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Furniture Manufacturers Working at Cross Purposes---Agreement Among Themselves on Classification of Their Output the First Step to Uniformity By C. F. E. LUCE
WISH to call your attention to certain conditions existing at the present time in regard to the freight classification of furniture and the relation of these conditions to the movement we have under consideration here today. As I understand it, this movement started because of the need of more and better coöperation between the various associations, and I believe the underlying idea is for an association of associations, planned to do together those things of common interest to all which can in that manner be handled more efficiently, more intelligently, and more economically, while at the same time it would permit the present organizations to do separately those things which could be handled to the best advantage in that manner, and which would often only be of interest to the membership of the one organization.
Assuming that I am correct in my understanding of the purpose of this proposed organization, there can be no question but what freight classification would be a .matter which should be handled by the larger body or the new organization.
Furniture classification is of sufficient importance so that it should be considered as a separate department by itself, and its work should not be handicapped or hindered by any other traffic or transportation problems.
The local commercial organizations in the various cities, such as boards of trade or chambers of commerce, nearly all have traffic departments that are capable of handling all other transportation matters. But the traffic departments conducted by these local organizations are seldom if ever capable of handling classification matters properly. This is because freight classification is a national and a technical problem and therefore is one which should be handled by a national organization through a department managed by a trained specialist capable of handling the matter intelligently and who could bring to the work the benefit of long experience in this class of work.
A More Efficient Way
I believe it is unnecessary to call your attention to how much more efficiently this work could be handled in this way than to have it done through your local commercial organizations.
There are a number of reasons why a department of classification properly handled would be of the utmost importance to the furniture manufacturers. Probably most of you are aware of the fact that the classification is the foundation for every freight charge on your furniture. There are, of course, commodity rates that apply on car load shipments, but they are governed primarily by the classification and in the final analysis it is the classification that fixes the charge that you or your customers have to pay for transportation.
The classification of furniture is much higher than it is on other commodities. This has been very clearly shown in a number of different cases before the Interstate Commerce Commission, and there is no question but that if such a department is conducted properly it
An address delivered before the Federation of Furniture and Fixture Associations held in Chicago, May 14th. Mr. Luce is the Secretary of the Commercial Fixture Manufacturers Association.
would result in lower ratings being established on many articles of furniture.
Such a department is needed to push forward the work for uniformity of classification. Uniformity is something which the furniture organizations have recommended for years. The variations between the three different classifications are a constant annoyance and source of overcharge to the manufacturer and there is no real reason why these conditions should continue to exist if you, as a national organization, take the proper action in regard to the matter. At the present time the three different classifications carry over 250 descriptions of furniture, while 100 would be amply sufficient to cover all kinds of household furniture.
Uniform Classification Recommended
The Interstate Commerce Commission in its first annual report, filed in 1887, strongly recommended the uniformity of classification. That was 27 years ago and we haven't got it yet. The Uniform Classification committee have been considering furniture now for about four years. Three years ago they came to Grand Rapids and visited 58 factories and since that time there has been furnished them by the different firms and organizations a great deal of information in regard to the furniture product. It would seem that sufficient time had elapsed for the uniform descriptions to have been completed. Instead of this result having been obtained, however, the committee tells us that they hope to get to the matter some time during the coming summer. They advise that information in regard to their product has been furnished the committee by the manufacturers of upholstered furniture, parlor frames, dining and parlor tables, and that the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers have submitted a recommendation for a write-up and information as to minimum carload weights. The committee state that they may require further information, but that they can't tell just what or how much it will be until they can get to the subject again. I am advised that they are also delaying the matter on account of their waiting for suggestions from the Grand Rapids manufacturers in the nature of a write-up that would be acceptable to them.
In fact, nothing in the information furnished by them or that I can secure from any other source, would indicate that the furniture trade was any further advanced towards uniformity of classification than they were three years ago. You undoubtedly are nearer the point when the matter will be taken up, but the experience of other organizations would lead me to feel that you could look for a delay of months, and perhaps years, after the matter is taken up before it is finally adjusted or, rather, adjusted satisfactorily to you.
