GENERAL ARTICLES

Russian Speed-Up

"Russia is undergoing a modern industrial revolution ... Its potential meaning for the Soviet Union and the world is enormous"—Davies

Raymond Arthur Davies September 15 1944
GENERAL ARTICLES

Russian Speed-Up

"Russia is undergoing a modern industrial revolution ... Its potential meaning for the Soviet Union and the world is enormous"—Davies

Raymond Arthur Davies September 15 1944

Russian Speed-Up

"Russia is undergoing a modern industrial revolution ... Its potential meaning for the Soviet Union and the world is enormous"—Davies

Raymond Arthur Davies

MOSCOW (By Press Wireless): Recently the shop superintendent of the huge Gorbunov tank plant, located in the Urals, called into his office brigade (work gang) leader Kolenchuk who, with the 11 men under him, produced gear assemblies.

“Look here, Kolenchuk,” he said, “don’t you think you’ve got too many men?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Comrade. There is enough work for all of us,” Kolenchuk replied evasively.

“So, there is nothing to discuss then, eh?”

“Well . . . Well ...” Kolenchuk stammered with less assurance this time. Then, suddenly, he added, “You know what, Comrade? Just give me a day or two to think things over.”

After three days he came back to the plant office. “Well, Vassili Petrovich,” he said cheerfully, “I guess you are right. I do have too many men. How about taking a few off my hands? Say eight.”

“Eight!" the super exclaimed. “How are you going to do your work with only four men? I didn’t ask for so many.”

“That’s all right, Vassili Petrovich. I have thought it all out. We’ll manage.”

And it turned out just as Kolenchuk said. Four did the work of 12 and did it just as well. Sometime later Kolenchuk was transferred temporarily to another job and the gang was put in charge of one of the remaining men. Now only three men were doing the work that formerly occupied 12. The change-over took less than three moRths. This is a true story and it reflects what is going on everywhere in the Soviet Union. It’s a process of radically speeding up work, increasing labor productivity and reducing production costs.

The cumulative effect of all this amounts to a new “industrial revolution.” Its potential meaning for the Soviet Union and the world is enormous. The new development is rapidly helping the Soviets overcome weaknesses brought on by the war and especially to cope with the fact that millions of the best-skilled workers are either in the Army or have been lost or driven into German slavery. The results of the latter could have been catastrophic.

How is this revolution in Soviet production being attained? Primarily by an unrelenting internal “war” for industrial efficiency, by fighting against all industrial backwardness, by speeding up process work through the introduction of conveyers, by increasing the speed of individual operations, by raising the level of the skill of the millions of young men and women who have poured from the farms to the factories, mills and mines ever since the beginning of war. This “war” for efficiency is no less hard-fought than the war against Germany. It is very evident Russian leaders understand that efficiency on the job means efficiency in defeating the, enemy and reconstructing their land.

Ability, Not Numbers

The Russians have now learned from us and from experience that efficiency means more work with less labor. “Not with numbers but with ability” is their new slogan.

They say that only by greater efficiency on the job —they call it “culture on the job”—can they release the new hundreds of thousands of workers they need for the plants rising with startling rapidity throughout this vast and amazing land. There is no doubt that the introduction of almost ruthless job efficiency, with the aim of equalling or bettering production of the United States, Great Britain or Canada, is making the Soviet Union a more powerful country which even before the war’s end will succeed in repairing much of its damage and will emerge from the war with an industrial output greater in volume than before the war and an enormously expanded industrial capacity.

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Russian Speed-Up

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These are realities to which the outside world would be unwise to shut its eyes.

Technical basis of the new efficiency drive is the so-called “potok,” which can be translated into English as “streamlined method.” By this the Russians mean the introduction of conveyers and other similar devices. Factory after factory is going over^to conveyers with significant results^.

Take the tank industry as an example. The large Komintern tank plant, second largest industry, in 19^3 produced six times as many tanks as in 1942. In part this increase was achieved by the introduction of 70 conveyers, which reduced the time necessary for tank construction by one half. In one department conveyers reduced the distance travelled by one paçl used in the manufacturing procesé ,,from 1,300 yds. to only 30 yds. *nd made it possible to produce in six hours what formerly took 24. ,

A similar developasent is taking place in the aviationdndustry. In one large airplane engine works in the Urals, it was decided to introduce 58 conveyers. The whol^ idea was new to the workers. For tjfiis reason the management and the uhion decided to call a mass meeting ‘ öf all workers and put the question before them. Efficiency experts were brought in to explain the new processes. Then the factory paper and hundreds of wall posters began to publicize the new plans. When the first conveyers began to operate^t was discovered that they so speeded* up the work that more workers were required. But more workers weren’t obtainable. A solution came from the ranks of the employees themselves. Polisher Kudyakova announced that her time wasn’t fully taken up and that she was sure she could handle an additional machine. Drill press operator Kondratyeva asked to be taught punch press operation with an aim to running both types. As a result of these suggestions, in one shop alone nine lathes and 28 workers were freed for other machines.

