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Baron Austin of Longbridge

Mr F Monstevens

Mr. Fred Monstevens
He Keeps Longbridge In Time With The “Outside World”

If you want to know the time ask Mr.'Fred' Monstevens. At Longbridge anyway, because it is his job to keep Longbridge on time.

Automation has only partly invaded his world since the day 33 years ago when he took the job of maintaining the 50 to 60 'clocking-in' clocks, officially, time recorders around the 62-acre factory employing about 8,000 workers.

Now the number of time recorders is more than 22O, just over one to every acre of factory, and it takes two men four days every week, walking between ten and twelve miles, going from clock to clock to wind and clean them.

Completely overhauling the clocks is like the operation of painting the Forth Bridge, when the last one has been done it's time to start at the beginning again. Each one is overhauled once every three years, and this takes another two men to complete round.

Practically all the other clocks at Longbridge are electric. There are at least two in most offices and in the workshops there are as many as six. The total runs into hundreds but they are all controlled by six electric master clocks. These master clocks with two in the works police office, one in Mr. Monstevens's department in the South Press Tool Room, one in sales block, and one each in East and West Works These also control the steam hooter in North Works and the electric bells in the offices which automatically sound starting time and finishing times. Mr. Monstevens said they are all controlled by electric impulses from the master clocks.'

The master clocks are checked for accuracy first thing every working day by Mr. Monstevens against a stop watch which has been synchronized with TIM, the GPO.'s recorded time check. 'And that is about as accurate as you can get,' said Mr. Monstevens. 'Before TIM came along I used to use a watch which had been synchronized with the chimes of Big Ben on the BBC. news.'

The 'clocking-in' clocks are checked every day by the time keepers who telephone Mr Monstevens and they set the clocks they are responsible for against the master clock in his department.

Twice a year comes the ‘rush’ job of putting on or taking off an hour with the beginning and end of Summer Time. Three men take a whole Saturday morning adjusting the ‘clocking-in' the their master. Maintenance of the hundreds of ordinary electric clocks is undertaken by the electricians’ department.

From being the only man, Mr. Monstevens now heads a ten-man department which is also responsible for the maintenance of all office machinery, including about 700 typewriters and scores of accounting machines. The men who carry out the work are all experts, having been trained by the various firms who supplied the equipment.

Time never stands still for the man who keeps time, and his busy little department, for if it does it means another repair job to be fitted into the tight schedule of repair, maintenance and overhaul.

Mr. Monstevens, now has completed a total of 44 years at Longbridge, starting as a toolmaker after an apprenticeship with a bicycle manufacturing firm. And in the 33 years he has been doing the job, in which his clocks have ticked away some 8,004,800 minutes, so far as he knows Longbridge has never been more than a second or two out of step with the rest of the world.

Early export packing days at Longbridge.

Export Packing 1934
This picture was taken in 1934, showing the packing of the Ruby and Lichfield cars.

Its very important that car's must be shipped quickly and carefully to the various markets around the world.

Arranging satisfactory transportation from factory, source to world wide ports of discharge,' explained the Corporation’s shipping manager, Mr. L. J. Bennett, when asked about the functions of the Shipping Division. By road transporter, by rail, or driven as complete cars, or in Completely Knocked Down (CKD). form. vehicles must be moved from the place of manufacture to the port of embarkation, and there safely loaded and delivered.

'We like, where possible to use British ships, but volume and circumstances do not always permit,' Mr. Bennett said. 'We are concerned with getting exports to where they are wanted quickly, and economically, and in perfect condition.'

Where normal shipping services are not adequate special contracts are drawn up with ship-owners, and entire vessels have been chartered to handle BMC. export shipments and doubtless will be in the future. The fitting of special devices to vessels to assist in the shipping of cases or vehicles is encouraged and in several cases Fisher & Ludlow decking equipment has been installed in vessels, not only to the advantage of BMC., but of other manufacturers.

It is estimated that of the many ships which leave Britain each week, some 100 carry an Austin export cargo, whether it be just one CKD. case, or 200 vehicles.

With all the care that goes into the making of Austin vehicles, it is essential that they should be handled carefully and at all the main docks in this country BMC. dock representatives ensure that vehicles are correctly loaded, given adequate space and properly secured for the voyage.

'We take every reasonable precaution to see that the vehicle reaches the overseas customer in the good order that it left the factory,' explained Mr. Bennett.

With the Bathgate factory now in operation, the shipping division has already investigated the facilities offered by the Scottish ports.

'And of course we are always fighting freight charges, for while we are responsible for getting our products overseas, we are also responsible for keeping down costs,' Mr. Bennett added.