Don Hewson’s Children Rise

DON HEWSON’S CHILDREN RISE (Book 7 in the Don Hewson series)

CHAPTER 1: Georgina Arron

We had our routine monthly meeting with the Engineering Union. There were shop stewards from every factory of Byram Engineering, and at least one manager from each factory.

Garth Stead is the Group Production Manager.

Garth chairs the monthly meetings.

Garth explained that after he closes the meeting he wishes everyone to stay behind for an informal discussion.

Garth did not say what the conversation would be about.

The monthly meeting had nothing new or exciting, which is the norm for these meetings.

Byram Engineering is a happy and successful company. We have paid Engineering Union pay rates for the last hundred years or so.

We pay good bonuses.

The Byram Group is very good about funding education for those employees who wish it.

Byrams even gives financial help for the children and grandchildren of Byrams workers to take up education or training opportunities that the local authority will not or cannot fund.

Pay is rarely an issue.

In my opinion the working conditions are good.

Safety is not skimped.

Cecil Byram insists that we managers must have these meetings with the union every month, even when there is nothing much to discuss, to keep the lines of communication open.

We were all curious to know what Garth wished to discuss informally, so our formal meeting was even shorter than usual.

“I am a professional manager.”

We all nodded.

“I have come across a managerial puzzle that I cannot solve.”

We were all curious.

“I monitor the productivity figures in each of the factories.”

We knew that.

“The four new factories all have good manufacturing productivity statistics.

“The difference between the best and the worst of the four new factories is about one and a quarter per cent. Each month the four factories change positions in my table, all moving around between themselves.

“It isn’t a question that Cleckheaton say is idle one month and excellent the next month. Cleckheaton and each of the other factories are all hard working and consistent.

“If I had only these four factories I would be quite happy and cheerful with the productivity figures.”

A pause.

We all looked at Garth.

“Every month Neverthorpe has between two per cent and three per cent higher manufacturing productivity than the best of the other four factories.

“Every month!”

We were all surprised.

“I cannot see why that should be.

“But it is.

“So my question is, what is Neverthorpe doing different and better than the other four perfectly competent factories?”

We all sat silent.

We were wracking our brains.

I have been in every factory. They are all well run.

The machinery is often identical.

There is no flab. There is no timewasting.

The workers are much the same.

The workforces at the four new factories were all hand picked by their current managers. The new factories ought to be as good as Neverthorpe or even better than Neverthorpe.

The silence wore on.

A very good question, with no obvious answer.

No wonder Garth has asked for help!

I don’t know the answer, either.

We all pondered the question.

No wonder Garth is stumped.

We are all stumped.

We all sat silent.

Gwen Sykes started to speak.

Gwen is a third generation “Byram” person. Gwen’s father works at the Neverthorpe factory. Both of Gwen’s grandfathers worked at Neverthorpe.

Gwen is one of our first batch of female apprentices.

Garth has his eye on Gwen as a probable member of the second cohort of junior managers in training that Garth is going to set up when the first cohort finish their training program.

Garth has had Gwen going around schools and colleges giving talks about life as a female engineering apprentice. Gwen has also been appointed to interview and selection panels, helping to select apprentices for the following year across our five factories.

Gwen has sensible short blonde hair and a good figure for an eighteen year old. Gwen looks attractive even in the industrial overalls that Gwen wears all the time.

Gwen Sykes is bright but she tries not to show it.

It keeps seeping out, though!

When Irene Byram (Cecil Byram’s wife) agreed that the Engineering Union could take part in the assessment and selection process for employing previously battered women Irene stipulated that the Engineering Union representative would have to be female.

The Engineering Union was a bit stuck for a woman representative.

Gwen Sykes has been appointed to the Engineering Union side as Engineering Union Womens Officer for the whole Byrams Group. That is how a young female apprentice comes to attend these meetings.

Gwen hardly ever speaks in these meetings, because Gwen normally has nothing that she wishes to say.

After Gwen was appointed both Cecil and Garth both told Gwen that taking office in the Engineering Union does not endanger her future at Byrams. They both told Gwen that the experience that Gwen gains in this role will be useful should Gwen later move onto the management ladder.

I am not sure whether Gwen will end up as a senior manager or as the Engineering Union Convenor, but I think that one or the other is likely.

Whatever, Gwen had started to speak.

Everybody looked towards Gwen.

“The only difference I can think of is the catering.

“At the four new factories you have contract caterers. The food there is all right, but it is nothing special.

“Here at Neverthorpe the sausages are better, the bacon is better, the meals generally are better. Even the coffee here at Neverthorpe is much better.

“Neverthorpe serves hot sandwiches at the beginning of the day and those croissants on Fridays. That does not happen at the other factories.

“The other factory canteens do not deliver hot sandwiches to the workshops mid-morning like Neverthorpe does.

“Could that be the answer?”

Long ago, I had helped Mark Johnson to transform the catering at Neverthorpe.

Cecil Byram had told Mark that Mark’s catering improvements had improved manufacturing productivity by nearly five per cent.

Mark passed this statement on to our team.

I shared this information with the meeting.

Garth had not been at Byram Engineering when this was happening, so this was new information for Garth.

Garth shook as though Gwen and I had hit him with blunt instruments.

Holding the coffee cup and looking at it,

“The answer has been under my nose all the time!”

There was silence while Garth thought.

“I am prepared to change the catering at one factory to see if that works.

“If it does work then of course I will roll that out across the Group.

“Mark Johnson is away for more than a year yet.

“I can’t wait that long.

“All right.

“I thank you all for attending.

“Georgina, please stay behind.”

The folk from the other factories were all smiling. Even the suggestion of improving their catering to Neverthorpe standards had made them happy.

Soon I was alone with Garth.

“So how do I do this?”

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