Send to a Competent Committee
There is no question whatever but what the only way to achieve the desired result in a reasonable length of time is to place the matter in the hands of someone who will give it proper attention and who will push it forward to a speedy conclusion.
Up to the present time the uniform committee have
completed their classification on refrigerators, store fixtures and furniture parts, but no report has been made by them on household furniture. Prompt and decisive action on the part of the manufacturers in handling this matter might result in getting such a report by January 1, 1916, and even this would mean that it would be nearly a year from now before the three committees could put the new classification in effect.
In pushing forward the work of uniform classification, such a department would have a great deal to do. It would be necessary to ascertain just what information had been furnished the uniform committee and see to it that that which had been furnished was correct.
In the past a great deal of contradictory information has been furnished this committee and if this matter was handled entirely through one department this would be avoided in the future. It would also be necessary to ascertain what further information was required by the committee and then to secure and furnish the same. It would undoubtedly also be necessary to have several hearings before the committee before the matter could be brought to a conclusion.
This uniform classification is something which you have needed for years and something which would be of great value to you, and it seems self-evident that the best policy for you to pursue in order to secure it would be to organize your forces and go after it instead of waiting for it to come to you.
I do not wish, however, to be understood as criticising the work of the uniform committee in any way. They undertook in the beginning a colossal task and a great deal of good has been accomplished. It is only natural that some industries had to wait for others and unquestionably that industry which has the best organization and does the most to cooperate with the committee to bring about the desired result themselves, will reach the desired goal quicker than one which simply pursues a policy of waiting patiently and making no organized effort to prevent delay.
No Criticism to Offer
I do not mean by this to criticise the work that has been done by your several organizations along this line in the past. On the contrary, it is simply my intention to point out a manner in which the work could be handled more efficiently and the desired result obtained much more quickly.
Had this matter been followed up three years ago, the committee would have been in a far better position to have prepared satisfactory descriptions within a few months' time than they are today. At that time the matter was fresh in their minds, while since then many changes have occurred in the membership of the committee and, to quote from a communication from one of their members, "The furniture write-up has had to be put aside from time to time owing to other matters."
Place it in Competent Hands
If you continue to pursue the waiting policy, you can expect "other matters" to continue to come up. On the other hand, if you place the matter in the hands of a competent man or men with full authority to push it forward to a conclusion, there is no doubt but that your hope for uniformity of classification will be realized much quicker than if the matter were handled as at present and a much more satisfactory classification would unquestionably be secured.
Another reason why this department is greatly needed is that when the uniform classification is completed and
presented to the other committees for adoption, there will be an excellent opportunity offered to these committees to advance the ratings on the different articles which have to be provided for under a different name. It would be only natural that the committees would propose higher ratings on many of these articles.
Must Have Competent Presentation
Then the manufacturers should be represented before the committees by a man capable of presenting their case and handling their arguments in the very best possible manner. If the various manufacturers go before the committees in person there will be conflicting statements, the subjects discussed from different view points, and the members of the committees will be quick to take advantage of anything of this kind. This has happened repeatedly in the past, and it has come to be so generally understood that a great many of the larger industries have arranged through a national organization to place all their classification work in the hands of one man or one firm in order to secure the best results. Among the industries that are following this plan through a national organization are the manufacturers of pianos, shoes, agricultural implements, automobiles, paints, oils, varnishes, the national organization of tanners, commission merchants and many others.
The need for this department, in my opinion, is great enough in itself so that it will justify the manufacturers in this line of business in forming the organization that is being considered today. This need will continue until uniformity of classification has been secured. It will continue until every article of household furniture is given a just and equitable rating, and the experience of the organization with which I am connected would indicate that to secure this result and keep it the department would have to be a permanent one.
Possible Advance in Rates
I have said but little in regard to the possibility of advances in the furniture ratings when the various committees took up the uniform committee's report, but this is something to which you should give serious consideration. If you will give the subject careful investigation and in particular look into the experiences that other organizations have had along this line, I believe that you will agree with me that the work of such a department is one of the most important, if not the most important matter that your industry could take up.
