Ferranti-Packard: Pioneers in Canadian Electrical Manufacturing

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Through their case-study of the evolution of a relatively small manufacturer such as Ferranti-Packard, Ball and Vardalas address a number of broader themes in the history of Canadian business and technology. Ferranti-Packard was British-owned and thus provides a revealing subject for the authors' investigation of the impact of foreign direct investment on Canadian industrial and technological capabilities. An important theme in this analysis is the interplay of British and North American corporate cultures. Ball and Vardalas explain the complex nature of technical and managerial relationships between subsidiaries and parent firms, demonstrating that Ferranti-Packard did not passively receive parent-firm expertise but was highly innovative in product design and marketing philosophy. The association between government and business in the development and direction of technology in Canadian industries since the Second World War is also explored.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6381-0
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-ix)
    Norman R. Ball

    The past does not come back, but it is not irrelevant; it affects us every day. The more of it we see and understand, the greater our potential for survival and growth.

    In times of uncertainty and rapid changes in both technology and the marketplace, knowledge of the past reminds us that we are not strangers to adversity, that we have faced it before and risen above it, and have done so because we are active, not passive. Deeper knowledge of the past also provides another healthy reminder: lest we be too inclined to feel deeply and unalterably in love...

  4. Preface
    (pp. x-xvi)
  5. 1 The Technology that Gave Birth to Ferranti-Packard
    (pp. 1-32)

    A distinguished historian of architecture once described the rise of electrical technology as “the greatest environmental revolution in human history since the domestication of fire.”¹ While the history of fire is as old as humankind, the story of electric power began only in the last century. Electricity is woven so thoroughly into the fabric of our lives that few people can imagine life without it. As a common household commodity, electricity has ceased being an object of wonder, excitement, and mystery. Yet, only 100 years ago the idea of providing every home, office, and industry with electricity was only teetering...

  6. 2 Birth of Packard Electric
    (pp. 33-64)

    Love of the practical dominated Victorian Canada’s relationship with science and technology. As a result, the developments that propelled electricity from philosophical curiosity to practical working technology captivated Canadians. Acutely conscious of the limitations of steam- and water-power, and well aware of how unevenly coal was distributed across the country, Canadians anxiously, sometimes naively, searched for new sources of energy and light. They welcomed new technology. The pioneering tradition was alive and, with it, an understanding that land had been cleared, farms created, and industry launched by a combination of adapting technology from elsewhere and creating the rest.¹

    Canada was...

  7. 3 Ferranti Arrives in Canada
    (pp. 65-81)

    In 1894, the Packard brothers came to St Catharines on the eve of an economic transformation. Prior to this, Canada had “languished and even the most sanguine were troubled by forebodings about the success of Confederation.”¹ By 1896, a fortuitous conjuncture of international events catapulted Canada from stagnation and depression to unprecedented growth and prosperity. Cheaper transportation, high prices for wheat, and intense world demand suddenly made the main crop of the Canadian prairies the centre of the international market and brought it within the range of profitable exploitation. The availability of millions of acres of homestead land unleashed waves...

  8. 4 Ferranti Builds a Manufacturing Base in Canada
    (pp. 82-120)

    From 1914 to 1945, the fortunes of Packard Electric and the Ferranti Electrical Co. of Canada rose and fell to the rhythm of international events. This country could not avoid being pulled into the powerful currents of change sweeping across the world, and the electrical industry experienced a three-decade-long financial roller-coaster ride. The responses of Ferranti and of Packard, as we shall see in the next two chapters, reflected very different corporate cultures.

    Companies are like miniature societies, with their own beliefs, values, traditions, and folklore. A corporation’s traditions, or “culture,” reveal the way it answers such fundamental questions as:...

  9. 5 Packard Electric, 1912—1945
    (pp. 121-145)

    At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 the Great War, the war to end all wars, ended. Wars stimulate business, but the joys of peace are often tempered by recession, which accompanies the problems of putting the economy and life on a peacetime footing. In Canada and much of the Western world, war was followed by the disappearing businesses of the early 1920s. A few years of prosperity seemed a hollow mockery when the Stock Market Crash of 1929, followed by drought and crop failures, produced the worst depression in Canadian history.


