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And We Call Ourselves Efficient!

Condensed from the Scientific American (June '26)

H. W. Slauson, M.E.


Mtransportation engineer of the

Port of New York, says that the principal costs of making a freight shipment consist in the expense of crating the goods and in trucking them to and from the railroad or steamship. He tells of an importer who found that hauling a quantity of imported goods four miles through New York by truck cost more than the 3000 miles of transatlantic shipment! We can realize, therefore, why he estimates that the loss to shippers and receivers of freight and express-which loss, of course, is passed on to you and me, the ultimate consumer-approximates one-half million dollars a day in New York City alone.

But New York is not necessarily any worse in this respect than others of our so-called thriving, hustling cities.

A motor truck is economical when it can work at high capacity, and at comparatively high speed. Insurance, drivers' wages, interest on investment, and other items continue when the truck is moving slowly or standing still. The Major estimates that the minimum cost of such a truck is six cents per minute, whether traveling at zero, or at 15 miles an hour, and declares that "the cost of trucking is measured by time, not distance."

This same engineer has also discovered that the average waiting time of each truck at piers and at other shipping terminals, is 68 minutes, including 14 minutes loading and unloading time. Furthermore, because of this waste of time, the average load carried is only one and one-half tons. Is it any wonder that freight can be hauled by rail from New York to Buffalo for approximately the same cost

as that of two or three miles delivery transportation charges to its consignment point in the city?

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Automobile owners no longer go "pleasure riding" in the city. Almost every vehicle which we see streets represents a necessary medium of transportation. Were it not for the private passenger cars, there would be a greater number of taxicabs. Were there fewer taxicabs, there might be more buses or trolley cars.

Naturally, the most efficient traffic is that which can move rapidly. The stationary or parked vehicle, therefore, represents the real problem in our traffic congestion situation. Solve that problem, and we would have no traffic tangles or four-mile-an-hour trucking speeds.

"A place for every stationary vehicle," should be the slogan of every modern city. We have conceived great plans for elevated express roadways, vehicular tunnels and pedestrian

bridges and underpasses. But these are expensive remedies, they do not provide for the maximum needs of any locality, and they furnish but scant solution to the problem of the stationary vehicle.

What has produced our traffic problem? It is the concentration of business and living. Our cities are no longer planes, having but two dimensions; they are cubes. And yet we expect the same two-dimension highways to take care of our moving and stationary traffic.

A new office building, for example, may occupy a block on which once stood 30 or 40 dwellings housing 150 persons. But in the office building, Occupying exactly the same


there may be 5000 workers. They must go daily to and from this building. Their customers must come and go. They must be supplied with office necessities, goods to sell, and with heat and food. Therefore, the traffic made absolutely necessary by that building would supply a village of 3000 or 4000 inhabitants; but there is not one foot more of parking space to meet these supply requirements than was the case in the brownstone front days when each family was supplied with 20 or 30 feet of sidewalks in front of its own private property!

On all four sides of this building the same conditions either have been reproduced, or will be in the near future, if our present urban viewpoint continues. Our City Planning Commissions, for the most part, have been sadly lax in foreseeing these conditions. They have permitted the erection of veritable hives of apartment dwellers and office workers, but have made no provision for compelling the solution of the traffic and transportation problem which these new building conditions create. True, some modern buildings have been constructed with street-level arcades cut under the building to furnish vehicular space to what would normally be the building line, and to provide pedestrian space actually within the building proper.

As a supplement to this system however, we should provide parking facilities for every vehicle brought to that vicinity by the increased requirements of the building occupying the space in question. In designing a modern building, the architect devotes a certain percentage of its otherwise available rental space for stairways and elevator shafts. But he must do more. The owner of a modern building should be glad to devote at least five per cent of its profitable space to the temporary storage of the vehicles which the business or social activity of the occupants of that building brings to its immediate vicinity.

What would we think of a railroad which undertook to serve a thriving city and yet did not provide freight yards and passenger depots? We would tell that railroad that it must provide space in which the contents of passenger and freight trains could be discharged, or taken on, without interfering seriously with the remainder of the traffic service which that corporation was supposed to furnish.

The required parking and delivery area cannot well be obtained from open space which is otherwise available for building construction. But present-day buildings are constructed with three, four, five and even six cellars or sub-basements in which fuel and other supplies are stored.

