Back in the mid 1970s, the cyclic economy effected aircraft companies like Douglas, by reducing the sales of transport planes. When sales were down, the typical MBA management response was to layoff workers, both hourly and salary types, like engineers and machinists. By throwing people out in the street, money could be saved to keep the factories ( and Management) alive until aircraft sales began to return. But if you were the one going out with a family to support it wasn’t a satisfactory solution and created resentment. All employees wanted a long-term and stable industry to work in.
I worked for the Tooling Dept at that time and most of the bosses were men from the shop floors who had worked themselves up into responsible positions and had a much different attitude. One day, I was told by the bosses to come with them on a car trip and listen and learn something and keep quiet. We drove about 40 mi to a GM factory in Van Nuys, CA where GM made car parts and assemblies. The GM shop managers met us and gave a tour of the factory shops. As we walked the floors, our Douglas bosses in charge of similar departments began to ask about various operations like machining engine pistons. They told the GM guys that they would do the machining at Douglas for $2/piston, a very lowball price. We traveled into the sheet metal fab shops and once again a boss gave a quote that GM could not resist for us to build the heater ducts and systems. There were more as we went on. The purpose of bringing in work was to just “keep the lights on, keep the workers employed and pay the rent”.
Within a week, I walked thru Douglas machine shops and saw bins of pistons being machined and heater parts being assembled into Chevy heaters. The old bosses had brought in the work to keep the shop employees busy so they would not be laid-off and would be available when the economy resumed strength and airlines would order planes again. They were not adding much to the Company income but it did save jobs and valuable skills until later.
I never forgot those lessons and there were times I went out and brought in work for my departments because these bosses showed me how and the wisdom of maintaining a skilled workforce when times were rough.
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