produced, which makes for added value as well as added employment per car.
A car of equivalent size sells for a third less today than it did ten years ago, but the popular-priced car today has quality features unknown or available only on luxury vehicles a few years ago. Let me tabulate some of these improvements: —
1.Safety glass and split, anti-glare windshields
2. Silent gears and synchronized vacuumcontrolled shifting
3. Soft front-wheel suspension (including individual springs per wheel); double-action shock absorbers and redistributed weight for easy riding
4. High-compression motors with automatic spark control, down-draft carburetors and soft, balanced rubber mountings, giving smooth power with economy
5. Forced-draft, controlled ventilating and air conditioning, with windshield defrosters
6. Streamlined, silenced, all-steel bodies with steel tops, built-in trunks, and enclosed spare tire
7. Synthetic lacquer finish in every color of the rainbow, weatherproof and non-fading
8. Sealed bearings and air-intake and oil cleaners keeping grit and water away from bearing surfaces, doubling life, minimizing wear and repairs
9. Front seat widened four or five inches and gear shift and brake levers moved away to provide comfort for adults, safety for children
10. Fully counterbalanced engines, flywheels, propeller shafts, wheels, and so forth to eliminate vibration and increase car life
All these improvements have been the result of long, hard, and successful labor on the part of engineers and research and production men.
For those who like their statistics raw, here are some of the improvements in automobiles which have occurred from the beginning to the end of the thirties:
|Weight of car (pounds)||2,780||2,996|
|Compression ratio (engine)||5.15||6.41|
|Revolutions per minute (engine)||8,170||3,580|
In addition, tests recently completed by Pontiac reveal that the driving of a car today requires only one fourth as much physical effort as a decade ago. The muscular exertion to steer, brake, and shift a car requires only 2787 footpounds (units of work to lift one pound for one foot), compared with 10,320 footpounds ten years ago.
To achieve these improvements, and at the same time lower the price of the automobile, is a mark of the miracle of the motor industry.
That watchdog over business, the Federal Trade Commission, has recently taken the time to praise the progress of the automobile industry. ‘Consumer benefits,’ it pointed out, ‘have probably been more substantial than in any other large industry studied by the Commission.’
I should like to draw up a partial list of the old and the new production methods used in manufacturing automobiles. Not all of the new methods were pioneered by the automobile industry, but they all were advanced with the industry’s active collaboration. And that, incidentally, is one of the strong points of this strong industry. It has no false pride of authorship. It adopts from other industries, and at the same time contributes to other industries and works with them to improve their products.
A glance at the two columns below, showing the old production methods of the middle twenties and those in use today, illustrate in brief and concrete form the production improvements that have taken place, det ailed description of which would fill many technical volumes: —
|Turret lathes vs||Automatic screw machine|
|Engine lathe vs||Crankshaft lathe Centreless grinder|
|Planer vs||Milling machine|
|Hydraulic press vs||Toggle press|
|Milling machine vs||Broach, hobbing machine|
|Trucking supplies vs||Continuous conveyor|
|Screw machine vs||Upset|
|Hand wrenches vs||Counterweighted power tools|
|Hand trimming vs||Rotary shears and dies|
|Torch welding vs||Jig flash welding|
|Carbon tool steel vs||Tungsten carbide|
|Hand sewing and stuffing vs||Multi-plea ter|
|Hand-brush, slow-drying enamel vs||Sprayed lacquer|
|Rivetingvs vs||Butt welding|
|Floor moulding and castingvs vs||Conveyor process|
|Forging vs||Alloy steel castings|
|Hand inspection||Automatic inspection|
From this master list, as it were, of improved methods have come literally thousands of improvements in individual operations in automobile manufacturing. At the Pontiac plant last summer, output of finished iron in the foundry was raised 50 per cent by modernization. Automatic grinders have replaced individual swing grinders and have increased the capacity in machining engine blocks nearly 200 per cent. Work is now proceeding on a continuous operation of machines which, from a rough casting, will build a finished and highly accurate crankshaft. Ford’s new method of baking paint by using two ‘clamshells’ of infra-red lights, fitted with gold-plated reflectors for better transmission of heat, has reduced the time required per car from one hour to seven minutes. A new steel-back, high-lead babbitt bearing is expected to increase engine-bearing life over 200 per cent and is said to meet completely the requirements for an ideal bearing as outlined five years ago. The modern press-shop technique at Buick is able to stamp out sheet metal for the front end of automobiles and elonga te it as much as 50 per cent. In some instances the number of pressing operations required to bring a panel into final form has been halved. Where forty to fifty panels an hour used to be the output, schedules now call for one hundred and fifty to two hundred an hour, shaped in far more intricate forms.
