Shop Efficiency and Neatness

By R.O. Vandercook from The Inland Printer, June 1912

For the numerical majority of printers, so to speak, this article is written. The really prosperous shop, big or little, will find nothing

new in it. I mean those that succeed without pull or undue favoritism and by the force of merit alone.

Judging from statistics compiled by men who ought to know, the really prosperous shops are very much in the minority. These statisticians say that only two thousand to three thousand of the thirty-five thousand printing-offices in this country have a credit rating to exceed $5,000. This means that the great majority of printing-offices are small, or are in an unsatisfactory financial condition. This also means that of the eighteen thousand circulation of  “The Inland Printer, a great majority of it must go to the small shop or the struggling large shop; for, after the two or three thousand shops rated at $5,000 and over are supplied, both employers and employees, there must needs be a majority of the circulation to the shops of the other kind.

The really prosperous shop, whether large or small, shows itself to the trained eye at a glance. So infallible are these little signs, that a very satisfactory basis of credit can be determined by the appearance of the shop. Put it down as an absolute fact that all really prosperous shops, large or small, are neat and orderly; not because they are prosperous, but that they are prosperous because they are neat and orderly.

The larger the shop, and the greater the number of employees, the more stringent must become the rules for neatness and order. A little shop may exist and escape bankruptcy in a lack of order and system that would bankrupt a large shop; but without an innate aversion to slovenliness in all its forms on the part of the responsible head, it will never grow to be a really prosperous shop, big or little.

The experienced supplymen know this. They also know that it is well to cultivate the little fellow, for from him the big fellows are developed. It is rare, but it sometimes happens that a printer gets an exaggerated idea of the value of appearances only. This leads to extravagance. Real order and neatness is the least expensive thing to keep up in a printing-office and pays better than any other investment of time or money.

Good brooms and cleaning cloths are cheap, and it ought not to take several years’ apprenticeship to learn how to use them properly.

You can’t have too much daylight (clean windows will often let it in), or too little dust and dirt, or too few dark corners. If the boss is not executive enough to get others to sweep and clean up the shop properly, the most noble thing for him to do, and at the same time the very best investment of his ability, is to do it himself. It is good medicine for the boss, especially of the smaller shop, occasionally to do the picking up and cleaning work himself. It gives the boys an idea of how important is that comparatively simple and easy work. It keeps the boss in closer touch with the basic elements of the plant.

Here is how a manager made several hundred dollars in one after-

His whole time was taken in a struggle to get enough work to keep his eight men busy and to meet his pay-roll and bills. The harder he worked on the outside, the worse off he seemed to be. One noon, however, thoroughly disgusted with the business, he sat in his office and thought. The proposition shaped itself like this: What was the use of hustling work into the shop if the more he got the worse he seemed to be? He would pay strict attention to the shop and see if the trouble could be located there. No; it would be no use to fire the old men at first. He would try a new system on them, and if the old employees did not fall in line with it, he would change the help later.

He went into the shop and looked around until time was called.

He told the foreman to send the boy out for nine new, good brooms, and a pair of overalls for himself. When the foreman had a broom shoved into his hand, he protested: “You can’t afford to pay my time for janitor work.” “Well, I’m going to, and the time of every other printer here, and take my own time, too.” With that the manager put on his new overalls and headed the broom brigade of eight printers.

At first the men seemed to think that the old man was playing a joke on them, or had lost his mental balance, but when they saw him make the dirt fly from dark corners they fell into the spirit of the thing and in half an hour the shop had such a sweeping and cleaning as it had not had in years. Out of dark corners came valuable material, cast aside in the hustle to keep the shop going. The amount of good, usable material that was brought to light and made as good as new in that one afternoon of energetic clean-up was alone worth several hundred dollars. Every machine was thoroughly cleaned, and worn and defective parts noted. A place was made for every tool and accessory in the composing-room and pressroom.

