JULY 22, 1954
MEEKER, Colo., Wednesday—This is a period in which we hear a great deal about experts. The physicists and the scientists of today are experts, and all the way down the line we have come to believe that, in any work that is to be done, we must go to the expert in a particular field to accomplish the job.
Now and then, however, you come across a story that gives you a good deal of confidence that ordinary everyday people who do a great variety of jobs may be very useful in working out ways of improving their jobs. These workers may not be experts, they may not have any academic degrees, but they may have learned, through actual work and by working together, to accomplish their jobs more easily and perhaps better than has been done in the past.
I remember a story I read concerning 60 workers in the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad shops in Huntington, West Virginia. There was a vast steam-engine repair shop there which had to be converted into a new diesel-engine repair facility. Management engineers had told the road's officials that the job of converting the plant would take as long as three years. For six weeks, the 60 workers, who loved their work, put in a good deal of their time doing some planning of their own. They were electricians, carpenters, metal smiths, engine hostlers and apprentices.
In that six weeks they turned out a model of how they thought the conversion could be done. This so impressed the president of the railroad that he invited them to present their plan directly to the Board of Directors. Their scale model was evidently very interesting to the Directors. And one feature of the workers' plan meant a good deal to the stockholders. It had been estimated that the conversion, as previously planned, would cost some 10 to 15 million dollars but, according to the plan of the 60 workers, the estimated cost would be only about 2.5 million.
I don't know whether this whole plan was ever carried out but, if it was, it should give every worker in industry, agriculture, offices and in the home the idea that they may have something special to contribute in the jobs they are doing. Every improvement in efficiency and in working conditions makes for greater happiness on the part of the worker and greater satisfaction on the part of the employer. It saves money and should mean that consumers can have more at lower cost.
That is one of the theories on which we have built the kind of civilization we have today, in which more and more people have more and more things because they can be produced cheaply and within the means of the average worker.