Department Index

Planning office in St. Mary's College. Photo 1950



The Planning Office

The Planning Office served the main manufacturing and general service departments in Cadby Hall and elsewhere, as well as the company's Corner Houses and Teashops. Its brief was to search for the simplest way in performing the thousands of jobs which were undertaken to produce the company's products. It was the start of what became known as Organisation & Methods (O&M). All the jobs performed by staff operating machines or working from packing bands, conveyors, service counters etc. called for physical effort of some kind. It was this effort, something that could be seen and judged, with which the staff in the Planning Office were concerned. The Planner's task was to find the quickest and simplest method of doing a job and he must strive always to eliminate unnecessary physical effort and consequent loss of time on the part of the operator. The principle of simplicity applied whether the Planner was studying the manufacture of Swiss rolls in Cadby Hall, the ironing of a garment at Hayes laundry, or the service to a customer in a teashop.

Every job was studied in great detail and the Planner had to be certain of the purpose of the job under study. He (they were almost exclusively male) first studied the whole job to see exactly what was done, then he broke the job down into easily recognisable elements and prepared to investigate each element in turn. He had to ask himself if the equipment was suitable for the job or could something more suitable improve the task. Could the layout of the work place be improved. Did the operator have the materials at hand, within easy reach, to do the job. What movements were required of the operator and could they be simplified. Many jobs could not be started until others had been completed and delays of this sort were investigated.

Having satisfied himself as to the method, the Planner then set about calculating a standard time a job should take. As in the offices, Planners were obsessed with standard times and these were considered vital to planning work in the factories and other department. One of the factors which had to be taken into account was the fact that many of the company's products were perishable foodstuff which had to be supplied to agents and establishments according to a rigid timescale. Every stage in production and distribution was timed as precisely as possible since a delay of only a few minutes could make itself felt along the line and possibly in other departments as well. Apart from their use in production and distribution, the standard times were supplied to two other offices. The Statistical Office used them in calculating the cost of the labour required for the production of an article. And the Wages Office used them to prepare labour statistics and to calculate premium bonuses for those people in the factories who were engaged on work for which a bonus was paid.

The Planning Office was organised in twelve sections. Eleven of the sections carried out the functions described above for a particular department or group of departments. A section used to consist of from four to six Planners depending upon the volume of work involved, all working under a section supervisor. Most of the sections were accommodated in Cadby Hall (St Mary's College), even though in some cases their studies were made in departments outside. However, for convenience of management, Planning Sections were placed at Hayes Laundry, Greenford, Rannoch Road and Orchard House. The twelfth section was the Typist Section, which provided a service for all Planners based at Cadby Hall. In a predominantly male office, the small number of girls had the task of typing and issuing the hundreds of detailed specifications of the jobs which had been studied, typing reports and providing a filing service. Some 3,000 detailed specifications of jobs were issued every year, quite apart from special reports. The work of the office affected in some way the work of some 15,00o of the company's employees at Cadby Hall.


© Peter Bird 2005