Empire Trade Requires Uniform Standards
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 29 Apr 1932, p. 174-187
Le Maistre, Charles D., Speaker
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Item Type
What is understood in the old country by standardization, particularly industrial standardization. Two main categories of industrial standards: one dealing with dimensions, and the other with the quality of materials and performance of machinery. How far standardization has come, with examples. The national movement for standardization in Great Britain, started some 30 years ago. What is meant by "industry." Representation on committees to undertake standardization. The change from the British Engineering Standards Association to the British Standard Institution, opening up the process to other trade interests in the country. The administrative structure of the Association. National purchasing specifications and how they give the manufacturers the protection of fair dealing between each other; how they protect the workers and the public. Some illustrative examples. Extending British export trade. How national purchasing specifications are proving to be one of the most effective means in extending export trade. Coordinating the efforts of the National Standardizing bodies while not imposing British standards on to the Dominions. Support from Australia and New Zealand. Applying the process to Canada's timber industry. Solving the problem of sending each other unsuitable goods.
Date of Original
29 Apr 1932
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Full Text
Friday, April 29,1932.

LUiEUT.-COLONEL GEO. A. DREW, President, introduced the speaker.

MR. LEMAISTRE: This is, as you may well imagine, a very great pleasure to he here once again in Toronto, and it is indeed a great honour as well as a privilege to have this opportunity of addressing so many eminent professional and business men.

Now, you will not expect me in the short time at my disposal to traverse the whole field of standardization; it is vast, and its ramifications extend equally as the ramifications of industry itself does. However, before entering upon the important subject of my mission to the Dominions, 1 think it may be well to spend a few moments giving, for the information of those who are entirely unfamiliar with this subject, what we in the old country understand by standardization, and particularly industrial standardization.

Now, you all know that many years ago it became absolutely imperative to establish standards of weights, and standards of lengths, and, more recently, standards by which you can measure your electric light and. power bills, and in those countries which use gas as an illuminant, your gas bills. Those are quite rightly established by the various governments and maintained with the utmost precision by them; in fact, as you will all realize, our life would he chaotic without them.

Now, we look upon those as fundamental standards. Industrial standards can themselves be divided quite reasonably and easily into two main categories, one dealing with dimensions, and the other with the quality of materials and performance of machinery.

With regard to the dimensionals: it is enormously important where interchangeability of component parts of machinery is involved to have that dimensional standardization; you have only to look to the marvelous success of the motor car industry-the automobile industry-to see where their services would be without standardization. But, mark you, that is individual and not national. I came here to speak about the national standardization.

But dimensional standardization has not gone very far, it is true, nationally, but there are a few rather important exceptions. For instance, you realize the sizes of steel shapes or sections or beams. In point of fact, the very first piece of work which our organization did when it was very small, thirty years ago, was started because the steel merchants of London-amongst them some engineers-realized that they had an immense amount of capital locked up in their stocks because of the tremendous variety of steel shapes, and them was undertaken a rationalization and a standardization which saved and has saved millions of pounds. Think of what was done in war time when our Admiralty took away 114 standard sections and cut them down to 11 or 13, and built all of the ships with those.

There is another line, that of nuts and bolts. It is true it is not international, but in your country they are standardized. Moreover, consider the gas mantles, and electric lamps as being standardized. Does anybody ever go and buy an electric lamp and hire an electrician to help him put it into the electric socket? Does anybody buy a gas mantle and not expect it to go on the gas bracket? No.

And then in the latest invention of all, which makes it possible for people to hear a speech sitting quietly in their own room, at their luncheon, or their dinner, or in their easy chair; does anybody have the slightest difficulty withwe call them "valves"; you call them "tubes"? No. They go into your wireless sets with the greatest of case. All of that is due to standardization. The trouble is the housewives have taken it for granted, and they have not the, ghost of a notion of the tremendous amount of time and money and trouble expended before that was possible. Indeed, many of the inventions today we could not use if it were not for standardization.

