No more important question confronts the manager of a shop than that of properly arranging his tools, to so place each machine as to permit it to be worked continuously and to its full capacity, and to require a minimum expenditure of time and labor. The solution becomes simple when work of the same character is done month in and month out; then the tools can be so placed that the work is, under no circumstances, compelled to retrace its steps, but moves constantly from the pattern shop toward the shipping-room. But the problem becomes exceedingly difficult when the work passing through the shop varies frequently, and when the necessary machine work differs with each piece. This happens in every large establishment, and is particularly the case in shops building tools to order or from special designs.
Grouping all the tools of the same kind—lathes, planers, milling machines and so on—together, is, in the majority of cases, a poor plan, since about the only thing that can be said in its favor is that it presents a neat appearance. The only way to consider the question is to think of each tool solely as a device for doing work, and to so place it that it can always be run to its full capacity. In most cases the nature of the work requires the employment of different tools, and if they are placed far apart the cost of production is increased by the expense of extra handling.
It is evident that work done in each individual shop must control the placing of its machines. No two plants are alike, any more than their productions are alike. Therefore the manager of one establishment can derive benefit from the study of another only from the hints he may receive as to the better disposition of his own tools for doing his particular work. It would not be to his best interest to copy exactly any other concern. A suggestion of the advantages to be derived by the placing of tools where they can be operated best is to be found in the following extracts from a recent paper by W. S. Rogers, read before the New-York Railroad Club.
Taking, for example, the work on cylinders, planing, boring and drilling are the three distinct operations to be performed. If the planer is located near the boring lathe, and in proper position, and the radial drill is also within convenient range, very little transient labor will be required to perform the three operations. We also will find that the man on the boring tool can push along the planing and oversee the drilling, thus keeping all the machines in operation with the minimum of labor, and in equally rapid time as if it were done the old way, with one man to each machine, and one-third of them waiting for work to reach them, as would be the case if they were isolated.
The important gains made by such methods are almost wholly in time, and if nothing else is earned this alone is money saved. If a piece of work (a set of guides for example, of four driving-boxes) can be finished in six hours, it is the height of false economy to allow the time to be lengthened out an hour or two longer because the labor element is too busy elsewhere to take it from the machine. Far better will it be to move the machine to a more convenient location.
Following the work on the various machines closely, and having them so placed in position with reference to the travels of the many parts of work through the shop towards finish and erection, thus avoiding all back-lash, confusion, delays and clashing among employees, means low cost of production, harmony throughout the plant, fewer names on the payroll, and large decrease in operating expenses, with increased amount of work performed every year. We have in mind one shop doing large work which established a sort of "emergency" department. In this were put a large planer, boring mill, lathe, drill and slotter. These are placed in one and of the assembling-room. It was the intention to do such large work of a special character as could not be carried on conveniently on the regular tools in the other departments. But it was soon found that the best way was to send all large castings direct from the foundry to this group of tools and there finish them. The consequence is that this department, instead of being idle a part of the time, as it was at first thought it would be, is crowded with work. The result is a lessening of the cost of doing the work, due primarily to the feet that several tools of different kinds are placed near together.