Bauhaus Kolleg XII Research 01 - The Bata System
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Urban Footprints: Bata Cities
The Bata System
INTRODUCTION:
Bata Shoe Company was born in 1894 in Czech Republic by the hand of 3 brothers Antonín, Anna and Tomas.
They originated from Zlín, located in the centre of Czech Republic, a region known for it’s cobbling. The Bata family itself had a long tradition in the art and by establishing a well-organized shoe company, the brothers believed be able to compete with the other craftsmen in that area mainly owning small-scale family businesses.
After 50 years, Bata was the main shoe manufacturer in the world, represented in almost every continent and one of the first actors of what we call today Globalization, exporting the Bata way of life to everywhere it went.
Until the break of II world War the company was based in Zlín, which became the testing ground for Bata´s vision, especially after Tomas Bata was elected Mayor of the city from 1923 to 1932.
The population of the town grows drastically due to Bata factory allowing the Bata image to gain consistency.
In 1931, in order to survive the Great Depression, and the protective policies of European countries against foreign companies, Bata establishes factories abroad, together with housing estates for employees in the style of Zlín architecture creating a coherent image recognisable as Bata.
After the II World War, all the business enterprises of the Bata Company in Czechoslovakia are nationalized. This means the end of Bata Company in Zlín. Bata development Limited is established, with head offices in London, until 1960s when it moves to Canada. The subsidiary companies in each country start gaining growing independence and Bata image begins to lose its strength.
Influence of the Bata company in the growth of the city of Zlín until today  (Zlín archive, Czech Republic)
BATA SYSTEM:
Bata Company was shaped at the image of Tomas Bata: it represents his faith on the potentialities of modern technology and the formations of a new society, acting as one, almost like an assembly line.
By shaping is workers to into is vision, he hoped be able to create a dynamic workforce, extremely profitable.
The Bata System aimed mainly at the optimization and rationalization of production processes as a means of ensuring profit. It was a centralized vertical system of control aimed at the entire production since the processing of raw materials to selling the finished product covering not only the production of shoes, but also social welfare, architecture, urban planning, communication and social behaviour
MANAGEMENT:
Bata Company had a very simple goal – to ensure the maximum production with less loss – to achieve that all aspects of the Bata life had to be profitable,
that way the system was sustainable by itself and the workers would be controlled at all times.
The entire company was divided into several independent units – production, leisure, sport, education, commercial, housing, planning, communication, that would buy and sell to each other in chain.
Each of these main units where again subdivided into smaller ones – in case of production: independent workshops, with independent profit goals which, if not achieved, would leave to the closing down of the unit or, in case of production, cutting on workers salaries.
PRODUCTION:
Bata workers were chosen early, recruited from surrounding, mainly rural areas, trained in Bata schools, enjoying breaks in Bata facilities, eventually getting married with Bata women, spending vacations paid by and in Bata chosen destinations…The workers were motivated thru several processes specially aimed at “healthy competition” like autonomous workshops and by the offering of a complete “life style” package, which ensured an idea of being a part of the future.Bata tend to control the entire production system from the extraction of raw materials to selling the finished product.The production system included research and development teams for developing machinery, productions techniques, and new materials and designs that where then tested in the production facilities.
For that reason the factories had to have excellent access conditions – truck, train, boat, airplane – rarely the 4 means of transport where present at the same place, but 3 of them was likely to happen.
PLANNING:
The building and planning department were established in Zlín in the early 1920s as another step on the path for vertical control. It ensured the continuous research for the suitable physical way to represent Bata guidelines – optimization, rationalization, quality, and profit.
It started developing buildings according to the company’s necessities in Zlín but soon went on to planning the growth of the city as well as developing entirely new construction systems that would characterize Bata Image.The famous 6.15x6.15m grid of reinforced concrete or steel infill with glazing or brick was used for production and most communal buildings
The company never tried to follow the mainstream styles but rather to find its own: a mix of concepts of the garden city, industrial city and modern movement that was to be flexible enough to allow adaptation to different parts of the world without losing its identity.
Soon the company was exporting its urban and social model to places as distant as the UK, India, Brazil, or Canada becoming an pioneer in globalization.
In each new settlement a massive group composed of people, materials, machines and plans would be dislocated to ensure the compliance with the headquarters.
COMMUNICATION:
Bata way to spread is vision was thru communication means. By constantly expressing is vision to his “Bata Family” he hoped to create a uniform society, focus on the same goals.
Internally, the famous messages in the walls of production facilities reminded workers to not waist any time, the music coming out of the speakers didn’t let anyone forget it was time to work, the Bata newspaper talk about Batas achievements, goals for the future, happenings in he city; the radio advertisements arouse the need for shopping and distributed vouchers for Bata housewife’s. The Bata TV entertained families during dinner and night; the cinema and theatre exalted theBata way of Life – a 24h Bata that would brainwash the most resilient brain.To the world Bata relied on its vision to seduce clients. The shops designed carefully, as well as all shop fittings, furniture and exhibitions rules.Salesman had a special training and journal to comply with the companies standards of quality: excellent service would lead to customer loyalty.