The next day machine repairs began. The boss knew machines pretty well, and the results he obtained by the expenditure of a few dollars seemed like a miracle to his men.

The next day after the clean-up, more good product was finished in the shop than ever before in like time in its history, and a great deal more than made up for the half day that was not lost in the cleaning up.

A few days later, while the two cylinder presses were busy rolling out work, the boss appeared in the pressroom and ordered the pressman to stop his presses. The feeders stopped. The pressman asked what was the matter.* See that gripper wrench alongside that stock on the feedboard? I would rather pay you for a second’s time now in putting it where it belongs than for ten minutes’ time hunting for it the next time you want it, or for smashed type and changing form should it slide down.

The hard call-down the pressman got had a salutary effect on the other men. It took some work to have the men get the habit of never laying a tool down, but always to put it where it belonged.

The sale of worn, defective and out-of-date material as junk fully paid all the cash expenses on press repairs and other things needed in the clean-up.

Business increased rapidly. The manager did not have to wear out shoe-leather “hustling” in work. Customers kept him pretty busy in“ his office. They came to see him. The efficiency of the shop and the

quality of the work made business grow without outside hustling. It was not long before there was no lost energy worrying about pay-rolls and bills, and this was all before the days of cost congresses.

Extravagances will never fool a trained printing-office observer.

Extravagance is shown by straining for appearances for appearance sake only. Clean, white walls are neat and effective. Heavy paper and mural filigree are extravagant and inefficient. White or soft toned alabastine is cheap and easily applied. The practical effect of the increased light in a workroom much more than pays for keeping the walls light and clean all the time.

A gummed-up, dirty machine looks bad. A machine that is kept clean can be properly oiled. Work is liable to be damaged while passing through a dirty, greasy machine. The work of keeping a machine clean is more than paid for by its increased efficiency, so cleanliness really costs nothing, but makes a profit. Dusty, dirty floors ruin type and material that is dropped inadvertently; so that clean floors save more money than they cost.

Valuable material finds its way into dark corners and is forgotten. Cut out all such places and keep material, as far as possible, in the open.

Printing ink, when properly applied, produces beautiful results and increased business, but when applied to a feeder’s hands and transferred from thence, in fingerprints, to a job, is not a thing to be admired. It costs time to insist that feeders always wash their hands before handling stock. Because the aforesaid hands are clean, and more of an ornament than inky “paws,” need not be your object in enforcing clean hands. You do it because there is less spoilage and more business, and therefore more dollars in clean hands. You incidentally You incidentally get a telling point in neatness in your shop.

For the same reason it costs less to keep the stock free from dust than it does to allow it to accumulate. If your innate sense of neatness and order will not guide you, work out the problems from an efficiency standpoint. Every right move toward efficiency in a printing office is also a move toward neat appearance.

Bright metalwork may or may not be neat, in a printing-office sense. If the bright metal is on a machine where it is subject to friction, it should be kept bright by hand-rubbing, but if the bright metal parts are only for show and receive no friction, paint them over and save your elbow grease.

You like to have your friends call, socially, at your home. You spend money to have your home parlor as neat and attractive as your neighbor’s. Did it ever occur to you that if you made your business office attractive to your customers, you would have more business calls and also get the reputation of being a neat and orderly printer?

Most of your life, while awake, is of necessity spent in your shop and office. Are you not entitled to spend some time and money in making the place where you must spend most of your conscious life attractive and of pleasant environment to yourself as well as to your customers?

A slovenly housekeeper will not have as many callers or as good a reputation in the neighborhood as a careful housekeeper. In your business you need callers and a good reputation more than you need them socially.

Don’t fear that business callers will waste your time if your office is decent. The etiquette of business always excuses a business man from talking anything else but business during business hours. You will never offend a good customer or business man by confining your conversation strictly to business and excusing yourself when through.

You say you are entitled to get some pleasure out of life. Try making your office and the environment of your life’s work attractive, and see if it is not the least expensive and at the same time the best-paying pleasure you can get.

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