These are only a few of the concrete achievements. Mention should be made of the uncanny automatic inspection machines designed by enterprising young George Pascoe for Ford, and a recent gauging machine that takes fifty separate measurements on crankshafts, checks accuracy to the almost incredible 1/10,000 of an inch, and emits red ink on those parts failing to make the grade.
Another new, prescient machine recently developed by Buick, and said to be the only one in the industry, sees that the complete engine and clutch assembly are in perfect balance at high speed. The development of this machine and its predecessors has already greatly aided the aviation industry. For vibration in an airplane engine, part s of which rotate at a speed of 18,000-24,000 revolutions per minute, is even more dangerous than in an automobile engine running at from 2000 to 8000 revolutions per minute.
In the automobile it was found that at high speeds vibration set in and caused objectional roughness and even breakage of parts. This was due to the centrifugal force coming into play. As the crankshaft is a rotating mechanism, it had to be in dynamic balance, which could be achieved by individually balancing each end of the shaft. Machines were therefore developed which rotated the shaft and measured the unbalanced centrifugal forces set up at each end of the rotating mass, making it possible to determine where metal must be shaved away to afford perfect balance. Vibration thus was eliminated at its source. The accuracy of balancing that is maintained in production today was virtually unheard of except in laboratories a few years ago.
In the aircraft field the successful application of this balancing machine in the course of production has eliminated many of the hazards once brought on by mechanical failure.
Nor are all the improvements by any means the result of new machines. In many casas engineering study shows that only a simple adjustment is necessary to make the part stronger and add to its life. Rear axle shafts for years were designed with sharp shoulders upon which the bearing or gear was seated. Failures were frequent until the engineers rounded off the corners of the design a few thousandths of an inch to eliminate the concentrated strains.
One of the latest scientific advances for measuring strain is to make a transparent plastic model of some highly stressed metal part — such as a gear or connecting rod — and to examine the model by passing polarized light through it. When the model is subjected to loads which represent the conditions of actual use, bright bands of color appear, like miniature rainbows, showing up the sections of greatest strain. It is an effective method of studying the stresses of a design part, as it clearly reveals the magnitude, distribution, and direction of the stresses.
The electric sander relieves workmen of pushing a hand file back and forth over the body’s surface, one of the most tiresome manual jobs found in motor plants. Not only does the electric belt do the job faster and more expertly, but workmen no longer experience sore back and shoulder muscles and the brutal fatigue which once went with the job.
For thirteen years Chrysler engineers had evolved engines that attained higher compression ratios, more revolutions per minute, and greater horsepower per pound of motor. But there came a time when a problem loomed ahead in the road of further progress. Were the loads of higher compression getting to be too much for the connecting-rod bearings and too much for the oil films that were supposed to keep whirling metal from touching and burning?
The mechanic’s answer, as of about 1925, would have been to make the bearings larger to carry the greater load. In fact, without resort to pure science, there wouldn’t have been any other answer. The cost to Chrysler Corporation of installing larger bearings would have been millions of dollars for retooling to build a larger engine block. And in addition to this would have been the perpetual cost to the buyer of paying for extra poundage of metal with which to make the larger engine block, and the cost of fuel and power to haul that extra weight around. The penalty for greater efficiency seemed to be so costly that progress in terms of bearings would have to be made in some other way.
