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L. Gardner and Sons Limited: The History of a British Industrial Firm. A Study with Special Reference to Markets, Workplace Industrial Relations, and Manufacturing Engineering Technology, 1955 – 1986

Investigating a range of commonly asserted characteristics relating to British family firms, this study concluded that, although they retained ownership and control and did not adopt mass-production, no persuasive evidence was found to suggest that the family managers of L. Gardner and Sons behaved unprofessionally or irrationally during the first eighty-seven years of the firm’s existence.
Analysed from the perspective of markets and workplace industrial relations, it was found that the Gardner family managers coped reasonably well with most of the macroenvironmental shifts that occurred between 1955 and 1975. However, two serious errors were made: the first, which caused a short-term loss of revenue and a long-term loss of market leadership, was a result of negligence, the second stemmed from an outdated authoritarian approach to industrial relations that resulted in intense discord in the workplace, alleviated only after the management was replaced by a more astute and enlightened regime.
A third error occurred after Gardner was sold to Hawker Siddeley, a large British industrial group, in 1977. Based on a perception that Gardner’s plant was outdated, the new owners invested in expensive computer controlled manufacturing systems, and increased the volume of subcontracted components, strategies that caused disruptions to production schedules, eroded quality standards, and failed to improve output. As a result, Gardner’s superlative reputation for reliability and service became tarnished and its market share plummeted. In 1986, when mounting trading losses became unacceptable, the firm was sold-on to a competitor and production effectively ceased.
This thesis asserts that, as a family firm, Gardner traded profitably and provided incomes for thousands of employees for more than a century. Moreover, the sale to Hawker Siddeley conferred wealth on the family shareholders and financial security on their descendents. Gardner was not therefore a failure either between 1898 and 1955, or before 1978.

Mostra/Nascondi contenuto.
6CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION What has happened to the motor industry since the 1950s exemplifies what has been going wrong in too many other parts of British industry: higher pay not matched by higher productivity; low profits, so low investment; too little going into R and D and new design ... and why haven't we had the productivity? Over manning. Resistance to change. Too many strikes and stoppages.1 Speaking in 1981, the then Prime Minister of Great Britain’s characteristically forthright observations were patently one-dimensional. Even if they were directed exclusively towards the motor industry, such sweeping assertions seem unacceptably clichéd and glib, and their wider association with ‘too many other parts of British industry’ render them whimsical and far-fetched. It is difficult to understand, for example, how and why so many flawed and inefficient firms could have survived during the thirty-year period that Thatcher referred to, let alone have prevailed over the harsh conditions that many would have encountered during the previous half-century, and yet have foundered seemingly en masse during the 1980s and 1990s. Although something clearly went wrong during the late twentieth century, to indict the majority of British industrial firms in Thatcher’s depreciative terms is an oversimplified – as well as fallacious – concept. Nevertheless, her views probably reflected the sentiments of a large majority of the British population, and several of her comments certainly echo the opinions of many historians and scholars, both at the time and later. A close analysis of a typical Greater Manchester-based manufacturing engineering concern, from its foundation in 1868 until 1955, and a detailed examination of the final thirty years of its existence, reveals many inconsistencies in terms of the conventional mantra of Britain’s industrial ‘failure’. I Rationale This thesis evolved from a dissertation submitted in accordance with the requirements of the Manchester Metropolitan University for the degree of Master of Arts in 2001. Although it was not surprising that its hypothesis – which was based on the assumption that warfare and government interference impacted negatively on industrial towns in the Northwest of England during the twentieth century – was confirmed, the research exposed perceptible historiographical ambiguities that the time and volume constraints inherent in a Master’s dissertation made impossible to investigate thoroughly. In particular, it revealed apparent disparities and gaps in scholarly analyses and inconsistencies in debates and assertions concerning the question of British industrial ‘decline’ since the mid-nineteenth century, and the so-called ‘deindustrialization’ of Britain during the late twentieth century. In short, the 1 Margaret Thatcher addressing the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) on 6 October 1981, quoted in Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (London: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 119.

International thesis/dissertation

Autore: Maurice Halton Contatta »

Composta da 170 pagine.


Questa tesi ha raggiunto 20 click dal 20/05/2010.

Disponibile in PDF, la consultazione è esclusivamente in formato digitale.