What we see today as a 20 year old novelty, as the concept stores were existing 90 years ago in Bata Stores – several floors, carefully decorated, exhibiting shoes and other, leather and rubber accessories as well as foot care services.
By starting to use leather only in the soles of the shoes and canvas for the rest, Bata was able to reduce prices drastically, allowing them to be affordable for the working class at rise around on the outskirts of mid 20th century.
SOCIAL ENGINEERING:
The workers were tested for mental and physical abilities and selected,through training in their own Bata facilities. That process should graduallyled to a homogeneous workforce, who felt as safe-Bata men or women. Similar wayin the Soviet Union, the "new man" of communism, should be educated.Young bred Bata educated with military discipline, uniforms, fitness and rigor.The Bata spirit was already been inoculated buy the children and those who wereparticularly good, could rise up into an elite corps - the “Thomasian” that were trained forleadership positions and equipped with top hat and tails.
Batas influence on leisure time often corresponded to the fascistsystem of the “Opera Nazionale delDopolavoro”, of the state for the purpose of indoctrination andregeneration steered the evening celebration, which included ”Strength throughjoy” of National Socialism in Germany.
In the Bata Sports Clubs, fitness competitions served the group, andthe only place of entertainment was the largest cinema in Central Europe locatedin the centre of the city. The movies were controlled by Bata and hispropaganda department.
The companypromoted compulsory sporting events and days organized down to the last detail.The radio could not be switched and sounded out unabated making it compulsory togo shopping without cash, using vouchers, which could only be used for Batastores. There was also encountering censorship.
Marxist and tradeunionists say ‘Batism’ (Bata System) had a sophisticated form of capitalistexploitation: employer and employee had a contractually-fixed relationship,which one sidedly favoured the power element of the former; absence of a bodylimiting this power like trade-unions; the profit-sharing scheme was not contractuallyassured making it ‘arbitrary’. The arbitrariness and the excessive physical andpsychological demands subjected employees to excessive pressure.
Everyday life wasundoubtedly geared to serve the Bata everyday routine. The time-punch machine,the assembly line, the lunchtime breaks, and the shift changeovers, even theone-week paid annual vacation – all of this was collective, unified, and allembracing. These institutions determined the rhythm of the city and it’s pace.
Tomas Bata exertedsince the beginning a strong pressure to control education implanting the Masarykschools, located in Bata’s buildings. In the strong emphasis placed on work and‘serving the community’, their pedagogical principles clearly echoed ‘Batism’and their objective was nothing less than the education of the ‘new man’.
Pedagogicalindependence and democratic critique were not guaranteed.
>Social Engineering
The workers were tested for mental and physical abilities and selected,through training in their own Bata facilities. That process should graduallyled to a homogeneous workforce, who felt as safe-Bata men or women. Similar wayin the Soviet Union, the "new man" of communism, should be educated.Young bred Bata educated with military discipline, uniforms, fitness and rigor.The Bata spirit was already been inoculated buy the children and those who wereparticularly good, could rise up into an elite corps - the “Thomasian” that were trained forleadership positions and equipped with top hat and tails.
Batas influence on leisure time often corresponded to the fascistsystem of the “Opera Nazionale delDopolavoro”, of the state for the purpose of indoctrination andregeneration steered the evening celebration, which included ”Strength throughjoy” of National Socialism in Germany.
In the Bata Sports Clubs, fitness competitions served the group, andthe only place of entertainment was the largest cinema in Central Europe locatedin the centre of the city. The movies were controlled by Bata and hispropaganda department.
The companypromoted compulsory sporting events and days organized down to the last detail.The radio could not be switched and sounded out unabated making it compulsory togo shopping without cash, using vouchers, which could only be used for Batastores. There was also encountering censorship.
Marxist and tradeunionists say ‘Batism’ (Bata System) had a sophisticated form of capitalistexploitation: employer and employee had a contractually-fixed relationship,which one sidedly favoured the power element of the former; absence of a bodylimiting this power like trade-unions; the profit-sharing scheme was not contractuallyassured making it ‘arbitrary’. The arbitrariness and the excessive physical andpsychological demands subjected employees to excessive pressure.
Everyday life wasundoubtedly geared to serve the Bata everyday routine. The time-punch machine,the assembly line, the lunchtime breaks, and the shift changeovers, even theone-week paid annual vacation – all of this was collective, unified, and allembracing. These institutions determined the rhythm of the city and it’s pace.
Tomas Bata exertedsince the beginning a strong pressure to control education implanting the Masarykschools, located in Bata’s buildings. In the strong emphasis placed on work and‘serving the community’, their pedagogical principles clearly echoed ‘Batism’and their objective was nothing less than the education of the ‘new man’.
Pedagogicalindependence and democratic critique were not guaranteed.
BATA TODAY
Today Bata still maintains its presence in the shoe market having to divide its previous leadership with many other competitors. Having relying so much on governmental contracts made the company weak before its main competitors. As the market became more and more competitive the company tend to retry.Nowadays its main market is relies on Asia and South America, and still is recognisable in some European cities.The production system is much closer to other companies in the market faithful to post-fordistic models, keeping the administration, research and development departments in the main economic centres and relying on production plants (rapidly decreasing) and subcontractors to produce the goods, located mainly in Asia and South America.