Dificulties arose for the Optical Munitions Panel in that they were required to supply a full range of optical munitions, but in small quantities (due to the relatively small requirements of Australia's fighting forces in comparison to British and American forces). The small quantities required by the Australian defence forces restricted the establishment of production lines because, by the time production of a particular item was flowing smoothly, the quota was filled and a new item would be required. Hartnett writes:
We had to create virtually the whole range of ordnance requirements, and we had to do everything from scratch. We'd make the dies, adapt the machine-tools, do all the drawings and specifications and start a production process that, by rights, should have gone on turning out goods by the thousand. But no sooner would we have our production flowing than we would fill the requirement, and we'd have to get on to something else. It was terribly frustrating. We'd make 200 of this, 500 of that, 300 of the other and - stop! - just as you'd turn the handle of the sausage machine, someone would call, 'Halt - enough sausages!' (1)
The early stages of optical production at the Commonwealth Solar Observatory (CSO) did not run smoothly. Genuine problems with quality control were encountered, hampered by communication problems between work sections. In early 1943, an Ordnance Production Directorate (OPD) report on the CSO was very critical of the low standard of production work. The report stressed that, unless the various CSO section heads could work harmoniously and the quality of work improved, then the CSO should 'be relieved of all its production work'.(2)
The training of workers and the efficient, clean and consistent operation of the assembly shop were the main areas of concern. Cla Allen was very aware of these issues and, in coordination with Woolley, the CSO Director, was instrumental in getting the CSO operating at the appropriate level. Within a few months, the same OPD official was happy to report an improvement in the situation.
(1) Sir Laurence Hartnett (1973), Big Wheels and Little Wheels, 2nd edn, Gold Star Publications, Hawthorn, Victoria, p. 133.
(2) Memo from T.J. Malcolmson to T. Hedberg, 21 January 1943, Australian Archives, MP 392/9, Box 12 - Optical - Machine tools & Mt Stromlo.