Operation No. 22 required four lathes. But those available were of different speeds. Their gears were changed and, as a result, the output grew by one third. The first 17 conveyers reduced the time consumed in airplane construction by 80%. This was equivalent to the construction of one huge new plant.

But experience in Canada and the United States long ago convinced industrial leaders that conveyers and other such devices in themselves are not the solution to the problem of industrial efficiency. Maximum efficiency can be attained only with the support of the workers. What does the Soviet worker think of the efficiency drive which obviously requires him to strain his energies more and more to attain peak production?

Back Campaign

The Soviet worker seems to be wholeheartedly behind the campaign. Without his co-operation, regardless of all the Government’s propaganda, persuasion and pressure, the drive for efficiency would have remained something of a dead issue. If the Soviet industries have been successful in increasing labor productivity, it is because millions of Russian workers have actually made it their own business to do so.

Two years ago, with the country in mortal danger, Stalin appealed to Russia’s 30,000,000 workers to increase their productive efforts to the limit. Following this the staffs of a number of key armament plants, encouraged by their trade unions, publicly challenged workers throughout the whole country to join in what they called “nationwide socialist competition” to produce more goods for the front. This “socialist competition” spread like a prairie fire. Soon there was no factory left that was not engaged in some form of competition with other factories. In the factories departments competed with departments and workers with workers. And as nation-wide competition developed it became clear that the system itself challenged and inspired workers, engineers, office employees and managers to discover new and better and faster methods of work.

Here is an example of what happened.

Alexander Shashkov works in a nationally known machine tool plant in Moscow. Just before the war he was a fitter assemblyman. At that time (1940) machine tool assembly was done by highly skilled fitters, and a man assembling two lathes a month was doing well indeed. When the war began Shashkov took offense at the idea of just assembling two lathes a month. He asked for and obtained permission to form a work gang of six semiskilled lads, promising that they would assemble as many lathes as highly skilled fitters.

Within seven months the six young lads were producing as much as the oldsters but they were doing no better. Shashkov thought they could increase their quota. He instituted a study course and streamlined assembly. Eight months later the group assembled 34 lathes in a four weeks’ period—5 times more than when they began. This was more than had been assembled by anyone else in the industry. Today machine tools are being made on the conveyer system, and despite war difficulties, the Soviet machine tool output is believed to be five times greater than before the war.

The story of Anna Georgievna Oasipova is another case in point. She knfew nothing about machinery, but when her husband went off to war she got a job at the Stalin metal plant. A foreman showed her to a cutting lathe. “Now don’t be afraid,” he told her. “You will get along fine. Study a bit and then we will fix your wage rate.”

At the end of the first week she did 30 details—or half her quota. From then on her output rose steadily—to 40 then 50 then 60 details a day. On the day she completed 60, two foremen congratulated her. “Now you are a real operator,” one told her.

In three months her output rose to 100 details a day. Still she was not satisfied. Noticing that the second operation was cumbersome, she made a suggestion to the foreman. As a result a second cutter was fixed to the machine and Anna’s output rose to 200 details a shift—three times her assigned quota. Later she brought her output up another 40 details by operating an idle drill press as well as her own lathe.

One day another drill press operator fell ill. “Perhaps,” thought Anna, “I can run an extra machine.” She talked it over with the foreman. The drill press was moved nearer—and from that day on Anna operated three machines. She has become famous.

Her husband wrote to her proudly, “Thank you, my dear. I have told my fighting mates of your work. We all are proud of the way our wives are helping us.”

Appeals to Youth

Above all, and quite naturally, the idea of competition to speed production has made a hit with the youth of the Soviet Union. During the difficult November days of 1941, one group of young workers employed by the important Ural machine building works and Gorky auto plant decided to form youth production work gangs aimed at producing more goods for the front. Their example spread rapidly. By November, 1943, there were 35,600 such work gangs. By April, 1944, there were 70,327. They encompass more than 500,000 young peopje.

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The best of these— those maintaining the highest level of production—are called “Front Production Brigades.” One of these, led by airplane riveter Eugenia Pchftsova, during 10 months of 1943, did the equivalent of two and a half years’ work. An almost incredible record was set by young shell workers of another brigade which developed a new instrument. One man did 90 times his original quota and later, when the instrument was perfected, 279 times his quota.