Now, manufacturers, as you will agree, in every country are inclined not to manufacture a great quantity in too great a variety, and certainly a certain amount of rationalization is required. Of course, when you go purchasing you want to exercise your choice, but not such a great choice that you will be entirely confused. We do not all of us want to live in houses furnished with furniture of identical pattern; we do not want all of us to have clothing of identical pattern, nor even boots of one and the same type. No. We want to exercise our own individual choice, and we do not want it standardized so that it will prevent us from doing that. So we may say we do not in England look upon standardization as meaning, for instance in the automobile trade, the joining together of all the forms of motor cars into two camps, one the Rolls Royce, and the other a very cheap car for the majority, where the Rolls Royces would be bought by the millionaires and the talking picture artists, and the workers would have the rest.

Nor do we understand by "standardization" the amalgamation of all the mills of Yorkshire and Lancashire, so that very economically cloth would be made of one pattern, and all be dressed alike, like the army, and as they are trying to do in Russia. No. By industrial standardization we understand the bringing together of various branches of industry in a spirit of mutual concession, to unify and simplify their requirements on the basis of the community interest of the purchaser and the producer. That is the corner stone of the whole of our work, the community interest of the purchaser and the producer.

Now, the national movement for standardization in Great Britain was started some thirty years ago by an engineer who had the foresight to see that in order that the movement should he successful it must be based on the community of interest which I have just mentioned, of the purchaser and the producer. Moreover, that it must have the fullest governmental support in order that it might have the necessary authority throughout the country, and lastly, that no section of the community should be able to dominate any other section of the community; in fact, that the recognition should he arrived at by practical consent. Moreover, none of our work is undertaken on the suggestion of an individual, so there are not any dangers of overstandardization. The work is only undertaken after a conference with all the parties concerned, having given a consensus of opinion that such work would he valuable to industry.

By "industry" I do not mean the manufacturers alone; I mean the manufacturers and the purchasers. So that when I am speaking of industry please understand I do not mean only the manufacturers; but I mean the community of interest of all.

In setting up any committee to undertake this kind of work our organization is always particularly careful that all people who consider they have the right to give their views shall he notified from the very commencement and invited to cooperate in this work-not individually, but representatively. The fact is that in Great Britain, since the war, industry has become very highly organized, and largely because of this we have been enabled to arrive by common consent at a yet inconsiderable series of what are known as British standard specifications, for the quality of material, and for the performance of machinery and apparatus.

Now, the engineers have been public-spirited enough to go one step further and to open the doors to the whole trade of the country, so that our organization, which was recently known as the British Engineering Standards Association. is now known as the British Standard, Institution, and moreover, the engineers have agreed that all the other great trade interests of the country shall participate on an equal basis in the government of the organization.

We now have four great sections dealing with engineerin& dealing with the great chemical interests of the country, dealing with the whole of the building interests, and also with the textiles, and each of these great interests by the processes which are laid down in our by-laws, elect, each of them, nine members to our general council, and in addition we have government representatives of research, the Federation of British Industries, and the Associated Chambers of Commerce. Of course, the engineering work will continue entirely untramelled, as it was formerly. By the long experience we have gained in this engineering work, we have discovered little by little the peculiar technique, because after all, standardization is 85 per cent. human, and it is the human factor which is the most refractory part of the work. We know all of the laws of technique. In fostering this great development of this organization with its widened field, the engineers have not been blind to advantages to themselves and the others, so that we have. one central coordinating influence throughout the whole country in this work of standardization. It is no more than the coordinating influence, because each of these great sections of industry have complete technical autonomy in carrying out their work under the general council, which is the liason between them all.

Now, there are great organizations in the great selfgoverning dominions, particularly in Australia, similar to the one we have in the home country, but they are directly under the aegis of the Government, or in closer touch with it, and they are all preparing national standard specifications, that is national purchasing specifications, because that is exactly what they are. From the result of this very highly organized cooperation between the producers and the consumers and the technical officers of the Government we have between 400 and 500 working on our committees, and research department and other experts. We have, as you have here, admirable men in the teaching line, professors in the University, whose advice is invaluable so long as the dear men do not control the situation. (Laughter.)