So various departments of Chrysler Corporation’s engineering laboratory were mobilized to deal with these crucial pieces of metal. Several arts were focused upon the bearing. Photomicrography searched the surface and body of the bearing’s babbitt metal. Spectrography probed it for the most minutely unwelcome metallurgical presences. X-ray diffraction photographs discovered the grain structure in the bearing’s protective layer. A superfinishing process was applied to the crankshaft journals to remove from the bearing’s surface microscopic metal jaggedness that might pierce the oil’s guardian film. Meanwhile lubrication engineers were working on the oil itself, to make sure of having this partner in the high-compression team equipped to hold up its end of the burden.
Profilometer engineers, dynamometer engineers, road-test engineers, oil-filter engineers, air-intake-cleaner engineers, and crankcase-ventilation engineers concentrated their art upon the problem.
What was the result of this collaboration of a number of specialized sciences that do not have time to learn to speak each other’s technical language? A smaller bearing that would stand up four times longer; a direct saving to Chrysler Corporation in potential retooling costs; a saving of nineteen pounds of metal in one engine; a saving in the actual cost of bearings — and to the problem originally presented a complete solution that brought the future into sharper focus.
With such a record of past performance in production and engineering and research, one is bound to wonder whether the future of the automobile is far distant from that presented in 1939 before the World Automotive Engineering Congress of the Society of Automotive Engineers, and said to represent the composite opinion of many of the Society’s members. In the future, it was said, ‘we shall walk up to our car, push a button, and the door will open. We shall have the impression of entering a commodious room. It will not be necessary to crawl around stationary seats and trip over pumps and tunnels in the floor. The seats will be light, movable chairs and the floor will be wide and flat. A portion of the roof will be made of a curved translucent material which will admit the health-giving rays of the sun and at the same time remove glare.’
A series of buttons would regulate the temperature and humidity to any desired condition of air. Another button would cause a concealed bed to emerge from a partition between passenger and engine compartments. Many passenger conveniences, such as lavatory facilities, could be incorporated without increasing the height or width of the car and by adding only slightly to its length. Furthermore, ‘if other branches of engineering keep pace with the body men,’ it was predicted that this car could be driven from any seat, the controls being carried or passed from place to place.
That car of the future may sound too visionary. But General Motors has five hundred engineers, physicists, mathematicians, and mechanics, headed by ‘Boss’ Kettering, who devote part of their time to making some such future possible. Chrysler Corporation has Fred Zeder and Carl Breer directing hundreds of other engineers along the same road. About one fifth of their aggregate time is on pure science or ‘long shot’ problems, another two fifths on more or less advanced engineering, and the final two fifths on the more bread-and-butter consultations with the various divisions. And Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., has predicted that if it were possible to put alongside the car of today the car of 1960, the difference would in all probability be just as striking as between the car of 1913 and that of 1941.
At present, however, that future seems less pressing than the immediate problem confronting the automobile industry — armaments.
Not so long ago we used to hear of a fabulous factory manufacturing baby carriages. This factory was in Europe, across the Rhine. And, strange to say, no matter what went into this wondrous factory, no matter what the blueprints seemed to direct, instead of baby carriages there always came out machine guns.
This sleight-of-hand of production was the wonder of most of the world. To Americans it was arresting but not amazing. Wait until our automobile industry gets going, they said. Then you’ll see a real production miracle.
Now, our automobile industry is going. It has enlisted wholeheartedly for the duration for the defense of this country. On October 25, nearly one hundred top-ranking officials of automobile and truck companies, parts, body, accessory, and tool manufacturers, met in Detroit with Defense Commission officials headed by William S. Knudsen. Mr. Knudsen said that tooling, production, and subassembly work on four hundred separate parts, including wings, tails, fuselages, and control instruments, were needed for bombers. On short notice the industry was asked to ensure Mr. Knudsen 100 per cent cooperation.