In ancient times there was a saying, "In every scheme involving human action, there are three elements always taken into account: Time, place and agency." In modern times we have added to the three mentioned, a fourth, the item of expense. It is one which must invariably be considered and which, unfortunately, is often allowed to overshadow the others.
The Time to Act is Now
Considering this matter of uniformity of classification as a transaction which should be completed in the future, I would suggest that the time to do it is now. The place should be the first meeting of your new organization, at which any business is transacted. The agency should be the best posted individual or firm on classification work that can be secured and who should be thoroughly familiar with the furniture industry. The expense is something which could not amount to more than a very small fraction of the value of this work to this industry. This new organization ought to have a membership of at least 500 manufacturers, therefore this particular department ought not to mean an expenditure to exceed from ten to twelve dollars a member per annum, and it would be cheap at many times that amount. This
expense could undoubtedly be reduced by at least onethird after the first year or eighteen months.
In conclusion, I wish to express the opinion of one individual not connected in any way with the household furniture industry, that this matter is of such vital importance
to you as manufacturers that regardless of what action you take in regard to creating a permanent organization, you should take the necessary action to place this matter in the proper hands-in other words, do this if you do nothing else, and do it now.
CONSIDERATION FOR THE EMPLOYE
Side Lights on Ford Motor Co.'s Profit Sharing Scheme---What Employe's
By HAROLD H. SMITH
T WAS expected that Leslie B. Robertson, general counsel of the Ford Motor Co., of Detroit, would be one of the speakers at the banquet of furniture manufacturers held in Chicago, and that he would outline the Ford profit-sharing plan, as was done by Mr. Lee at a recent meeting of the Grand Rapids Ad club and the Grand Rapids Association of Commerce. But this plan did not materialize, and the place of Mr. Robertson on the program was filled by Hal H. Smith, who was largely instrumental in securing the passage of the workmen's compensation act. After touching on the subject assigned to Mr. Robertson, "The Ford Profit-Sharing Plan," and drawing from it some interesting reflections and original conclusions, he proceeded:
This lesson, that cheapness is not value, is a lesson the manufacturer is learning in many other ways-this lesson is that it is better to purchase efficiency at a high cost than to purchase slovenliness and inefficiency at any cost. He is learning it in Michigan in another branch of his business, that of the problem of payment for injuries and prevention of accidents. He is just awakening to the fact that he might better pay for every injury a reasonable amount and have his labor satisfied than to contest every damage claim to his own great expense and the exasperation of his workmen. He is enthusiastic over workmen's compensation in spite of the high cost, because he is convinced of its justice and its efficiency. Since its adoption there has been no more expensive litigation, no repeated appeals for charity for the injured workmen, no vicarious medical assistance to the maimed laborer, no extortionate judgments. The workman receives his compensation as a matter of right. He receives his medical attention as a matter of justice and industrial economy. He actually receives the amount of his award without division with his lawyers and without the law's delay. His widow revises it in weekly payments that it may not be wasted. He is encouraged to return to his work, and every effort is made to prevent his being discarded as an earning factor in industrial life,
The Old Quarrel
But the most astonishing result of this effort to readjust this old quarrel between the employer and employe se the stimulation of accident prevention. It is not a compliment to employers to discover that as soon as they malize they must pay for every accident they find new Guards appear upon wod many ways to prevent accidents. machines, rails on stairways, matting on slippery floors, dar you signals are everywhere,
kerammere appeare the new word in industrial life, that frẻ bomb, unmaimed worker is worth his price as much we fue esbanken machines, The satisfied, healthy worker wide anglerruptedly, every finger efficient. He deserves
***** 441.varad at the banquet of Furniture Manufacturers held at **** $1/mm), Cekage, Wednesday, May 13, 1914.
accident protection and repays a hundred times the expense of the compensation.
It is safe to say that not only is the employer delighted with this new theory of liability for accidents, but the workmen and societies as well are giving it their approval. Society at large finds that its courts have less to do, that the poor fund is not so often called upon and that the compensation is spread equally and reasonably among all the injured and not unreasonably and accidentally to only the fortunate few.