  10. 6 Ferranti and Packard
    (pp. 146-179)

    In the preceding chapters we saw how, from the First World War through the Second, Ferranti Canada and Packard Electric tried to establish a secure footing in the Canadian electrical market. As small companies, they both faced, from their earliest days, a common challenge: how to plot a course in a market increasingly dominated by large American-based firms. Though both had to deal with the same national and international market realities, each evolved its own set of management, sales, and engineering strategies.

    Packard Electric was a small, independent manufacturer with deep roots in the North American electrical business. Not being...

  11. 7 From Canadian to North American
    (pp. 180-217)

    From 1955 to 1957, the value of manufactured-in-Canada power transformer shipments dropped from $92.5 million to $26.3 million, as a result of offshore competition and dumping.¹ In the midst of such a crisis, the merger of Ferranti Electric and Packard Electric was the only way of ensuring the survival of two of Canada’s oldest electrical manufacturing companies and corporate cultures. Life after merger, however, did not turn out to be a bed of roses.

    Ferranti-Packard’s management wondered, as did the entire industry, if better times were not just around the corner. The early 1960s, however, did not offer any respite....

  12. 8 Birth of the Electronics Division
    (pp. 218-250)

    From the horrors and human suffering of the Second World War emerged a new economic, technological, and political order in Canada. At the outbreak of war, Canada was still in the grip of the Depression. By war's end most traces of the Depression had vanished. War production accelerated Canada’s transformation from a mere producer of raw materials to a modern industrial state. In 1943, C.D. Howe, who as minister of munitions and supply oversaw wartime production, boasted that “never again will there be any doubt that Canada can manufacture anything that can be manufactured elsewhere.”¹

    The war fostered a new...

  13. 9 The Rise and Fall of Canada’s First Commercial Computer
    (pp. 251-274)

    The Electronics Division was born, in 1949, out of the Canadian military’s interest in the use of thinking machines for automated warfare. In the years that followed, it nurtured the dream of designing and manufacturing a commercial general-purpose computer. Starting with datar, the division moved inexorably in that direction. By the early 1960s, the company was poised to leap into the commercial computer business. As Ferranti-Packard would soon discover, technical excellence did not guarantee commercial success. In addition to the technical questions to be answered, another fundamental question remained: was the domestic market ready for a made-in-Canada computer?

    Ferranti-Packard’s destiny...

  14. 10 End of an Era
    (pp. 275-309)

    If crisis was the crucible in which Ferranti-Packard was created, then Tom Edmondson was the craftsman who forged the union between two of Canada’s oldest electrical manufacturing firms. His decision in 1954 to join forces with the Ferranti organization remains the most significant event in the company’s history. Faced with the ever-deepening financial crisis in the Canadian electrical industry, Vincent Ziani de Ferranti in 1958 asked Edmondson to oversee the consolidation and rationalization of the Ferranti holdings in Canada. Only with Edmondson in charge did Vincent feel confident that the best of both companies would be brought together to produce...

  15. Epilogue: Ferranti-Packard’s Journey to Rolls-Royce
    (pp. 310-312)

    When future business historians turn their attention to the long-term trends and developments of the 1980s, their studies will necessarily go beyond continuing technological innovation to encompass global corporate concentration and ownership changes, as well as often surprising shifts in product lines. These areas will certainly interest anyone writing about Ferranti-Packard in the years from 1979 to 1993, which saw two changes of ownership and a narrowing of areas of manufacturing activity.

    The headline in the February 1979 issue of theFP Newsletterannounced not that Ferranti-Packard had been acquired by someone but that “Ferranti-Packard Acquires a New Owner,” and...

  16. Chronology
    (pp. 313-315)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 316-331)
  18. Index
    (pp. 332-336)