In an armament plant east of Moscow youth brigades in a foundry have a record of 180 to 200% of their quota as compared with only 120% for workers of the foundry as a whole. More than half of the youth production brigades carry out their assignments by better than 150% of their quotas.

Recently there was introduced a practice of awarding “letters of honor” to workers and titles “best worker,” “best fitter,” “best typist,” “best sales girl,” etc. In addition, all factories are now instituting “books of honor,” in which are being inscribed the names and achievements of all those who maintain a better than average record for six months or more.

Another idea being applied generally is the “public review labor organization,” in which workers from one department or plant visit other departments or plants to review work efficiency, output economy, labor, fuels and materials. During such visits reports are delivered and visitors express their commendations or criticisms and make suggestions.

What’s the incentive for all this? Is there incentive?

The first incentive is economic. Workers who do more and better work get more money—production is on a piecework basis to a much greater degree than it is in either Canada or the United States.

More important than money, however, under the present conditions of scarcity imposed by the war is the fact that “best workers,” “prize winners”— and, above all, “heroes of socialist labor,” and “shock brigaders”—are first to get orders for clothing, housing accommodation, better food, theatre tickets and camps for their children. It pays to work better.

Another incentive is fame and respect. People who become outstanding workers become nationally known. Every few days papers carry long lists of the men and women workers decorated for outstanding achievements in production and construction. Almost as many of these are decorated as Army men. Outstanding workers are better known in some parts of the country than motion picture stars.

The third and probably dominant incentive is patriotism. There is scarcely a family in the whole of the Soviet Union that has not lost someone in the war. Everyone here knows the horrors of enemy occupation and has an overwhelming hatred for the enemy. Defeat of the enemy is the one single passionate desire of every Soviet citizen. Workers understand that production Ls a weapon against Germany.

Under Soviet conditions strikes are unthinkable, if for no other reason than every lost moment is considered a moment gained by the enemy.

The results of all this are quite amazing.

As an example take the electrical industry. The year 1943 was a war year of great offensives, requiring the nation to strain its efforts to the utmost. Yet more new electric power plants were built then than in any other year in Russian history. In fact four to five times more plants were built in 1943 than in the last pre-war year. This year—in 1944—more plants will be launched than during the whole first Five-Year Plan which, among other projects, saw completion of the huge Dnieper hydro development, which was blown up by the Russians in 1941 during the German advance. In addition much has also been done and is being done to rebuild power plants in the areas liberated from the Germans. Tens of thousands of workers already are rebuilding the Dnieper dam. Huge power plants in the Donets Basin are operating on local coal, and some with from 50,000to 100,000-kilowatt generators are soon to be started. Efficiency in rebuilding these ruined plants has cut the time needed to set up huge boilers from the 150 or 180 days required in the pre-war era to only 65 or 90 days now.

Electrical output is a measure of industrial might. In that lies Canada’s strength. It is said that the Soviet Union, too, will emerge from this war with a greater power output than before the war. One previously unheard-of station—that of Krasnogorsk in the Urals—has had its power increased by five times and has now become the largest in Russia and all Europe.

Gigantic Plants

Scores of gigantic new industrial plants have arisen in the Urals. One such plant — the Kirov works in Molotovo—was evacuated from Leningrad along with 20,000 workers. Now it employs 60,000. All plants existing at the outbreak of war have been expanded. One huge armament plant increased its production 650% as compared with before the war. Despite this it enlarged its machinery only by 50% and its labor force by only 20%.

Recently at Nizhny Tagil in the Urals, a new blast furnace was established. It has a capacity of 400,000 tons of pig iron a year. Near the steel mill is being completed the Nizhny Tagil car works, which will be the largest of its kind in the world. It will turn out more cars than all the other Soviet railway car works put together.

On the Karaganda coal mining regions of the southeast Urals, new opencut mines were started two months ago with a capacity of a million tons a year. Farther south, in the heart of Central Asia, the Uzbekistan steel works was opened in March. East of that, in the Kara Tau ranges, huge phosphate deposits with a capacity of a million and a half tons a month have been tapped. Formerly phosphates had to be brought from the Urals by rail in 1,500 trains which now are freed for other uses.

Russia has already shown itself to the world as a first-rate military giant. Now it appears that despite grievous wounds the Russians .have reinforced their industries during the war years. They still have a tremendous job to do in rebuilding the wreckage left by the Germans. But by increasing the efficiency of their labor, by cutting production costs and by augmenting their output they have laid the foundations for overcoming the ruin of war.