On The Method Of Observing Manufacturies
Category: On the domestic and political economy of manufactures
160. Having now reviewed the mechanical principles which
regulate the successful application of mechanical science to
great establishments for the production of manufactured goods, it
remains for us to suggest a few enquiries, and to offer a few
observations, to those whom an enlightened curiosity may lead to
examine the factories of this or of other countries.
The remark--that it is important to commit to writing all
information as soon as possible after it is received, especially
when numbers are concerned--applies to almost all enquiries. It
is frequently impossible to do this at the time of visiting an
establishment, although not the slightest jealousy may exist; the
mere act of writing information as it is communicated orally, is
a great interruption to the examination of machinery. In such
cases, therefore, it is advisable to have prepared beforehand the
questions to be asked, and to leave blanks for the answers, which
may be quickly inserted, as, in a multitude of cases, they are
merely numbers. Those who have not tried this plan will be
surprised at the quantity of information which may, through its
means, be acquired, even by a short examination. Each manufacture
requires its own list of questions, which will be better drawn up
after the first visit. The following outline, which is very
generally applicable, may suffice for an illustration; and to
save time, it may be convenient to have it printed; and to bind
up, in the form of a pocket-book, a hundred copies of the
skeleton forms for processes, with about twenty of the general
Outlines of a description of any of the mechanical arts ought to
contain information on the following points
Brief sketch of its history, particularly the date of its
invention, and of its introduction into England.
Short reference to the previous states through which the
material employed has passed: the places whence it is procured:
the price of a given quantity.
[The various processes must now be described successively
according to the plan which will be given in (161); after which
the following information should be given.]
Are various kinds of the same article made in one establishment,
or at different ones, and are there differences in the processes?
To what defects are the goods liable?
What substitutes or adulterations are used?
What waste is allowed by the master?
What tests are there of the goodness of the manufactured
The weight of a given quantity, or number, and a comparison
with that of the raw material?
The wholesale price at the manufactory? (L s. d.) per ( )
The usual retail price? (L s. d.)
Who provide tools? Master, or men? Who repair tools? Master,
What is the expense of the machinery?
What is the annual wear and tear, and what its duration?
Is there any particular trade for making it? Where?
Is it made and repaired at the manufactory?
In any manufactory visited, state the number ( ) of
processes; and of the persons employed in each process; and the
quantity of manufactured produce.
What quantity is made annually in Great Britain?
Is the capital invested in manufactories large or small?
Mention the principal seats of this manufacture in England;
and if it flourishes abroad, the places where it is established.
The duty, excise. or bounty, if any, should be stated, and
any alterations in past years; and also the amount exported or
imported for a series of years.
Whether the same article, but of superior, equal, or inferior
make, is imported?
Does the manufacturer export, or sell, to a middleman, who
supplies the merchant?
To what countries is it chiefly sent? and in what goods are
the returns made?
161. Each process requires a separate skeleton, and the
following outline will be sufficient for many different
Process ( ) Manufacture ( )
Place ( ) Name ( )
The mode of executing it, with sketches of the tools or
machine if necessary.
The number of persons necessary to attend the machine. Are
the operatives men. ( ) women, ( ) or children? ( ) If mixed,
what are the proportions?
What is the pay of each? (s. d.) (s. d. ) (s. d.) per ( )
What number ( ) of hours do they work per day?
Is it usual, or necessary, to work night and day without
stopping? Is the labour performed by piece--or by day-work?
Who provide tools? Master, or men? Who repair tools? Master,
or men? What degree of skill is required, and how many years' ( )
The number of times ( ) the operation is repeated per day or
The number of failures ( ) in a thousand?
Whether the workmen or the master loses by the broken or
What is done with them?
If the same process is repeated several times, state the
diminution or increase of measure, and the loss, if any, at each
162. In this skeleton, the answers to the questions are in
some cases printed, as Who repair the tools?--Masters, Men; in
order that the proper answer may be underlined with a pencil. In
filling up the answers which require numbers, some care should be
taken: for instance, if the observer stands with his watch in his
hand before a person heading a pin, the workman will almost
certainly increase his speed, and the estimate will be too large.
A much better average will result from enquiring what quantity is
considered a fair day's work. When this cannot be ascertained,
the number of operations performed in a given time may frequently
be counted when the workman is quite unconscious that any person
is observing him. Thus the sound made by the motion of a loom may
enable the observer to count the number of strokes per minute,
even though he is outside the building in which it is contained.
M. Coulomb, who had great experience in making such observations,
cautions those who may repeat his experiments against being
deceived by such circumstances: 'Je prie' (says he) 'ceux qui
voudront les repeter, s'ils n'ont pas le temps de mesurer les
resultats apres plusiers jours d'un travail continu, d'observer
les ouvriers a differentes reprises dans la journee, sans qu'ils
sachent qu'ils sont observes. L'on ne peut trop avertir combien
l'on risque de se tromper en calculant, soit la vitesse, soit le
temps effectif du travail, d'apres une observation de quelques
minutes.' Memoires de l'Institut. vol. II, p. 247. It frequently
happens, that in a series of answers to such questions, there are
some which, although given directly, may also be deduced by a
short calculation from others that are given or known; and
advantage should always be taken of these verifications, in order
to confirm the accuracy of the statements; or, in case they are
discordant, to correct the apparent anomalies. In putting lists
of questions into the hands of a person undertaking to give
information upon any subject, it is in some cases desirable to
have an estimate of the soundness of his judgement. The questions
can frequently be so shaped, that some of them may indirectly
depend on others; and one or two may be inserted whose answers
can be obtained by other methods: nor is this process without its
advantages in enabling us to determine the value of our own
judgement. The habit of forming an estimate of the magnitude of
any object or the frequency of any occurrence, immediately
previous to our applying to it measure or number, tends
materially to fix the attention and to improve the judgement.
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