Our attention was called recently to a defect altogether too common in small manufacturing establishments; namely, the want of proper arrangement in machines employed to do the work. The occasion referred to was a visit to one of the many smaller manufacturing establishments to be found in this city. We found in this establishment a company of orderly and conscientious operatives, intent upon their work, a foreman who managed them with admirable tact; everything about the establishment cleanly; plenty of light and air; but the arrangement of the tools and fixtures was very bad, The nature of the work required the employment of several kinds of workmen, each performing his portion of the work, and then leaving it to be further perfected by subsequent operations. The articles made were of a small and cheap kind, and as fast as each workman finished his part of the work they were carried, by a set of beys employed for that purpose, to the next operative. Now the whole of this carrying was necessitated by want of foresight in the arrangement of the machines. We pointed out to the foreman that everything could be arranged so that one workman could, without any appreciable addition to his work, pass his work directly on to the one whose service was next required, thus abolishing the necessity of carriers, and making a saving of perhaps some sixty dollars per week to the establishment. This saving would, in a few weeks, reimburse the trouble and expense of the change. The fault we allude to is most frequently to be found in establishments devoted to the manufacture of new lines of goods, in which the arrangement of the implements required has not been settled by practical experience. Such manufactories are most frequently conducted and owned by men who have either had little experience in manufacturing, or whose attention has been given to work of a very different character. The perfection of arrangement is to be found in cotton, woolen, and silk manufactories, where to disregard it would be utterly fatal to success. It has also been thoroughly studied in all manufacturing of long standing and of extensive character. Many inventors, who have devised an article of general demand, engage in the manufacture themselves, thinking that all will be plain sailing, forgetting that everything requires two inventions. It is not enough to invent an improvement; the inventor must also invent the best method of making it, if he would succeed. This collateral invention comprises not only the tools, machines and appurtenances necessary to perfect the original device in a cheap and elegant manner, but also includes the proper adjustment and arrangement of all these details so as to reduce the amount of help, shop-room, fuel, and other expenses, to the minimum quantity. We have in mind an invention which cost only a hundred dollars or so to perfect and patent, but which has cost the inventor some eighteen thousand dollars in devising how the article could be made at a handsome profit to the company engaged in producing it. A patent railroad spike cost its projectors one hundred thousand dollars in experiments on machinery to make it cheap enough to compete with other apikes already in market. Many inventors fail to take this into consideration in time. When their device is perfected, they should immediately turn their attention to modes of manufacture, so as to be ready, when the time comes, with the necessary resources to meet such exigencies as are likely to arise. In doing this they will often be able to make patentable improvements in existing machines, of great value to other branches of mechanical work.
This article was originally published with the title "On the Importance of Proper Arrangement in Shops"