The automobile industry is peculiarly fitted to undertake this gigantic task of giving birth to millions of defense parts. We speak of a lawyer’s lawyer, a banker’s banker, and a doctor’s doctor — specialists who can advise members of their own professions. In that sense the automobile industry of America is truly industry’s industry. Its concern is not just automobiles, but machinery and steel and rubber and petroleum, countless other small industries, and above all organization and knowledge of the manufacturing process, the ‘know-how.’ That is why the automobile industry has been singled out by the Federal Government to undertake the greatest defense effort in our history. That is why it has been called in to get the job done.
No easy road lies ahead. Airplanes are not automobiles. They serve different purposes, have different parts, and are built differently. To those who blandly ignore these differences, Mr. Sloan, chairman of the board of General Motors, has recently made answer.
‘The essential element in mass production is the period of preparatory work or “make ready,” ‘ he said. ‘Only after this is completed can mass production, as it is popularly conceived, really begin. Even in the automobile industry, with its long experience in quantity production and its yearly model change, no substitute has been found for the many months of careful planning and preparation before production can be started on a new design. A year’s intensive work is essential. Any expectation that miracles can be performed overnight will only lead to confusion in the program and to unnecessary disappointment. The realities must be faced.’
As Mr. Sloan pointed out, there is a fundamental difficulty in determining the kinds of equipment to be produced and their designs. Especially is this true under current conditions, for military technology is undergoing ‘a revolution so far as types and specifications of war implements are concerned. Designs considered adequate yesterday are obsolete today. If, then, new designs become necessary, further delays are inevitable. With the essential technique of quantity production based upon careful preparation after approval of a design, even minor changes frequently require a rebuilding of tool equipment and a replanning of the job.’
Although present plans call for the automobile industry’s making ‘Chinese copies’ of airplanes rather than pioneering developments in them, the industry will turn its years of accumulated experience in one field to advantage in another. This will at first take place in the field of organization of production, plant layout, and flow of materials rather than in production itself. Then, as Army and Navy and aircraft men are persuaded that the production methods suggested by the automobile industry are superior, they will be adopted. But progress will be made slowly as the intensive study of aircraft blueprints is translated by experienced automobile engineers and production men into the anticipated better production methods. For although automobile men have the ‘know-how’ of mass production, they are the first to acknowledge that they don’t know it all.
Here are just a few of the problems that will be investigated. First, the use of spot welding in airplanes instead of riveting. There are estimated to be 440,000 rivets in each plane at a rule-ofthumb cost of ten cents a rivet, and the ability to spot-weld (by electric resistance) would save much time and expense. A new method of high-speed spot welding has been applied to bodies of the 1941 models so that as many as 6000 spot welds an hour can be attained. Shot welding will also be investigated, since it is said to take only one-fortieth the time to shot-weld stainless steel that it takes to rivet aluminum parts.
Next, the use of alloy-steel castings instead of forgings. In steel casting a cylinder sleeve for an airplane engine, some manufacturers — notably Ford — believe that much time, effort, and investment could be saved. Forging requires 2½ times as much metal per sleeve, an investment of several hundred thousand dollars for machinery instead of about six thousand, besides far greater labor. These savings are all the more important since there exists a bottleneck in machinery in this country, and a potential bottleneck in steel.
The use of automobile methods in the manufacture of pistons will be investigated, since some pistons are now actually held to closer tolerances than aircraft pistons. Machines for balancing crankshafts are used to good advantage in the automobile industry and will probably be adopted for aircraft crankshafts. Some gears in aircraft design are similar to gears in automobiles, and made by the same type of machines. But automobile gears are shaved, a more economical operation than the grinding of aircraft-engine gears — something else worth investigating.
Only management, research, and design departments and borrowed personnel at present link the bulk of these new operations to the automobile industry itself. Scarcely 10 per cent of a typical automobile plant’s equipment — chiefly general-purpose tools such as lathes, milling, drilling, and gear-cutting machines — is considered adaptable to military products. Even aviation engines — fundamentally akin to those of the automobile — are so utterly unlike in detail as to call for tremendous batteries of new tools. They are as much alike, says Max Gilman, president of Packard and holder of the large Rolls-Royce engine contract, as a ‘hat and pair of shoes.’