The Pleased Employe
The workman is pleased because his compensation is assured and because it comes to him promptly and easily. and he is likewise pleased, though he may not always admit it, that it comes to him without friction and leaves him and his employer upon the friendliest terms. I recently heard the president of the Michigan Federation of Labor assert that nothing had ever occurred in that State which helped so much to bridge the gulf between capital and labor as this workmen's compensation act. I submit that that result alone justifies its expense and its existence. Of course, the result of this law, just as of the Ford scheme, will be the elimination of the inefficient, the drone and the drunkard. If we are to pay for every injury, we want in the shop neither the sick, the maimed nor the careless. We certainly do not want the drunken and the vicious. Ultimately by a preliminary examination we will eliminate them. We will declare that we pay for service and protection, but we will demand sane, healthy, whole, careful, industrious workers. We have set a new premium on efficiency and sobriety. The standard shall no longer be so many hours; it will be the best that a healthy man has, and that best shall have its reward. Society Assumes the Burden
I do not minimize the difficult problems which this encourages the problem of the unemployed and the miniBut if the unemployed must be cared for it is better that they do not hamper the efficient. It is better that society at large assume the burden than that the incompetent shall clog the wheels of progress.
Nor do I blind my eyes to the ultimate message all this brings to the manufacturer. He, too, must justify by service. He, too, must do a real work. He, too, must not be inefficient, slovenly or dishonest. He cannot exist if he scalps a living by the difference between low wages and a shoddy product. He must produce with economy and honesty an article of service. He can stand only by rendering honest service, just as his workmen can remain only by honest labor.
There is one other avenue into which we can pursue this doctrine of demanding real service and paying its value. And perhaps a word upon it may not be out of place. We have developed it as it applies to some phases of the manufacture of our product. Let us apply it to
that important factor, the distribution of our wares and their transportation. There is but little quarrel with the railroads as to their charges if the service be equal and efficient and the charges without discrimination. There are not many industries where the cost of transportation, within certain limits, is of great importance if that cost be applied to the whole industry equally. The burdens, if any, are burdens of discrimination. The thing, then, to demand of the carriers is not lower rates, but equal and reasonable service and equal and non-discriminatory charges. The whole public may be concerned with watered stock and inflated capital, but the individual manufacturer is more concerned in the car supply, the promptness of movement and equality of charges. He is concerned, too, with the general prosperity. He realizes the effect upon his business of continued disasters in any great branch of our industrial activities. He needs efficient service. He is today learning that to secure it he must concede a fair compensation and a just reward.
I can only briefly indicate to you, in the time allotted to me tonight, the application of this old theory of fair high pay for honest service; of this old theory of "penny wise and pound foolish." I apply it to the producing end of the business and to its relation to transportation because I am in closer touch with those activities. It applies as well to the merchandising of your product. But it should not be there applied by any who have not made use of it in their production. When you have demonstrated that you pay the high price for the best service from others you can exact from the public a high price for the honest and efficient service you perform for it. And it is difficult to set a limit within reason to the maximum price for the honest, durable, beautiful product, whether it be a picture, a statue or a table.
I commend, therefore, for your earnest consideration this new application of the old doctrine of honest service and high reward.
A School of Furniture Design
I cannot refrain, in closing, from saying a word which may have especial application to the furniture manufacturers from Grand Rapids whom I see here in force and whose friendship has been one of the privileges of my life. Several years ago I heard John Patton, than whom Michigan never produced a more brilliant man, say that it was one of his ambitions that the furniture industry of Grand Rapids might do its part in establishing upon this side of the Atlantic a distinct and individual American school of furniture design and manufacture. I have no doubt many of you, when giving thought to the artistic part of your business, have dreamed of American furniture to be recognized as we now recognize Chippendale and Adam and Sheraton and Louis Quinze. But, however that may be, and whether or not that ideal shall ever be realized, I exhort you never to forget that you are not only manufacturers, you are artists. Whether you build durable furniture or fancy furniture, the artistic factor is present in your work. The usefulness of a chair is not inconsistent with its artistic value. Set, then, before you a lofty ideal. Establish a product of utility and art. Embellish our homes; promote our comfort; fashion out of the uncouth log a thing both durable and beautiful. So shall you maintain among all the industries a place both high and honorable and reap the reward which always comes to honest and efficient service to mankind.