Now these national purchasing specifications are extremely valuable to industry, because they provide for competitive tenders. This gives the manufacturers the protection of fair dealing between each other, because they are all on the same basis. They give a satisfactory, economically-obtained quality of material and so satisfy the consumers. Now, they in no way interfere with invention and design. Moreover, they are kept entirely up to modem practises by the safeguards, most rigidly applied, of periodic review and revision where it is necessary. The great desire of my Council is that never shall an industry obtain the advantage of this organization and have the British standard specifications covering their material or product, and then sit down and say, "We need not bother any more; these purchasing specifications are in the hands of all purchasers and purchasing authorities throughout the country; they are obliged to adopt them; the government makes them, so we need not trouble any more." That is Absolutely avoided by the fact that this committee is always based on the community of interests of the purchaser and the producer. I nee-d not go into that. It is quite obvious what that means.

Moreover, these specifications are of very great use in this way; that they protect the workers and the public, because they supply a reasonable quality of material and machinery, and so minimize accidents. Also-and perhaps this is one of the very most important aspects and values of the specifications-they stabilize employment because they enable manufacturers to manufacture stock in slack times. Now, I will give you two examples, one where it helps workers.

Some two years ago, or perhaps a little more, our home office, which looks after the safety of the workers under the Factory Act, found that the fatal accidents due to faulty material in the travelling cranes employed throughout the country were rising, and they, knew that something had to be done, either restrictive legislation had to he introduced into Parliament--and then do you not see the happy feeling of the Minister who is being asked questions (laughter)--or industry should put its own house in order. But how? So they turned to our organization, and they gave me the confidential report in order that I might make myself fully acquainted with all these details. Now there is a long story there, be,cause to introduce the spirit of cooperation into an industry, the representatives of these manufacturers having never been in the same room together, is no easy task. But we have succeeded and a British standard specification for the materials and the workmanship in those cranes--without touching the design or preventing invention or progress-has been adopted by the whole of the crane industry of the country, and been made obligatory after a certain date by the Home Office. How far better it is that industry should put its own house in order in that way, and what a wonderful thing it is to see those men, and there are a good number of them, meeting together, putting their feet under the same table, and agreeing. In that way far more is accomplished than often is represented by the British Standard Specifications. That is particularly a community of interest, and they have begun to realize how much better it is to have intelligent cooperation than destructive competition.

Now, with regard to stabilized employment. Our quarries masters have been for some years in a troubled state because up and down the country every civil engineer who had under his jurisdiction some portion of our main roads had different ideas of what should be the shape or length of the granite curb which faces our great roads, so that the poor quarries have the greatest difficulty to meet their orders, and at other times have had to get rid of half of their men.

They went to our Minister of Transport, and the Minister of Transport sent them to us, and again by the same sort of process of getting both the spirit of cooperation in the industry and a fully representative committee which was formed after conference, we immediately began to make progress. We had the Ministry of Transport engineers; representatives from all the municipalities, from the corporations, from the Government, from the trade organization, from the federations; in fact, from everybody who felt that they had the right to be heard in this matter, and they also had expert men who had studied the right forms of these granite curbs to he employed on these new forms of roads, and the result has been a British standard specification for granite curbs. The Minister of Transport is perfectly happy and says to all the municipalities "Here is the British Standard specification; use it". There is also this push; few of the municipalities are doing anything in the way of road construction which do not have to appear at the door of the Treasury for a loan, and the Treasurer is in the office of the Minister of Transports, and the Minister of Transports says, "Yes, of course we will help, but all of the material will be in accordance with the British Standard Specifications". That has brought stabilized employment throughout the quarries in the home country.

I could go on for a very long time and give you such examples, but I must hasten on.

British export trade is its great preoccupation at the moment, and they are recognizing that in order to extend it, indeed to maintain the markets we already have, complete satisfaction must be given to its customers, and that they must meet, so far as possible economically, the requirements of our overseas customers. (Applause.)

Now these national purchasing specifications, from our experience, are proving to he one of the most effective means of attaining that object. I ought to sayand You will I think realise it-that the British Government for some considerable time now has been making a great drive throughout the whole country in favour of the adoption of British Standards by all purchasing departments in every walk of life. Every Government Department has instructions from the Cabinet to employ wherever possible and practicable the standard specifications, and where they do not exist, to ask for them. Of course, there are still, in government purchases, a few cases where you cannot get away from the proprietary articles, but in a larger majority of cases in the future, as in the presentbut more in the future-great purchases will be in accordance with British Standard Specifications.

