Production — Our Home Front

by William B Stout
One of the most colorful and one of the shrewdest aeronautical engineers in the business, Bill Stout is famed for his record of designing and building aircraft years in advance of the "normal trend." Designer of the trimotored Ford and the Stout Skycar. he now is completing a stainless steel design for the private owner which incorporates a revolutionary engine, also of his design. Born in Illinois 62 years ago, Stout now has his own engineering laboratory in Dearborn. MI, where he produces prototypes of his ideas.—Ed
So the Germans are supermen when it comes to mass production? One of America's outstanding engineers thinks the Nazis actually are slow.

While the Axis powers have undoubtedly shown a great ability in design and the building of planes and machinery, America is the only country in the world which understands production.

The German Junkers plant, at its full capacity, today is reported to be turning out 12 to 15 planes daily.

In the automobile business that would almost be a tool shop job. Fifteen an hour is even "small potatoes" from the figuring of Detroit production men in the automobile field. Not tens a day but thousands a day is their line of thought and tooling is made for that kind of work. Also, if you make 15 a day of something, you have not production enough to make good tools or to achieve good metallurgy or to get experience enough to get the proper service in the field.

Our late idea of war was manpower, and the country with the biggest army had the greatest chance to win. That is no longer true — war is now mechanical and the land with the greatest number of machines, coupled with the highest education and technical superiority of the men who operate these machines, wins the war.

In the building of planes, Germany and the Allies still work on the basis of man-hours and the use of every available individual for work — in their homes or home workshops, in their cellars and wherever possible — to make pieces and more pieces so that a combined manpower program may develop a flow of machinery and production. America thinks. in terms of machine-hours, of trained men operating armies of machine tools which not only turn out a thousand pieces to one which can be done by hand, but which pieces may be accurate to a fraction of a thousandth of an inch — whereas the hand job always has the human element.

Germany took seven years to build up a production system for war. If the surplus of the machinery which she installed had been used to better the living conditions of the German people there would have been no cause for war. Instead of this, money was taken away from the people and built into a war machine to take things away from other nations on the old Prussian idea of conquest and rule by force.

England, in advancing her war program, followed more the German system than any other. The chief fault of the British system is that it must be right because it is British — and for no other reason. This has not proved accurate in this technical age.

Britain's approach toward their mechanical problems has been extremely complicated and expensive. Their engine designs have been laid down with no basic knowledge or care for the essentials of production and their Rolls-Royce engine, for example, liquid-cooled, is built with files and emery cloth, hand fitted in a "fittings shop" and with "more stud bolts than rivets in a Stratoliner."

The Germans, on the other hand, have taken steps to simplify. They have arranged mechanisms to cut man-hours and increase accuracy. They are not concerned whether something is a German idea or any other — if it is good.

Boss Kettering tells a story of being at a banquet in England after the last war with a scientific commission. Among those present (according to the repeated story) was a Britisher with an extreme inferiority complex who shouted out in resentment to the Americans that they had not delivered any engines during the war and that they could not run after they got there. Kettering, it was said, rose to his feet and replied, "Either the gentleman who just spoke is a liar or I owe him a drink."

Kettering then pulled from his pocket a notebook and read from it a list of the Liberty engine production day by day. Whereas Rolls-Royce, with 20,000 men, had been turning out 10 engines a day, our industry with not too many more men employed had been turning out 150 a day — engines which were 100 hp more than the then Rolls-Royce, 100 pounds lighter in weight and at least 50 percent as costly to produce. Before Kettering had finished reading his data the Britisher arose, held up his hand and said laughingly, "I will buy the drink."

If the story could be told right now of what America is turning out right now — even leaving out what we will be turning out in six months from now — neither Germany nor England nor the rest of the world would believe that such an achievement were possible without years and years of preparation ahead of time.

A plant like Glenn Martin's original plant, which was then about the biggest in the world, came to a point where production was needed. A certain architect in Detroit got a phone call — and this, too, is hearsay but pretty good hearsay — Glenn Martin was on the wire.

"Where will you be tomorrow, which is Saturday?"
"I expect to sign a contract tomorrow with the French and I want you to start Monday morning on my field in Baltimore to double the size of my plant in three months time."

Eleven weeks from the time of that phone call the buildings were finished and occupied — and that was only the beginning of a program of unbelievable organization in the building industry.

Another firm was to build tanks, They tackled a corn field and in 12 months the gigantic buildings were finished, the machinery was on the floor in the proper place, the time studies were completed and the production line began to roll. That one plant today is turning out more big tanks than Hitler can produce in his whole country — and better tanks.

A certain motor car manufacturer was asked to take a contract for airplane parts. He took it, and while building the factory to manufacture these parts, he built the largest airplane factory in the world to build the complete airplane — and rumor has it that he has not even an order for that airplane yet, although the factory is said to be producing at considerable rate.

Every industry in America connected with war work has stepped up its pace, its quality, its organization and its patriotism a hundred-fold.

To America, this whole move so far has been a Godsend. Many were concerned lest the war end with organized ignorance controlling the world, but with the coming of the total war program we have taken on and put into effect the greatest mass technical education the world has ever seen, with every man having the chance to get an education and industrial training of the most modern kind at no expense. This program will leave our country, at the end of the war, with the highest-educated groups any nation has ever known and any man who has any initiative at all will be left with a trade at which he can earn a good living from now on.

This war is going to leave our people vastly higher in the standard of civilization while the peoples of the attacking power nations will be left in ignorance and squalor and discontent. Democracy's greatest opportunity after the war will be in showing these people the great asset and value to them in spending their surplus in things for living instead of things for destroying. These peoples were not vicious as they were born, but have been made vicious by sadistic leaders. When we get a world based on engineering, production, research, chemistry, metallurgy, flying and all such technically constructed industries, the age of ignorance will fade out and the age of old beliefs and opinions will die of its own stagnation. We will not need to fight the negative, they will disappear automatically, as did Voodooism in the past, and America will take a new place in the world — not as a military leader or strong-arm gangster, but as the director of progress to show the world the actualities of progress through research and unselfish devotion to mankind itself, bringing order and happiness to a newly made world.

In many other lands, the motor cars, airplanes and other vehicles have been owned only by the army and the ruling heads. The people haven't been allowed to own or use them.

In America everyone drives a car and therefore our boys learn to fly pursuit planes in two-thirds the time it takes for other nations.

Our boys know and feel mechanical things.

In the future every youth in America must fly if we are to have as many planes in the air as we have motor cars on the streets. Then no nation in the world will dare attack us in a war.

America today could build, as Mr Ford said, a thousand planes a day of the small types. We can turn out a thousand trained pilots a day to fly them — and this stage should be approached as soon as our other activities get well underway.

Production is America's middle name — so let's get all the airplanes in the air we can with everybody "air-conditioned," for the first nation, which leaves the ground and lives in the air will thereby control the world.

This article was originally published in the October, 1942, issue of Flying including Industrial Aviation magazine, vol 31, no 4, pp 31-32, 106.
The original article includes a photo of B-24s on the flight line and a thumbnail portrait of the author.
Photos are not credited.