It is estimated that to produce 450 aircraft engines a month, of the 1200horsepower type used in bombers and fighting planes, will require an investment in plant and equipment of $25,000,000 and approximately 10,000 employees. By contrast it is possible today to produce 1500-1800 good automobile engines a day, of the 160-horsepower type, with an investment of $10,000,000 and 3200 employees. Such is the difference between the Swiss-watch technique of aircraft and mass production of automobiles.
Will it be possible to speed up the manufacture of aircraft engines to something approaching that of automobiles? A lot will depend upon the performance expected of the aircraft engines, and whether it is decided we have both the time and the volume of aircraft production to design and manufacture new machines specially designed for mass aircraft volume. For it is the machines which will determine the ultimate speed of aircraft production, just as they did for the automobile.
Mr. Kettering has often referred to the fact that the automobile industry ‘publishes’ cars, That is, after months of seeming lack of progress, months of assembling the material and days of setting the type, finally the presses start whirling and begin to ‘publish’ unit after unit in true mass-production fashion.
So it has been for automobiles. And so it will be at some time in the future for airplanes.
A friendly word of caution: results must not be expected overnight. Remember that Ford lost almost two years of sales in changing over from Model T to Model A. In fact, some automobile men believe that, just as our shipbuilding program has been placed on a fiveyear basis, it would be sounder to think of our completed aircraft program on some similar basis. In the meantime we shall be getting steadily increased aircraft production through the coöperation of the automobile industry. Allison, division of General Motors, has already sharply increased its production rate of aircraft engines. By the middle of 1941, Ford and Packard will begin turning out aircraft engines, and soon thereafter will be in quantity production. Aircraft parts and fuselages will be coming off the assembly line before the end of 1941. By the middle of 1942, in all probability, the industry will hit its stride and begin to ‘publish’ the components of airplanes if not the airplanes themselves.
Airplanes are not the only defense weapons the automobile industry will produce. It will help in the production of component parts of cannon, which after all, as Mr. Kettering has explained, is nothing but a method of transportation in reverse: ‘It is transmitting something that the fellow who is going to get it doesn’t want, in a way which he doesn’t like.’ Shells will be manufactured, — a relatively easy job, with a few well-trained mechanics and foremen, — as well as cartridge cases and fuses. There will be trucks and combat cars, machine guns, artillery fire-control equipment, and tanks. In some of these, notably truck and combat cars and machine guns, there is very little new technique to be mastered. Here the improved automobile and truck production methods can fit directly into production for national defense.
In the case of tanks it is the ‘knowhow’ of mass-production methods, which the automobile industry so eminently possesses, that is important. When K. T. Keller, president of Chrysler, was asked by Mr. Knudsen to manufacture tanks, he could reply, ‘I should be glad to,’ and turn loose on the job nearly 200 trained engineers who put together 186 pounds of blueprints on tank construction in 4½ feverish weeks of activity. By September 1941, these 25-ton tanks will be rolling off the assembly line of a brand-new factory at a rate of five per eight-hour shift.
These factories which are rising and are about to rise on the skylines of Detroit and its satellite cities are a tribute by a thankful nation to the progress of the automobile industry. And they are tacit tribute, too, to the realization that while armies may once have moved on their stomachs, now they move by engine, in trucks, armored cars, tanks, and airplanes. There is hardly a single mule or horse in any of the infantry divisions today. Artillery is drawn by truck or tractor. And a single armored division contains no less than 2200 motor vehicles, including 400 tanks. The entire army, in April 1917, had only 3500 motor vehicles.
The encouraging part of it is that the automobile industry is undertaking this task with a greater capacity for production, with better tools and equipment, and with more ‘ know-how ‘ of mass production than it has possessed at any other time in its history.