Now, our desire at the last Imperial Conference was to coordinate the efforts of the National Standardizing bodies, and we ought probably to say here that there is not the slightest desire on the part of Great Britain, as represented through our British Standards Institution, in the least degree to force British standards on to the Dominion. We recognize in Great Britain the essential prosperity of your secondary industries, and what we desire is by this intelligent cooperation, as against individualism run riot, to obtain the mutual concessions, and a give and take basis which can be mutually helpful in the expansion of each others trade within this great Empire of ours.

Of course, coordination is just as important to the Dominions as it is to the home country, and fortunately I find that there is a growing recognition of the absolute necessity of complete understanding of each others requirements, because without this understanding, varying local habits and conditions impose almost insuperable difficulties to the satisfactory development of inter-Empire trade.

Now, it is in order to promote just this coordination that I have been sent to the Dominions, in the first place, to learn something of their trade requirements, and to assure the Dominions that we in Great Britain desire to the utmost, as I have just said, to meet the Dominions' requirements where we economically can. Moreover, we desire to cooperate with the Dominions' standardizing bodies in order that by drawing up joint national purchasing specifications we may open new markets for reciprocal trade.

Now, take Australia, that land of sunshine, where I am afraid, if you are in the least like I was, one looks to Australia and sees New South Wales, and judges the whole of Australia unfortunately by New South Wales. They say in Australia that New South Wales is the oldest settlement of the Commonwealth, and the least inclined to settle (laughter), and having been there for a couple of months, 1 am enormously impressed with the, tremendous future of that magnificent country, and we stand in respect and awe of the marvelous progress those people have made in the short time they have been there. We have only to go to Australia to feel the wonderful affection they one and all have for the Old Country. (Applause.)

Now, I found there the greatest sympathy and interest in this idea, which emanated from the 1930 Imperial Conference Committee on standardization. 1 find in some Dominions that it is hardly known. There is the report, it is public, and it ought to have been known by the whole of industry in all the Dominions. Perhaps I might say there that because of the silent revolution going on in industry and elsewhere in the Old Country, and the pressure of economic events, we are much more ready in the Old Country to change to new ideas and new processes and procedures, particularly when they have the backing of scientific facts, than the Dominions are inclined to feel and appreciate.

In Australia the Government gave me the fullest support and recognized the tremendous trade value of these national purchasing specifications and what they can do for the improvement and development of Empire Trade, and I hope Mr. Bruce will be one of the delegates to the Ottawa Conference, as he is very much imbued with the importance of this side of the conference work.

In New Zealand I found the same thing. The Prime Minister showed his own personal interest by taking the chair at a very representative meeting in Wellington after 1 had spoken throughout the country, and they have given effect to the desires of the Imperial Conference by the appointment of a central committee to work in direct communication with our institution in London. (Applause.)

Now, each of these national bodies is drawing up an immense number of these standard specifications, and a large number of them are of a purely local interest but the others--a certain number of them which require proper analysis-are susceptible either to collateral coordination either between that Dominion and the home country or between one Dominion and the other, and will be invaluable when they are coordinated for the assistance of inter-Empire trade.

I will give you just one example. In. one of the Dominions I found that the Old Country had lost the trade in raw materials which went to the manufacture of quite the most important industry in that Dominion, and I made it my business to find out why. It was quite simple. Neither the quality of the material or its consistency was in the least satisfactory. They had tried, as they said, until they were almost crazy to get what they wanted, but they did not seem to be able to do so; either through distance or misunderstanding or individual effort, but they desire to purchase within the Empire, in this case, from the home country. So I said to them, "You have a Central Committee; we have a Central Committee; if your industry through that Committee will ask my organization to get in touch with the manufacturers--and they are already in my organizationwe will without any serious difficulty on this basis of the community of the interest of the purchaser and producer draw, up a joint national purchasing specification to remedy the whole situation. You will purchase; you will get what you want; you will be able to compare the tenders you receive; the manufacturers will know exactly your requirements; they will all be m the same basis, and you will be assured of a reasonable quality. and you will get the trade back."

Now, if I should come closer home to you, there is your timber industry. It is getting a little late, so I will not go into it with too much detail. I have gone into that question, and I am glad to say that the timber industry in this country is fully alive to the possibilities opening through their cooperative effort as against individual effort. Individual effort is quite useful, but can you imagine any individual coming to Great Britain as a salesman and technician? You yourselves cannot expect us to send you a salesman and have you take at the face value the technique he gives you in support of his salesmanship, but get a representative committee, get the support of, for instance, the Forest Products Bureau and the similar organizations, to cooperate with us in our country and you will get technical data that is entirely above suspicion, like Caesar's wife., and we accept it at once, a national purchasing specification is drawn up by mutual agreement.