Commercial Fixture Manufacturers
and what the association is doing and hopes to accomplish was gone into very thoroughly. The association expressed its interest in the federation proposition, so that when the name of the new organization came up for consideration Mr. Young, of the Grand Rapids Show Case Co., saw to it that the word "fixture" was put into the name of the federation. Several new members were added to the association.
Metal and Spring Bed Men ECLARING that there is nothing alarming in the present temporary trade slump, Commissioner M. Wulpi, who read the comprehensive report of a trade condition canvas before the members of the National Bureau of Metal and Spring Bed Manufacturers, assembled in eleventh mass conference in the Auditorium Hotel, Chicago, May 15, urged the delegates of that organization to conserve production and watch credits. As indicated by the canvas results, a majority of the metal bed manufacturers experienced a varying per cent. of increase of business during the first three months of the present year over the corresponding period of 1913. In spite of a general pessimistic tendency, actual conditions were portrayed in a better light than had been anticipated.
Every member of the bed manufacturers' association went on record as favoring the introduction of one furniture exhibition and one line a year and a resolution to that effect was unanimously passed. Through Commissioner Wulpi, the views of absent members of the organization will be obtained and conferences will be arranged with other bed manufacturers.
In his opening address, President A. O. Foster expressed his hearty sympathy with the proposed endeavors of the new Federated Furniture and Fixture Association, in the banquet and organization meeting of which the bed manufacturers participated on May 13 and 14. President Foster emphasized the marked difference in market conditions between those industrial districts in which the manufacturers failed to coöperate and those in which coöperation is the rule. Particular recognition was paid the value of the work being accomplished by the central bureau for the bed industry.
The report of Commissioner Wulpi on the work of the past six months indicated the enthusiastic support of all members and the report of the commissioner on the work of the credit and collection department was followed by a discussion in which many members testified to the individual benefits enjoyed. A healthy condition of bureau finances was reported by the treasurer.
The recent change reported by the audit board, through which the control of the central bureau office passed into the hands of the furniture bureau and casket manufacturers, was declared to be satisfactory from a financial standpoint.
During the afternoon session the delegates were addressed by Charles C. Wilmot on "Hooking Up Factory Costs and Office Accounting," and by John Lind, field secretary of the United States Chamber of Commerce, who outlined the work of that organization, in which the commissioner was instructed to make application for membership.
The Federated Furniture and Fixture Association was endorsed by the conference delegates who approved the resolution to join that organization, electing President A. O. Foster, of Utica, N. Y., and H. N. Davis, of St. Louis, to represent the bed bureau on the federated board. The bureau directors were empowered at once to join with the table bureau and to install a joint bureau costing and consulting department in the employment of an
expert cost man.
CENTRAL ORGANIZATION LAUNCHED
Various Associations of Furniture Manufacturers Brought Together in a Federation---R. W. Irwin, of Grand Rapids, President---Plans of Federation
HE events which led up to the organization of the Federated Association of Furniture and Fixture manufacturers, of which this is to be the formal report, began with the banquet which was served to more than 400 furniture manufacturers in the gold room of the Congress hotel, in Chicago, on the evening of May 13th, and which is splendidly illustrated in the frontispiece of this issue. During the two days preceding, there had been meetings of the National Furniture Manufacturers associations, the National Association of Manufacturers of Upholstered Furniture, a conference of the manufacturers of commercial fixtures, and meetings of the manufacturers of kitchen cabinets, and of the National Association of Extension Table Manufacturers. The plans contemplated meetings of the Chair Manufacturers association, and the Association of Metal and Spring Bed manufacturers on the day following. These gatherings are all reported briefly elsewhere. But interest centered in the banquet preceding the announced mass convention, and at which was undoubtedly assembled the largest number of furniture manufacturers ever brought together. While the banquet was entirely informal, it was splendidly staged. The local committee had provided, besides an excellent menu, music by a first-class orchestra with a liberal interjection of vocal music led by a male chorus which sang with spirit as well as taste. There was a printed card with the words of many familiar songs, and in these led by the male chorus, the assembled furniture men joined with spirit.
