Labor productivity for Soviet engineering and metalworking increased both as a factor of increased hours worked per laborer and increased productivity per hours worked. The net effect was an almost tripling of value added per worker. This compounding effect was also reflected in other labor categories as well, partially accounting for the Soviet Union’s greater productivity gains respective to Germany’s.
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Other Soviet productivity gains respective to Germany’s centered around fewer models and willingness to forestall changes in order to achieve long production runs. This allowed not only the worker to work on the higher levels of a learning curve but overall lowered factory costs. Normally each production run requires a set up of tooling and support equipment. Therefore, longer production runs save time and expense with fewer set ups for the same number of production units.
Soviet Mass Production
Much like the United States the Soviet Union believed in mass production. However, in the early war years, German industrialists complained that they were receiving piecemeal production orders. Often for a few dozen artillery pieces versus a thousand whereby they could fully ramp up and deliver. Another factor was Soviet development efforts were limited to improving existing models instead of exerting a huge effort to leapfrog current technology. Germany developed the V-2 rocket which basically became the technology of the 1950s but saw very little near term return for their effort.
Rising Productivity Despite Adversities
Even during 1941-42 when the Soviet Union was being invaded Soviet productivity rates per worker increase even though their factories were either transferred to the Urals or other points east or were destroyed so Germany could not take advantage of them. The transferred factories often were bare earth floors and powered by available timber. These factories had to make do with shortages and improvisation so their products were not of the highest caliber, but they heeded the call for higher quantities.
At the same time the Soviets were transferring factories to the east, Germany’s factories which had been ramping up war production since the mid 1930s and were also two years away from bombardment would not see much productivity gains until 1943. There was a myriad of reasons for German worker productivity levels to lag the Soviets. For example, Germany had many more numbers of weapon types per platform. Germany twenty-six different artillery types versus Soviet’s five, Germany twelve antitank guns versus Soviet’s two, Germany’s ten antiaircraft gun types versus the Soviets three, Germany’s eighteen tanks/armored vehicles versus the Soviet’s six, and Germany’s forty-two aircraft types versus the Soviet’s twelve.
The Soviets kept the number of model types down, simplified manufacturing requiring low skilled labor, and kept design change activity to a minimum and implemented those changes as a block. Germany until 1943 was an opposite in that they had many model types, a complex manufacturing environment requiring highly skilled labor, and continuously incorporated design changes so that very few products in the field were identical thus complicating logistics.
Soviet Engineering and Metalworking Labor Productivity, 41-45 Data
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Source: Harrison, Mark “Industrial mobilisation for World War II: a German comparison*.” Page 21, https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/mharrison/public/opk2000mobilisation.pdf, Data accessed May 20, 2022, *This paper appeared as a chapter in The Soviet Defence Industry Complex from Stalin to Khrushchev, pp. 99-117. Edited by John Barber and Mark Harrison. Basingstoke and London: Macmillan Press, 2000
Other Productivity Data
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