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February 23, 1795: Birthday of the Navy Supply Corps

Feb. 23, 2013
This article was published in the December 1927 issue of Proceedings magazine as "A New Job for the Supply Corps" by Lieutenant T. E. Hipp, (SC), U.S. Navy.
The Naval aircraft factory at the Navy Yard, Philadelphia, was organized during the stress of the World War when naval officers were not available to recruit the organization and the work of airplane manufacture was a new departure for the Navy. The engineers and executives for the factory were procured almost entirely from civil life and the organization was so drawn as best to handle the factory's peculiar mission.

Naval precedent and tradition had little place in the structure of the organization and the selection of personnel. The present structure of the organization, although in some particulars similar to that of the standard Navy industrial organization, presents certain salient and unusual features which may be of interest to students of naval industrial management. The following organization chart shows the Naval aircraft factory lines of authority and the relations existing among the different offices and sub-divisions of the main departments. Special attention is invited to the position of inside superintendent, to which a member of the supply corps was assigned May 15, 1923.

The two outstanding features of this organization are the centralization of engineering responsibility and the close interlocking of the functions of procurement, production and accounting.

It is this second feature, of particular interest to supply officers and production superintendents, that this article will describe. The cooperation of the supply department is essential to economical and expeditious production. Although, on account of desirable central control, available space and favorable location, the supply department of the naval aircraft factory functions as a general storehouse for aeronautical supplies for the entire naval service, its prime and vital duty in the production system is the procurement and storage of raw materials and shipment of completed aeronautical equipment.

To perform such duties it is necessary to maintain an organization capable of securing the most satisfactory material required in the manufacturing processes, equipment and general supplies; to secure the most desirable delivery of material, keeping complete and accurate record of all unfilled purchase orders. Navy Regulations and orders provide for the manner of purchase, terms of payment and the recording and classifying of material after receipt. There are slight changes and modifications in the usual methods of storekeeping and record?ing at the naval aircraft factory in order to meet the needs of this particular industry.

All production work, however authorized, is originated in the supply department by the means of a "Supply Officer's Request," which briefly outlines that which is to be done, and either makes references to, or encloses, specifications therefor, furnished by the engineering department. This work is assigned a specific priority in relation to other work in the plant, and in cases where it is necessary to make use of material or tools other than those which have been established as standard stock, the supply department is required to become a part of the production schedule by furnishing estimated date of receipt of such items with subsequent revision's when the necessity arises. To do this it is necessary for the supply department to maintain a definite follow-up on all material expected from sources outside of the factory. Therefore, in being charged with the duties of initiating all requests for production, the provision of specified material on scheduled dates, and the ultimate shipment of the completed product, the supply department does perform a function which is essential to and closely interlocked with production.

Another department which is closely allied with and essential to the production organization is the accounting office. In the civilian industrial field, the manufacturer is dependent upon records of past performances and accurate cost records to enable him intelligently to operate his establishment to meet the keen competition encountered in making bids and estimates, and in providing a safe return and profit on the capital invested.

Similarly in naval industrial organizations, and especially at the present time, due to the limited money allowances granted the bureaus to maintain and operate the fleet, it is necessary that intelligent cost data be furnished for the purpose of making estimates which will be useful in acquainting the department with the amounts that have been and will be obligated.

Taking into consideration this close interlocking of procurement, production and accounting, it was decided to request the assignment of an officer of the supply corps to the position of inside superintendent in the works department of the naval aircraft factory. The inside superintendent is the coordinator of the planning office, the schedule office, and the preparation division. His three principal assistants are the planning superintendent, the schedule superintendent, and the preparation superintendent.

The planning superintendent, under the general supervision of the inside superintendent, is in charge of the making of all estimates of the cost of work, the issuance of job orders for work, however authorized, with the responsibility for charging work to the proper appropriation title and account, and the checking of the authenticity of the authority. He is charged with the issuance of manufacturing orders or detailed work orders to shops for their portions of the work covered by the job order as a whole; and for the supply of plans, or other working data, to shops for work manufacturing orders. He is responsible for the drawing up or checking of bills of material, and the transmission of them to the Preparation Division.

The preparation superintendent, under the general supervision of the inside superintendent, is responsible for the stubbing from store of all material for authorized work; for the submission of purchase requests to the supply officer for material not in stores, which is required for authorized work; for the maintenance of shortage lists of material for authorized work; for the operation of sub-storerooms, or material depots for raw material or work in progress, in the custody of the works department, which is not being worked upon; for the operation of shop store rooms or material depots containing small amounts of material located within the shop areas, but which has not yet been stubbed from the supply officer's books. He is responsible for the operation of the salvage section, handling rejected material; he is in charge of the operation and maintenance of the factory transportation system, including operation of overhead cranes.

The schedule superintendent, under the general supervision of the inside superintendent, is responsible for the preparation and issuance of all works department schedules; for the maintenance of status reports on all work in progress; for the preparation of the weekly progress report, which is forwarded to the Bureau of Aeronautics; for the preparation of the monthly factory master schedule, which shows the general time-planning of work ahead of the factory, and for the maintenance of the work load on the various shops.

After analyzing these duties, it is apparent that the position of inside superintendent, which embraces these functions, is a central office, making intimate contact, not only with all of the shops, but also with the engineering department, the supply department and the accounting department.

In requesting the assignment of an officer of the supply corps to this duty, it was believed that a supply officer, with his knowledge of accounting and material supply, could as quickly acquaint himself with those phases of this position usually not within the scope of a supply officer, as a line officer, or naval constructor, who is more familiar with the manufacturing problem; could acquaint himself with those phrases related to supply and accounting, and furthermore, the experience to be gained in such a position should prove of great value professionally, in the future.

Due to the rapid growth and recognized necessity of aviation throughout the naval service, it is desirable that officers of the supply corps become familiar with the needs and requirements of this important branch of the nation's first line of defense, and it is believed that the naval aircraft factory, for the time being at least, is the best aviation school for supply officers in existence. Having in mind a more far-reaching effect and influence, it is believed, that, not only will the duties described be of great benefit to an officer who might at some time or other be concerned with aviation accounting and supply, but surely a certain period of service within the organization of any industrial department will better fit him for the position of supply officer of a yard or vessel.

Through such service, he has been able to observe the problems encountered; the cause and effect of the different policies, systems and requirements, all tending to make of him an abler executive with a larger and more cooperative spirit. Why not then, assign junior officers in the supply corps to duty in industrial organizations for training and experience? Even further, carrying this idea to its logical conclusion, there is no apparent reason why a supply officer, with such experience and training, should not be eminently capable of assuming the responsibilities of directing any Navy industrial establishment.

It is to the best interest of each corps to take advantage of any opportunity afforded to enlarge its field of activities, and especially, if by so doing, it arrives at a broader view?point, which tends to promote a greater spirit of harmony and efficiency in the organization of the Navy as a whole.