Airzone Policy of Planned Production (1938)
Not many men in Australia can look back on a thirteen years’ record as the head of a radio receiver factory. Mr. Claude Plowman, managing director of Airzone (1931) Pty. Ltd., is one of them. To-day he presides over one of our largest and most reputable radio factories. In 1925, Airzone was in its infancy, with no indication of the big future which lay ahead. This year found radio broadcasting stations well into their stride, and the public listening to them on thousands of crystal sets. Airzone made a big share of these sets when it first went into business in the Wentworth Building at Dailey Street. At first the business was carried on in a single room, then in two, and so on until it grew right out of the beginner’s class and clamoured for more space. In those days, a tremendous number of component parts were sold. Every radio set had to use a coil kit. Mr. Plowman, therefore, commenced to make coil kits for such famous circuits as the Browning-Drake and the Neutrodyne. These were tricky things for the homebuilder to wind for himself, and so Airzone commenced winding them for him. Thus, was started a section of the business which was to be a big feature for some years to come.
In 1926, in his search for more commodious premises, Mr. Plowman bought the complete plant of an engineering works at Enfield. More than this, one of the terms of the sale was that the building could be occupied rent free for six months. Airzone moved in and made more parts and more crystal sets. Even this was not enough. Soon another change was needed, and the factory moved to Paddington, where there was 4000 square feet of floor space to play with, and a staff of 70-100 hands. Coils and components were still a big part of the Airzone production. Whether Mr. Plowman’s training as an engineer is to blame, or not, Airzone always have laid great stress on making the parts they require. They began to lay in the beginnings of the fine engineering shop they now possess, and in which they make so many parts, and tools to make more parts.
In this year, 1926, the Airzone portable made its first appearance. It was a four-valve broadcast set in a carrying case and was such a success that in 1930 it was still being made with little variation from its original form. It is estimated that altogether more than 10,000 Airzone Portables were placed on the market, and they were sold in every State in the Commonwealth.
The business continued to consolidate and grow, until in 1928 the present building in Australia Street, Camperdown, was purchased. At first, it was too big for the activities of the firm, but not too big, as Mr. Plowman was beginning to realise, for the Airzone of 1937. At first two-thirds of the building was rented, and from time to time, more and more of it was occupied to meet the requirements of the growing firm.
In the year 1931 the whole business was reconstructed, and became Airzone (1931) Ltd. Many very important points of policy were laid down at this time, and these have, with minor exceptions, proved themselves by remaining intact at the present day.
Mr. Plowman began to realise the importance of looking ahead. In fact, it is correct to say that every move at the Airzone factory is planned with a horizon, two, three, and even five years ahead. It is a factory whose policy is built on the future and not merely on the present. Previous to this, the factory had, in common with so many others, done a big business in unbranded chassis, which were sold to firms who marketed them under their own name. Airzone decided that the nationally known and advertised receiver was the one to build a big business. As a result, no more sets were made, except those sold under the name of Airzone. It was a big step, and it meant losing much business. But it was all according to plan. A controlled sales policy was laid down, under which Airzone themselves controlled the condition under which their sets were sold. They determined to make quality sets and sets which would stand or fall on their own worth. As a result, they claim to-day to have a percentage of service calls less than half that of the next best manufacturer. Perhaps the careful system of checking components as they enter the factory is responsible for this. With thousands of pounds of laboratory equipment in use, Airzone consider it is cheaper to make sure the components that go into the set are right before the set is even assembled, than to use their equipment, finding faults due to components which even in the best of families are faulty from the start. It costs more to test the components in an Airzone set before the set is assembled than it does to actually assemble the set itself.
One of the first successes oi the reconstructed company was the “Airzone Cub,” a mantel set of two valves and rectifier, which sold over the counter for £l2/19/6. It needed no expert installation, being just plugged in to the power socket like any other domestic apparatus. It sold in thousands.
Airzone’s story since 1931 has been one of steady progress according to plan. To-day they make a full range of battery and A.C. receivers. The component section of their business has been almost eliminated. The parts they make to-day nearly all go into Airzone sets. The gang condensers used are all made at the factory. The tuning coils are wound on special machines which were made at the factory. Machines were not available which would do the job just the way they required. So the machine shop got on the job, and produced machines that would. The Airzone moulded cabinet mantel model is one of its latest and more popular productions, just as the “Cub” and the “Portable” were in the past. No one then, however, could have visualised a cabinet moulded completely in one piece, by means of a die weighing approximately one ton. Although Airzone did not make this intricate die, it was made to their design. Only by moulding the cabinet in one piece was it considered possible to get the finish and uniformity required.
With its policy of planned production, Airzone is looking still further ahead and planning extensions. Behind them all will be the same policy and the same search for quality that has distinguished them in the past.
Wireless Weekly 1938, February 28, 1938, Page 20.