The first of these otherwise unproductive sub-cellars should be connected with the street by means of a sloping roadway, as is typical of modern garage construction. In the sub-cellar thus made available, could be stored all cars and other vehicles, the owners or drivers of which have occasion to transact business within the building. In this sub-cellar also all deliveries for the building could be made, and easy connection with the freight elevators obtained. One of the most serious impediments to traffic is the long wheelbase truck which is backed to the curb and which over angs partially across the sidewalk.

Such a plan would, of course, add somewhat to the cost of building con. struction and maintenance. It could, however, be assessed partially against the tenants who made use of such a service which would keep their cars under observation, protected from bad weather, and available at any moment. This personal convenience, however, is not the primary object of this plan, and its light cost is borne by the tremendous saving which would follow through the increased speed of traffic and the restoration of city streets to their original purpose of highways for moving traffic.

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The New Industrial Era

Continued from June Digest (Harper's Magazine, May '26)
Charles Edward Russell

HEN you pay your bill at a hotel, how large a part of the charge represents duplication, waste, and things dictated by hoary custom? Judging by the work of several committees of the Department of Commerce, I should think Custom must get about half the toll at every hostelry. There were 700 varieties of hotel chinaware; the guest must have paid for all the time lost in making 540 of these, for a committee cut the 700 to 160. committee cut out all but four of 78 kinds of mattresses. Seventy-eight kinds of blankets came down to 12; 78 kinds of metal beds to two; 78 varieties of bed-springs to two.


Then what? A company that operates a chain of hotels cut 30 styles of glassware to ten, 15 designs of carpets to three, all patterns of table-linen to one, and simplified nearly 200 other verie items. Thus it released from former and inventories $350,000 and saved $100,elen 000. And the guest never missed any of these retrenchments.

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A new fashion set in. change was well started it began to go of itself. A food manufacturer compared his sales and cut his varieties 89 per cent. He found as a result that he could cut his selling force 73 per cent, his advertising 78 per cent, his overhead 80 per cent, while his volume of sales increased 600 per cent. His customers did not get so many varieties of apricot jam, but what they got cost them and the maker less.

A company that owned a chain of drug-stores reduced its stock to varieties most in demand and cut out the moribund or inactive items. The varieties of commodities that it formerly had carried came down from 22,000 to 10,000. Whereupon this company in

creased its volume of business 40 per cent, its turnover 70 per cent, decreased its investment account 14 per cent, and its inventory 56 per cent. With these savings it was able to increase its wage rate 100 per cent.

Industries that have experimented with the new order commonly report some such grateful change. The reason is simple: concentrated salesmanship and the elimination of scattered efforts.

A shoe manufacturer found that he had three grades and 2500 styles in each grade. He cut this to one grade and 100 styles. He thereby cut his production cost 31 per cent, overhead 28 per cent, inventories 26 per cent, and cost to consumer 27 per cent. He was selling 22 per cent more of women's shoes and 80 per cent more of men's.

In great things and in small, to plug up the leaks is the word now. There used to be 150 varieties of men's collars on the market; a little study eut them to 25. There were 200 varieties of certain canned goods; study reduced them to 22. The varieties of cotton duck came down from 460 to 94; electric lamp bases from 179 to six. A committee found 1114 varieties of brass lavatory and sink traps on the market and recommended that 1042 of these be dropped. In lumber 60 per cent of the varieties made were cut out and all the rest standardized. The economies that resulted astonished even the revolutionists.

When they approached the department of women's wear a fearful cry went up that Mr. Hoover was plotting to dress our women-folk in a hideous uniformity. But all that was desired was a common and definite language

In this industry. The reformers were accused of decreeing that every woman should wear a dress 29 inches in the waist-line. All that reform really desired was that everywhere in the United States Size 29 should mean exactly the same thing.

We may as well settle down to accept a change that is inevitable and destined to go on and on, widening as it goes. All varieties of production, from apples to zinc, will have to undergo it, as the race for markets wherein we can dispose of unconsumed surpluses narrows and grows fiercer.

Up to January 15, 1926, 50 industries had adopted the new methods through and through, about 200 more had com. mittees at work, and another 200 were studying the subject. Next we are to note that hundreds of individual plants have upon their own initiative started the war on waste. What it totals to date, therefore, is to be esti mated. In all likelihood, more than a billion dollars a year have been cut from American production costs. Suppose this to go on, and there is no reason why it should not go on, the whole world and all the world's commercial adjustments will have to move to meet it.