And here is the value to Canada; that is automatically accepted by the purchasers throughout the country, and at once all of the misunderstandings are removed, and the salesman then can take your joint national purchasing specifications and the authorization, and say, "I want to see you, because I want to sell you wood on the basis of a specification you yourself have accepted and drawn up."

We consider that kind of procedure is one of the most useful methods which industry can adopt throughout the Empire. Of course, the problem of getting people together to agree is not a simple one, as anybody who has had anything to do with that kind of work knows, but the machinery is there, the procedure is there, and with all the good will and desire to agree, and the economic pressure behind us makes it imperative that we should agree, and surely it is not past the wit of men and the intelligence there is throughout the Empire, to come to the most useful scheme which will go a long way to put us on our feet again.

Of course, it is no good going forward and saying "In the Old Country they will never get their purchasing authorities to alter their habits; their architects would not change," but as I said just now, we are far more ready to change than You people in the Dominions realize.

Now, if Great Britain has been sending unsuitable material and goods to the Dominions, I think I am safe in saying that the Dominions also have in certain cases been sending quite unsuitable goods, unsuitably packed, to Great Britain, so that we are all in the same boat. However, there is a growing recognition of the absolute necessity of a complete and clear understanding with regard to these matters. You know, misunderstandings occur fearfully easily. I know of a case of a naval cadet who was asked to write a thesis on "Compulsory service", and he said he did not know much about it, but he did feel there was one thing everyone would agree with, that boys at any rate should be compelled to attend one divine service each Sunday. (Laughter.) Now, I have said nothing can promote this complete understanding so well as systematized cooperation of industry and trade, under the aegis of these national standardizing bodies, for the issue of these joint national purchasing specifications. The wisdom of industry coming under the aegis of these national standardizing bodies, so far as our country is concerned, is being abundantly proven, and such enlightened cooperation will go far to remove the painful effect of destructive competition, and minimize misunderstandings, and promote fair dealings between the manufacturers individually, and not only that, but between manufacturers as a whole,, and their customers overseas.

Now, I am coming to the close of a most intensely interesting mission. The British Government has sent me all around the Dominions, and, as I said a little while ago, I am tremendously impressed with the wonders that have been done throughout the Dominions. I am enormously pleased, not only with the cordial reception 1 have received everywhere, largely because of what we represent, but with that sense of affection for the Old Country that there is throughout the Dominions, and how proud one is-more proud than ever one was beforeto be a unit in this magnificent British Commonwealth of Nations, to share in the difficulties-and we are always at our best when we have our backs against the wall, as we have now. We have been through the war together, and we have learned to coordinate without losing our individuality, and now we are in the battle for prosperity. 1 see nowhere in the Dominions pessimism. Perhaps, as we call it in England, "Down under" they have such lovely sunshine they cannot be depressed. Let none of us he depressed; let us all look forward through this community of action and community of thought throughout the Empire which is going to be concentrated into this Ottawa Conference, and you will agree with me, that we have the most marvelous heritage and the most marvelous future before us all. (Prolonged applause.)

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Empire Trade Requires Uniform Standards

What is understood in the old country by standardization, particularly industrial standardization. Two main categories of industrial standards: one dealing with dimensions, and the other with the quality of materials and performance of machinery. How far standardization has come, with examples. The national movement for standardization in Great Britain, started some 30 years ago. What is meant by "industry." Representation on committees to undertake standardization. The change from the British Engineering Standards Association to the British Standard Institution, opening up the process to other trade interests in the country. The administrative structure of the Association. National purchasing specifications and how they give the manufacturers the protection of fair dealing between each other; how they protect the workers and the public. Some illustrative examples. Extending British export trade. How national purchasing specifications are proving to be one of the most effective means in extending export trade. Coordinating the efforts of the National Standardizing bodies while not imposing British standards on to the Dominions. Support from Australia and New Zealand. Applying the process to Canada's timber industry. Solving the problem of sending each other unsuitable goods.