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SLIDER: The Morris factory at Cowley, June 1934

“Half a Mile that cost over ¼ Million.” This was the headline in the 6 June 1934 issue of The Autocar. Morris had refreshed their Cowley production line at a cost of £250,000 – the equivalent of around £5 million now.

The streamlined production line was based on Henry Ford’s pioneering setup. Morris Eights, Tens, Cowleys and Oxfords were being built in a far more efficient manner. Every component was given the minimum length of journey to its appointed place on the chassis. Time was saved, and workers did not have to expend unnecessary energy in walking to get hold of any item.

The money was well spent on layout but also on materials handling equipment. The result was not only a saving in time and effort, but also a significant improvement in quality.

Morris was far more than this factory. Cowley was 90% assembly, with manufacture carried out by a huge automotive supply chain stretching out across the Midlands and dedicated to supplying the plant. Some coachwork was made at Cowley, but from Coventry came engines, castings, coachwork; from Birmingham came gears, tyres, wheels and electrical equipment. From elsewhere came frames; from the other side of Oxford came radiators. Steel pressings were made on-site at Cowley.

The half-mile of each production line produced cars at a duration of 25 minutes a chassis. There were five conveyor lines, and on these five lines 120,000 cars could be produced in a year.

The illustration was by the artist Bryan de Grineau, who normally worked for The Motor, while his contemporary rival, Gordon Crosby, predominantly illustrated for The Autocar. De Grineau was born Charles William Grineau on the 11th May 1883 and was the son of a well known illustrator and caricaturist Charles Grineau (1852 – 1899), who used the pseudonym Alfred Bryan. De Grineau died in 1957.

Images courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive: www.richardrobertsarchive.org.uk


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