The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 7 (February 1, 1932.)
Railway Storekeeping in New Zealand — Control and Organisation
“The opportunity is taken of repeating the call to all members of the Railway service to cultivate and practice habits of care and economy in the use of stores and material and to realise that every item represents an expenditure and has a value and a utility. Every requisition upon and every order placed by the Stores branch represents an expenditure, and clearly it is the duty of everyone to recognise this and to assist in keeping all expenditures in proper relation and proportion to the essential needs of the Department.”—Mr. E. J. Guiness.
One of the Largest Industries in the Dominion.
It may be taken as a truism, that no industry of any consequence can be carried on without supplies appropriate to its character. An industry of the magnitude and importance of the Working Railways of New Zealand, requires an astonishing variety of stores and materials.
The volume and annual value of such stores and materials (including stationery) are of such dimensions that a properly organised and specially trained branch of the Department is necessary to handle the purchase, receipt, custody and issue of them, and to account correctly for them. The Stores branch exists for this purpose. It is essentially a department of service and its prime function is to supply stores and materials when and where required for railway purposes. The activities and necessities of working railways bring the Stores branch into contact with practically every other industry that produces, manufactures or distributes in New Zealand and with merchants and manufacturing firms throughout the British Empire, as well as in foreign countries. Its purchases and turnover probably exceed that of any other organization or business in New Zealand. Therefore it is of the greatest importance that everything it does should be on sound and correct lines and, furthermore, as it forms part of an important Department of State it is equally necessary that its commercial probity should be of the highest standard to retain the confidence, not only of those to whom it is immediately responsible, but of everyone with whom is has business contact.
Stores Branch Activities.
Comptroller of Stores Office, Wellington.
(Rly. Publicity Photos.)
(1) Mr. E. J. Guiness, Comptroller of Stores; (2) Mr. S. S. Millington, Act. Asst. Comptroller of Stores; (3) Comptroller of Stores, Gerneral Office; (4) Mr. P. M. Muir, Chief Clerk, Stores branch; (5) Comptrollex of Stores Record and Correspondence Section; (6) Typistes' Section.
The District Store at Woburn, Lower Hutt.
(1) Mr. J. S. Stewart, District Storekeeper, Woburn; (2) District Storekeepers's General Office; (3) Section of Woburn Stores containing material manufactured in the workshops; (4) Bay of Stationery Store, Woburn; (5) Bay of General Store, Woburn.
The whole of the Stores branch is under the immediate direction of the Comptroller of Stores, whose headquarters are in Wellington. In each of the main centres there is a District Railway Storekeeper, whose respective headquarters are at Otahuhu (Auckland), Woburn (Wellington), Addington (Christchurch) and Hillside (Dunedin). At the smaller centres such as Invercargill, Greymouth, Westport and East Town (Wanganui), there are stores offices and warehouses in immediate charge of stores officers who are responsible either to the nearest District Storekeeper or directly to the Comptroller of Stores. For the better organization of the branch and for purposes of convenience, expedition and economy of working, the railway system has been divided up into stores districts or areas under the immediate supervision of the respective District Storekeepers, but all controlled and brought into uniformity and harmony of method and working by the central control in Wellington.
Enemy of Waste.
Of recent years the Stores branch has so extended its influence and control that to-day all railway stores and material, whether new or second-hand and where-ever situated, which are not actually in use for service purposes come within the ambit of its responsibility and it is the business of the Stores branch to see that they are properly cared for and accounted for, and finally that they are put to proper use or disposed of to the best advantage. Whilst its prime function is to provide supplies and materials of all kinds to enable the railway services to be efficiently maintained, the Stores branch is the open enemy of material waste in all its forms and it has the duty of limiting expenditures in respect to supplies, to actual necessity.
Accounting and Training.
