In July 1940, as a result of Beaverbrook's initiatives, the Ministry increased production by 250 percent in what was once a faltering industry. Beaverbrook had the aircraft factories churning out some 496 Spitfires and Hurricanes per month (see Figure 3) which was considerably more than the German production at the time. By the end of August, despite attacks on British aircraft facilities, fighter production continued to hit an astounding figure 476 per month. By the end of 1940, British factories produced 4,283 fighters, compared to Germany's 3,000. In fact so many aircraft were being produced that the U.K. could boast there were more fighter aircraft than pilots to fly them. The CRO had played a significant role in this and by the end of 1940 it had repaired 4,955 airframes, about 33 percent of the total airframe output going to the RAF.
Adopting New Methods
In this period the other Government production departments had escaped the major overhauls through which the Ministry of Aircraft Production had gone. They all faced change, but it came in smaller and more agreeable doses and thus evaded serious internal unsettlement. They had to undertake the duties of industrial administration new to government officials and tackle emergencies at a quickened pace of improvisation, as well as to recruit from the business world.
Beaverbrook's approach to the supply chain was badly needed in the summer of 1940, but it distorted the supply system of the war economy. After the battle it was replaced by a quota system, where each ministry was allocated a quota of raw materials imports based on their priority in the war effort. By the winter of 1940-41 the urgency was truly over, and in the summer of 1941, when Beaverbrook was transferred to the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Aircraft Production was brought into line again with the methods of the other ministries.
The Battle of Britain not only tested the pilots, their planes and tactics but most importantly it was also an attritional struggle that tested the supply chains of the air forces and the production, storage, repair and salvage of fighters.
In today's world, what can we take away from this lesson-from-history? Beaverbrook, an outsider, took a very different approach to the supply chain and introduced the basic concepts of agility. He mandated zero inventories to maximize the output and stuck to his principles, exceeding all expectations. Beaverbrook's supply chain was a significant factor in the story of the conflict.
About the Author: Mark Kozak-Holland's latest book in the lessons-from-history series is titled "Churchill's Adaptive Enterprise: Lessons for Business Today." It draws parallels between events in World War II and today's business challenges. Kozak-Holland is a senior business architect with HP Services and regularly writes and speaks on the subject of emerging technologies and lessons-from-history. Kozak-Holland can be contacted via his site www.lessons-from-history.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.