- Feb 2011
- Amelia, Virginia, USA
One of the issues the Willow Run plant (Ford Motor Co. building B-24s) had was constant small changes to the planes, most derived from battle experience. This caused delays, and added cost, as the dies would have to be scrapped and remade, etc. Ford complained, but the Army shrugged: The changes might save lives and improve performance.Guderian was driven to distraction by the armor manufacturing
the army specialists were always improving and stopping the production to fit some gizmos , the result was a stop and start of the lines and a rather poor standardization
The solution was to finish the plane to a more basic state, then fly it to a facility where necessary "updates" would be made, ultimately resulting in a flexible manufacturing process.
When Ford contracted to build B-24s, Ford engineers redesigned components, like the landing gear, making it more suited for mass production. They designed and built an enormous jig that turned an operation from 100s of man hours to dozens. This sort of thing was done everywhere. Machine gun design specifies oval vents? Engineers redesign it with round vents, because they are much easier to machine, and time is saved.
The point is that in the US, business was given a free hand to find ways to increase production. Mass production is much more than an assembly line. It is a process, in which an assembly line is only a part. It is a never ending quest for speed and accuracy. That doesn't mean making the workers go faster. That can actually be counterproductive, causing mistakes and powering moral. Speed comes from streamlining the production process. The best ideas flow up. "Lean Manufacturing", "Just in Time" were born in the 20's and matured during WW2.
The Germans did much the opposite. The Nazis were poor war managers, and the Wermacht was no better.