For instance, since the World War, speaking generally, manufactured products of the United States have been largely excluded from the world's market places by reason of the high American cost of production, due to the high American wage-level. The new order in manufacturing is changing all that. Having now increased efficiency and decreased waste, there are many things of foreign demand we can manufacture on a high wagelevel for less than the foreigner can manufacture them on a low wagelevel.

Mr. Ford with his six-dollar-a-day workmen can outsell foreign automobile makers with their two-dollar-a-day workmen. Everybody knows that Mr. Ford's supremacy was attained by organization, simplification, standardization. What these did for automobile

making they are now to do for the making of other things. Economy is already achieving these results, as shown by statistics. Today the United States is the only nation in the world that has increased its foreign commerce above pre-war levels. We are 25 per cent ahead of the best we did before the war; Great Britain is 10 per cent worse. And each year our foreign trade increases.

We can become the world's workshop. In certain lines, American goods can become the world's supply for the simple reason that we can produce these goods more cheaply than anybody else. American electric goods are today displacing in Switzerland the products of German factories less than 100 miles away.

So vast an expansion of American foreign trade will automatically produce another result of historic moment. It will restore the American merchant marine. Indeed it is already working to that end: since the Civil War we have not had so large a proportion of America's foreign trade borne in American bottoms. We no longer need shipping subsidies. By standardization, simplification, and organization we are almost at a point where we can turn out a ship as cheaply as any other country, despite our high wages. For 60 years the United States has not been a maritime nation. It seems likely now once more to become one, for if these indications are fulfilled the American flag will be more widely carried about this globe than it was in 1860.

There is still another phase of the general subject, so far unmentioned and not wholly delectable. By no possibility could a change so great come upon a nation's industry without deeply affecting its political, social, and cultural life. In all ways we are facing a new America. What kind of an America it may be is a speculation so curious that we had better leave all of it to the next chapter in the history of these marvels.

Mr. Russell's second article on Standardization appears in the June Century,

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The Test of the Genteel

Condensed from Harper's Magazine (June '26)
Cornelia James Cannon

HE world is today filled with the lamentations of the "genteel." They declare that they, who are the custodians of the refinements of life, are being forced out of existence. The high cost of labor, they assert, brings about a lamentable increase h in the cost of homes, of personal service, and of the things of beauty and utility upon which the quality ris of the life of the genteel depends. They claim that the new materialists ignore the contributions of the middle-class to civilization, and consent to the discontinuance of its gifts and to the annihilation of its members.

The fact is that a bloodless revolution is taking place in this country which is not eliminating the middleclass, but is, instead, enormously increasing its numbers. Never in the history of the world has there been such a spectacle.


For generations mankind has been theorizing about such a possibility. But, while the churches, humanitarians, college faculties, and socialists have been advocating economic equality, the miracle has happened, independent of activities of any and all of them. When a carpenter receives $12 a day and a plasterer $14, when a plumber is paid $1.25 an hour, and a painter $1.30, the fact cannot be glossed over that a new world-order has come into being.

The plight of the genteel is in reality due to the fact that the traditional life of their group is based upon abundant personal service, whether it be supplied by the slaves of Greece in 500 B. C. or by the undermanned servant-class of the United States in 1926. When the genteel life is threatened by a shortage of personal service, as it is today, it means that the opportunities for free choice of occupation ➡are rapidly increasing. If in many com

munities cooks and laundresses are not to be had, the reason is that economic conditions have become so favorable to the workers that they can desert the field of domestic service which is regarded as socially undesirable.

Too long have the genteel accepted as a part of the inevitable nature of things their monopoly of a margin above the subsistence line, their freedom of choice as to the work they should do, and their leisure to enjoy life. The addition of large numbers of their fellows to their category has produced in them an uneasy sense of indignity and uncertainty as to the future.

If the refinements of life are actually dependent upon an elaboration of personal service at the hands of our co-citizens, the 20th century must relapse into barbarism. We are no longer able to demand or receive such attentions from anyone. But the absence of servants, inability to afford a trip to Europe, and inconvenient housing conditions, do not seem too much for us to offer up for a world in which most of us can be clean and warm and fed, in which girls are not tempted to sell themselves for a living, in which the children of laborers may graduate from high schools, in which the washwoman comes for our laundry in her automobile, and in which tenement districts bristle with radio masts.

The genteel suspect materialism among the workers who press for increases of wages. Yet the criterion of materialism is the use to which a man puts his money. What are the members of the new economic group actually doing with their increased wages? They are obviously buying automobiles; but there is one other commodity so sought that the supply cannot keep up with the demand.

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