WE should consider a plant as a living, growing thing, ever changing for better or worse. It must not only be considered from a standpoint of present efficiency when compared with other plants, but its growth in efficiency must be keeping pace with the general progress. Slow growth, due to over-conservatism or lack of courage, may result in a serious loss of relative position ; and, on the other hand, the forced growth sometimes causes a temporary discomfiture, due to failure of organization to adapt itself to the new conditions.
Although the efficiency of the plant as a whole makes the real value, it becomes necessary to consider the elements of its equipment when we wish to find the proper places for pruning and cultivation. Each process and each machine should be compared with the best obtainable to-day for the particular work. This does not mean the latest, but it does mean the best for the work as it comes in this plant to-day and with some view of its probable nature to-morrow.
A machine may be of any age so long as it is the most efficient for the work required of it. But, just as a plant may pass from a state of value to one of no value as a plant, so an individual machine may lose its real value for a given class of work. This transition from value to no value is generally due to the particular machine having been superseded by something of much greater efficiency. This may occur one year or thirty years after it has been installed. .
The process, then, of keeping a plant in permanently profitable condition requires the substitution of the efficient for the inefficient, and the natural place to begin is in that class of machinery in which the greatest difference exists between the best obtainable and that in use.
If the recent progress has been made in planing machines, and the greatest saving can be effected by changes in the planer department, then let the progressive work take place there. If, on the other hand, no great advancement has been recently made in this art, but has been in machines for lathe work, then, let the old planers run, and get the saving by correcting the lathe methods.
The cost of new machinery to be put in each year cannot be stated in figures of percentage to total equipment, for it depends on the opportunities and necessities involved in the natural progress of the art. This cost at times adds no burden to the cost of running for the year, for in some instances the saving effected during the year is greater than the first cost of installation, so that the real cost for introduction of some later-day machines may be counted only as time and mental energy involved in carefully considering the problem.
IN some of the discussion which follows it is necessary to deal with the strictly mechanical, but it will be done in such a manner that, barring a few paragraphs, every one may clearly understand the governing principles which will serve as pointers in considering many of the processes involved in present machine shop practice, for, although many marvelous and intricate machines are now in use which are thoroughly understood by only a few men, the art has not yet advanced so far that its fundamental principles are beyond the comprehension of the business man or financier. We do not mean that we may not be bewildered by a sleight-o'-hand performer who directs attention to some insignificant act with one hand while he is performing the real act with the other hand, but we mean that in the discussion that follows the bottom principles will be set forth without reference to the number of teeth in each gear or any other mass of details that has no bearing on the essential facts.