My interview was with the Works Manager. I explained some of my very early experiences and described more particularly my imperative nature, which was, of course, the very necessary quality for a successful "chaser". I have been a chaser all my life. He decided that I should see the Chairman.
It was an agreeable meeting. I sensed what he wanted, so at once described those experiences that equated with the problem of production hold-ups through material and parts shortages, internal and external. Although the company had been operating for a great number of years it had never before employed a "progress chaser". Why this was so was not explained. The Chairman took me on a tour of the premises.
Here are some of the danger signals I spotted on that tour:
- A complete disregard by practically everyone in works and offices of the top man's presence.
- Conversation and/or inactivity continued quite unaffected in our presence.
- Many of those who were working stopped to appraise the "visitor".
- Gangways between benches and machines were cluttered, filth and rubbish lay everywhere around machines, benches and the yard.
- The babble among the groups gathered in front of the stores was extraordinary and continued unabated and unabashed.
- As for the main store itself, "dump" would be a more fitting description.
There was no production engineer in the company, and I wondered how it had survived. Antiquated equipment, outmoded methods dilatorily operated: the absence of any pattern or system of workflow offended my sense of order. The assembly shop, for instance, had itself become a disorganized extension of the main store, with valuable stock strewn everywhere.
I was shown the stock control system; embarrassingly no one could explain the significance of the entries on a card I had selected. It transpired that the lady doing the job had taken over when a former clerk had left. She said she was doing her best, but many of predecessor's figures were incomprehensible to her. She had not been instructed in the job; she had "just picked it up". The cost of the clerical labor involved in the entries on the card I had examined must have far exceeded that of the item of stock supposedly being controlled, about 1¢ each. I rifled through a number of the cards, and they seemed to be much of a kind, covered in a near illegible scrawl.
There were no job or batch cards, time or cost records or production control system of any kind. How was I to perform? I said nothing; just listened, asking the odd question here and there. This must have had an effect, for when we returned to the office my starting salary was voluntarily advanced by another $10,000 a year. I filled in the official (and misprinted) application form.
Light days later, the day before I was due to start, the promised confirmation of the appointment arrived. This was thanks to the perspicacity of the Post Office that could find no such road as mine in the nearby town to which the letter had been wrongly addressed. But during this intervening period I had visited the Companies Registration Office and spent an interesting time studying the history and records of the company, and of the merchant bankers who had sunk a great deal of money into it.
In particular, I was interested in the charges against the company and in its awful financial record. I hoped that this could not be judged a typical small company for now it depended upon a joint stock bank that had a first charge over all the assets of the manufacturing company. It also had first charge over the personal assets of the chairman who was the major shareholder. The merchant bank was unsecured. I found all this interesting, stimulating even. It was good to he involved again, even in a mess.