Being the actual custodian of or responsible for the custody of thousands of different articles, many of which are of a highly technical or special nature and of considerable item value, it naturally follows that suitable provision is necessary for housing, handling and accounting. The accounting system of the branch is based upon the best commercial methods modified to suit the particular needs of its own organization and to dovetail into the accounting systems of all other branches of the Department and also to meet the requirements of the Chief Railway Accountant, the Treasury and the Comptroller and Auditor-General. It is impossible within the limits of the space available to explain the accounting system in any detail or to convey more than a general impression of the work of the Stores branch. It may be said, however, in short terms, that stocks are controlled by two principal methods, viz.:—“Stock book and ledger card,” and “Bin card,” both of which are extensively used by railways in other countries, including England, America and Australia. At the close of each financial year. Trading, Profit and Loss Accounts, and Balance Sheets, are prepared for all store districts. The general practice of the branch is that no one officer of the Department can commit it to any expenditure or to the purchase of any stores. It requires the knowledge and concurrence of at least three responsible officers before any order for stores can be given. The position is further safeguarded by the regulations of the Stores branch which are officially approved by the Railways Management and agreed to by the Treasury and Audit Departments. The necessary checks are applied by the Stores Audit Inspectors and other officers whose special duties require them to make a careful examination into the transactions of the branch and to report thereon. Tenders for supplies are called under the authority of the General Manager or the Railway Board and are page 21 submitted for examination and direction before acceptance.
The proper training of stores staffs is a matter which receives considerable attention in the Stores branch. It is essential that all responsible officers of the branch should have a sufficient training in stores methods (both physical and accounting) and possess a sound knowledge of materials and their uses, sources of supply, market values, means of transport and a general knowledge of trade customs and commercial procedures and practices, not only within New Zealand, but in overseas countries as well. Every reasonable effort is made to increase the personal efficiency of each member of the stores staff, enlarge his knowledge and outlook and inculcate a proper sense of responsibility and initiative and the desire to give real service to the Department by which he is employed. It is realized that the measure of reliability of any service or industry is the average reliability of its personnel.
It is the aim of the Stores branch to bring into its own system law and order, cleanliness, simplicity of method and general efficiency.
Many treatises and papers have been written and published the world over concerning railways stores systems and functions. This present article is merely a general statement without any attempt at detailed explanation or analysis.page 22
Practical Railway Operating.
Mr. T. Bernard Hare's new book “Practical Railway Operating,” within the obvious limitations of a 163 page octavo publication, is a very thorough and closely reasoned work upon the subject, and is worth studying by every railwayman directly associated with train-running and transport control.
Dealing with operating figures, Mr. Hare concludes that ton-mile statistics represent a considerable advance upon any railway statistical information which had previously been compiled. Their limitations, however, “appear to be such that further improvements must be evolved and applied before they can be regarded as adequate.”
In practical operating, he favours the diagram system (as used, by the way, in New Zealand train control offices) to either the time or geographical type of control board still employed upon some of the British railways. The latter types “possess the common disadvantage that they do not leave behind a permanent record of what has happened,” whereas “the value of the bird's eye view which the completed diagram gives of the actual working from day to day, is almost incalculable to those charged with the responsibility for planning the lay-out, staffing and organisation.”
Chapters on the use of light shunting engines, line occupation, passenger and freight train services and terminals, mineral traffic shipment, and wagon pooling, with sixteen supporting diagrams, contain much that will help towards improvement in railway operating amongst those engaged in it who care to study these pages.
Mt. Cook Hermitage—A Classic Resort.
In 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Jubilee, a circular was sent out from the Traffic Manager's Office, Dunedin, advising particulars of arrangements for “Through Booking to Mt. Cook.” Coaches, of course, ran in those days, and the railway journey from Dunedin was to Fairlie Creek; but it is interesting to note that throughout the forty-four years from 1887 up to the present time, a “through booking” arrangement by rail and road has been maintained for the convenience of travellers wishing to visit Mount Cook Hermitage.
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At this season one thinks of favours received, many of which are but lightly acknowledged (states Mr. John A. Brailsford in a letter to the “Dominion,” Wellington). During two years' constant travelling on the railways, I have received a good deal more than ordinary courtesy, and I think that has been the experience of passengers generally, and I should be glad if you would publish this little word of appreciation. I have had special reason for gratitude. My umbrella and overcoat and various other possessions have a way of forgetting that they belong to me. They seem to imagine they should remain in the train when I get off. However, the railway people have never failed to take charge of these erring things, and to hold them in secure custody till I have claimed them. One would like to be able to regard honesty as a matter of course, but unfortunately mankind has not attained to that state, and one may be pardoned for expressing gratification at the high standard of honesty in the railway service.