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How Workers Move Industry Forward

Year:1952 Issue:1

Column: Articles


Release Date:1952-01-01

Page: 24,25

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Ma Heng-chang and his team discuss production plan. The banners behind them were won in nationwide work competitions.

Ma Heng-chang and his team discuss production plan. The banners behind them were won in nationwide work competitions.

One of the prime factors in the speedy restoration of Chinese economy from the effects of long years of war is the initiative and inventiveness of the workers. An illustration of this is the significant rise in national industrial output started by the 47-year-old lathe operator Ma Heng-chang and nine of his shop mates at the government-owned Fifth Machine Building Plant in Mukden, Northeast China. '

What did Ma Heng-chang and his friends do? Inspired by the new situation in which Chinese workers work for themselves and the only limit on their prosperity is the undeveloped state of national industry, they discussed for ten months how to improve their work. They kept trying out every likely answer on the job until they finally came up with the real one.

How did this small event become a great one and affect the whole of China's heavy industry? The answer is simple. Since the People's Government, the people's press and the whole body of Chinese labour are eager to increase and improve production, the experience of Ma Heng-chang's little group was publicized in detail throughout China. Today more than 6,000 production teams are applying and developing the example they set.

Ma Heng-chang had been a worker for 27 years. His past had been like that of millions of other Chinese workers. "Under the warlords, the Japanese and the Kuomintang, I did not have enough to eat or wear," he wrote recently in a Peking trade union newspaper. "If there was anything wrong with our work we were either beaten up or sacked. Once when a Japanese superviser told me to pick up a ruler and I didn't catch what he meant, he came up and smashed my face."

The impact of liberation on Ma Heng-chang was also typical. He has written about this too, in a frank, open worker's way. "After liberation our new factory director told us, 'We rely on the workers.' To tell you the truth, we didn't believe him at first. All the factory directors we'd ever known had been rotten. Why should the Communists be different? Then I called on the director just to see how he lived. I found that his wife and children dressed and ate just like us. What was more, he accepted any reasonable suggestions we made." Thus Ma Heng-chang's cautious skepticism gradually faded away.

As a result, Ma began to stir up everyone in his shop to work better. During lunch periods, he and his mates would sit around over a blueprint of the job on hand and think how to use their lathes to greater effect. Soon Ma Hung-ju, a milling machine operator, came up with a way of completing in 15 minutes a part that had formerly taken two hours to machine. The whole group devised a new method of dividing up another job so as to finish it in half their previous time.

All agreed to make full preparations before starting their machines, to care for them better than they had in the past, to wipe and oil them and put away all tools and parts before leaving. They also undertook to explain all unfinished work fully to the next shift. Without "speed-up" or additional physical strain, simply as a result of more rational organization, the team's output went up and up. So did the wages of its members.

Ma and his friends concerned themselves not only with quantity but also with quality. Each week they held a careful review of the reasons why any job had been rejected by the inspectors. When the cause was discovered, they set out to remedy it and to warn other workers against similar mistakes.

In addition older workers began patiently to explain to each apprentice the nature of the machine to which he was assigned, sometimes staying after working hours to do it. In this way, apprentices could begin to work independently after three months instead of after several years as formerly. In contrast to the past, the apprentices were encouraged to ask any questions that came to their minds. The age-old system under which worker-teachers purposely slowed down the training of apprentices in order to put off the day when they would become masters was abandoned. So was the feudal abuse of making the apprentices sweat while the older men smoked, chatted or walked around. These things could only take place, of course, in an atmosphere in which no one feared for his job or his old age.

After ten months, eight of the workers in Ma Heng-chang's team had achieved a record of no rejected work whatsoever. Seven of them broke production records. The team as a whole improved 18 tools on which its members were working. In a work competition that took place during this period, it accomplished two months' work in 28 days.

Advancing constantly in skill and cooperation, Ma Heng-chang's team began to issue emulation challenges to others, first in its own plant, then throughout the country. Last May Day it announced that it had saved 22 days and seven hours on a four-month job during which 33 individual records were broken and the quality rating of the whole team's output was 99.81 per cent.

In July 1951, the Ma Heng-chang team achieved the high targets it had set itself one day ahead of schedule. Its products were 99.3 per cent up to standard. Four new records were established, raising productivity from two to 6 1/2 times.

In August the brigade was challenged to increase its production by a value equivalent to 44 tons of grain by the end of the year. On October 25 it announced that it had already over-fulfilled this target by 47 per cent, having produced an extra value equal to 65 tons of grain.

These advances in productivity were a result of the team's study and mastery of high-speed metal-cutting techniques developed in the USSR and of the Kovalev method, in which workers showing high efficiency in various phases of an operation are studied and a procedure combining the best achievements of each becomes the general standard. During the month, the team did a day's extra voluntary work for the campaign to aid Chinese volunteers in Korea, donating its earnings for the purchase of arms.

Ma Heng-chang and his work-team could not have existed in the old China but only in the new. To give birth to such people and such work, certain conditions are necessary. There must be no conflict but a community of interest between the authorities and the workers. The workers must know for a fact that they benefit personally from every productive advance. The government must so respect ordinary working people and their experience that it looks to them, not only to books and learned engineers, for solutions to economic problems.

Fear of unemployment and depression must be so effectively wiped out that neither individual workers nor individual factories hang on to "trade secrets," but on the contrary share them willingly, without fear of loss to themselves.

These conditions now exist in China. That is why Ma Heng-chang's story is there to tell.

One reason for the successes of Ma Heng-chang's team is the attention it pays to training apprentices.

One reason for the successes of Ma Heng-chang's team is the attention it pays to training apprentices.

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