About Review Knols on Articles in Maynard's Handbook
(Maynard's Industrial Engineering Handbook)
THE PURPOSE AND EVOLUTION OF INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING
Louis A. Martin-Vega
National Science Foundation, Arlington,Virginia
Early Origins of Engineering
As has been the case with all these fields, industrial engineering also developed initially from empirical evidence and understanding and then from research to develop a more scientific base.
Empirical Roots and Early Thinkers
The empirical roots of the profession date back to the Industrial Revolution, which began in England during the mid-eighteenth century.
The concept of a production system, which lies at the core of modern industrial engineering practice and research, had its genesis in the factories created as a result of innovations in industrial revolution.
The concepts presented by Adam Smith in his treatise The Wealth of Nations also lie at the foundation of what eventually became the theory and practice of industrial engineering. His writings on concepts such as the division of labor and the “invisible hand” of capitalism served to motivate many of the technological innovators of the Industrial Revolution to establish and implement factory systems. Examples of these developments include Arkwright’s implementation of management control systems to regulate production and the output of factory workers, and the well-organized factory that Watt, together with an associate, Matthew Boulton, built to produce steam engines.
Pioneers of Industrial Engineering
Frederick Taylor, Frank Gilbreth and Harrington Emerson have to be given the principal credit for giving birth to industrial engineering discipline. Taylor and Gilbreth worked in the area of human effort engineering that promotes efficiency in production systems. Emerson specifically worked on the efficiency dimension of systems.
Taylor and Scientific ManagementOne cannot presume to be well versed in the origins of industrial engineering without reading Taylor’s books: Shop Management and The Principles of Scientific Management. An engineer to the core, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology and developed several inventions for which he received patents. His engineering accomplishments would have been sufficient to guarantee him a place in history. His contributions to management that resulted in a set of principles and concepts which were considered by Drucker to be “possibly the most powerful as well as lasting contribution America has made to Western thought since the Federalist Papers.”
The core of Taylor’s system consisted of breaking down the production process into its component parts and improving the efficiency of each. He honed manual tasks to maximum efficiency by examining each component separately and eliminating all false, slow, and useless movements. Mechanical work was accelerated through the use of jigs, fixtures, and other devices—many invented by Taylor himself. In essence, Taylor was trying to do for work units what Whitney had done for material units: standardize them and make them interchangeable.
Improvement of work efficiency under the Taylor system was based on the analysis and improvement of work methods, reduction of the time required to carry out the work, and the development of work standards. With an abiding faith in the scientific method, Taylor’s contribution to the development of “time study” was his way of seeking the same level of predictability and precision for manual tasks that he had achieved with his formulas for metal cutting.
Taylor’s interest in what today we classify as the area of work measurement was also motivated by the information that studies of this nature could supply for planning activities. In this sense, his work laid the foundation for a broader “science of planning”: a science totally empirical in nature but one that he was able to demonstrate could significantly improve productivity.
Taylor contributed technological progress, a concept used in Economic Theory of Growth to refer to increase in output from the same amount of resources. Taylor's human effort engineering resulted in the increased output from same manpower resources.
Lillian Gilbreth, wife of Frank Gilbreth, provided significant insight and contributions to the human issues associated with their studies. Lillian’s book, The Psychology of Management (based on her doctoral thesis in psychology at Brown University), advanced the premise that because of its emphasis on scientific selection and training, scientific management offered ample opportunity for individual development, while traditional management stifled such development by concentrating power in a central figure. Known as the “first lady of engineering,” she was the first woman to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering and is generally credited with bringing to the industrial engineering profession a concern for human welfare and human relations that was not present in the work of many pioneers of the scientific management movement.
Harrington Emerson - The efficiency focus
Emerson became a champion of efficiency independent of Taylor and summarized his approach in his book, the Twelve Principles of Efficiency.
Emerson, who had reorganized the workshops of the Santa Fe Railroad, testified during the hearings of the Interstate Commerce Commission concerning a proposed railroad rate hike in 1910 to 1911 that scientific management could save “a million dollars a day.” Because he was the only “efficiency engineer” with firsthand experience in the railroad industry, his statement carried enormous weight and served to emblazon scientific management on the national consciousness.
Later in his career he became particularly interested in selection and training of employees and is also credited with originating the term dispatching in reference to shop floor control, a phrase that undoubtedly derives from his railroad experience.
Efficiency Society organized by Emerson later merged with Taylor Society to form Society for Advancement of Management.
Knol No. 538