Robert W. Irwin, of the Royal Furniture Co., of Grand Rapids, who had been largely instrumental in bringing about the movement which has now been crystallized in the federation, presided and opened the post prandial portion of the program with a strong statement of the work which the federation might accomplish. This was along the lines of some previous addresses of Mr. Irwin on the same subject, which have been printed in these pages. Mr. Irwin never appeared to better advantage and his logic was as effective as has been his enthusiasm in the cause.
Mr. Irwin was followed by Forrest Crissey, of the Saturday Evening Post, whose articles on organized effort among manufacturers, recently printed, have attracted attention. Mr. Crissey's brief and effective speech is printed elsewhere.
After Mr. Campbell it was expected that Leslie B. Robertson, the general counsel of the Ford Motor Co., would speak on the Ford profit sharing plan, but Mr. Robertson was unable to be present and his place on the program was filled by Hal II. Smith, of Detroit, who was largely instrumental in the enactment of the Employes' Compensation act, and who delivered the brief and effective address which is elsewhere published.
The last speaker was Hon. Milo D. Campbell, who delivered a brilliant address on the "Square Deal in Business," which is reserved for later publication.
The banquet was promptly served, the speeches were brief and timely, and it was scarcely half past 10 when Mr. Irwin, who had presided with grace and efficiency, announced the meeting to be held in the Florentine room of the Congress hotel on the following morning, and
urged the attendance of as many of those present as could possibly be in attendance.
The Meeting for Organization
It was about 10 o'clock on the following morning when Chairman Irwin called the assembled furniture manufacturers to order in the Florentine room of the Congress hotel and announced briefly the purpose of the meeting. He appointed a committee on nominations of which J. A. Conrey, of Shelbyville, was made chairman; a committee on constitution and by-laws, and named Frank Upham, of Marshfield, as sergeant-at-arms. There were fully three hundred furniture manufacturers in attendance at this meeting. Signs had been placed indicating that sections had been set apart for the representatives of the different associations, and to these sections the representatives had found their way. Just as the places are indicated in a great political convention for the delegates from the different states, places were designated for the chair men, the case goods makers, the upholstered furniture makers, the spring bed manufacturers, and so on to the finish.
Geo. A. Buckstaff, of the Buckstaff Co., of Oshkosh, born and bred a lumberman, but by chance a manufacturer of chairs and caskets, then made a very able and comprehensive address on the grading of hardwood lumher, in which he protested against the constant changes which have been made in the rules of the National Hardwood Lumbermen's association, and particularly the changes made in the 1912 rules. He made a thorough comparison between the 1912 and 1913 rules, and pointed out that if the manufacturers of furniture through the federation would put up a united front, that their objections which had been voiced might find recognition. At the conclusion of Mr. Buckstaff's talk a resolution was adopted pledging the manufacturers to buy only on the 1912 rules of inspection.
A. O. Foster, of Utica, N. Y., followed with an exposition of results which have been obtained in association costing, drawing his experience largely from that which the members of the Metal and Spring Bed Manufacturers have enjoyed. He presented forms which are being used, and pointed out that uniformity in practice by the men within a common industry was important.
Mr. Foster was followed by Frederick B. Smith, president of the Wolverine Mfg. Co., who spoke on the subject: "What Can be Accomplished by Federating all Efforts in Cost Accounting in the Furniture Industry. Mr. Smith's paper is published on another page.
A. C. Brown, who was the first secretary of the Upholstered Furniture Manufacturers association, and was largely responsible for the plan of that successful association, followed in an important speech, in the course of which he said: "There was a time when we started our costing at the wrong end of the factory. We started with forms, which we handed to the foreman, and the foreman said, 'I'm not a bookkeeper.' He was right. The place to start a cost system is in the office. The loss in the furniture business is in the non-productive burden -the sales burden. This furniture business is cursed by selling articles at less than they cost to market. I know where cost systems are kept out of factories because the managers are afraid to find out what their product costs.