Friday, June 30, 2017

Modern Engineering and Modern Shop Management - F.W. Taylor

There is a close analogy between the methods of modern engineering and this type of management. Engineering now centers in the drafting room as modern management does in the planning department. The new style engineering has all the appearance of complication and extravagance, with its multitude of drawings; the amount of study and work which is put into each detail; and its corps of draftsmen, all of whom would be sneered at by the old engineer as "non-producers." For the same reason, modern management, with its minute time study and a managing department in which each operation is carefully planned, with its many written orders and its apparent red tape, looks like a waste of money; while the ordinary management in which the planning is mainly done by the workmen themselves, with the help of one or two foremen, seems simple and economical in the extreme.

The writer, however, while still a young man, had all lingering doubt as to the value of a drafting room dispelled by seeing the chief engineer, the foreman of the machine shop, the foreman of the foundry, and one or two workmen, in one of our large and successful engineering establishments of the old school, stand over the cylinder of an engine which was being built, with chalk and dividers, and discuss for more than an hour the proper size and location of the studs for fastening on the cylinder head. This was simplicity, but not economy. About the same time he became thoroughly convinced of the necessity and economy of a planning department with time study, and with written instruction cards and returns. He saw over and over again a workman shut down his machine and hunt up the foreman to inquire, perhaps, what work to put into his machine next, and then chase around the shop to find it or to have a special tool or template looked up or made. He saw workmen carefully nursing their jobs by the hour and doing next to nothing to avoid making a record, and he was even more forcibly convinced of the necessity for a change while he was still working as a machinist by being ordered by the other men to slow down to half speed under penalty of being thrown over the fence.

No one now doubts the economy of the drafting room, and the writer predicts that in a very few years from now no one will doubt the economy and necessity of the study of unit times and of the planning department.

Another point of analogy between modern engineering and modern management lies in the fact that modern engineering proceeds with comparative certainty to the design and construction of a machine or structure of the maximum efficiency with the minimum weight and cost of materials, while the old style engineering at best only approximated these results and then only after a series of breakdowns, involving the practical reconstruction of the machine and the lapse of a long period of time. The ordinary system of management, owing to the lack of exact information and precise methods, can only approximate to the desired standard of high wages accompanied by low labor cost and then only
slowly, with marked irregularity in results, with continued opposition, and, in many cases, with danger from strikes. Modern management, on the other hand, proceeds slowly at first, but with directness and precision, step by step, and, after the first few object lessons, almost without opposition on the part of the men, to high wages and low labor cost; and as is of great importance, it assigns wages to the men which are uniformly fair. They are not demoralized, and their sense of justice offended by receiving wages which are sometimes too low and at other times entirely too high.

One of the marked advantages of scientific management lies in its freedom from strikes. The writer has never been opposed by a strike, although he has been engaged for a great part of his time since 1883 in introducing this type of management in different parts of the country and in a great variety of industries. The only case of which the writer can think in which a strike under this system might be unavoidable would be that in which most of the employees were members of a labor union, and of a union whose rules were so inflexible and whose members were so stubborn that they were unwilling to try any other system, even though it assured them larger wages than their own. The writer has seen,
however, several times after the introduction of this system, the members of labor unions who were working under it leave the union in large numbers because they found that they could do better under the operation of the system than under the laws of the union.

There is no question that the average individual accomplishes the most when he either gives himself, or some one else assigns him, a definite task, namely, a given amount of work which he must do within a given time; and the more elementary the mind and character of the individual the more necessary does it become that each task shall extend over a short period of time only. No school teacher would think of telling children in a general way to study a certain book or subject. It is practically universal to assign each day a definite lesson beginning on one specified page and line and ending on another; and the best progress is made when the conditions are such that a definite study hour or period can be assigned in. which the lesson must be learned. Most of us remain, through a great part of our lives, in this respect, grown-up children, and do our best only under pressure of a task of comparatively short duration. Another and perhaps equally great advantage of assigning a daily task as against ordinary piece work lies in the fact that the success of a good workman or the failure of a poor one is thereby daily and prominently called to the attention of the management. Many a poor workman might be willing to go along in a slipshod way under ordinary piece work, careless as to whether he fell off a little in his output or not. Very few of them, however, would be willing to record a daily failure to accomplish their task even if they were allowed to do so by their foreman; and also since on ordinary piece work the price alone is specified without limiting the time which the job is to take, a quite large falling off in output can in many cases occur without coming to
the attention of the management at all. It is for these reasons that the writer has above indicated "a large daily task" for each man as the first of four principles which should be included in the best type of management.

It is evident, however, that it is useless to assign a task unless at the same time adequate measures are taken to enforce its accomplishment.  It is to compel the completion of the daily task then that two of the other principles are required, namely, "high pay for success" and "loss in case of failure." The advantage of Mr. H. L. Gantt's system of "task work with a bonus," and the writer's "differential rate piece work" over the other systems lies in the fact that with each of these the men automatically and daily receive either an extra reward in case of complete success, or a distinct loss in case they fall off even a little.

The four principles above referred to can be successfully applied either under day work, piece work, task work with a bonus, or differential rate piece work, and each of these systems has its own especial conditions under which it is to be preferred to either of the other three. In no case, however, should an attempt be made to apply these principles unless accurate and thorough time study has previously been made of every item entering into the day's task.

They should be applied under day work only when a number of miscellaneous jobs have to be done day after day, none of which can occupy the entire time of a man throughout the whole of a day and when the time required to do each of these small jobs is likely to vary somewhat each day. In this case a number of these jobs can be grouped into a daily task which should be assigned, if practicable, to one man, possibly even to two or three, but rarely to a gang of men of any size. To illustrate: In a small boiler house in which there is no storage room for coal, the work of wheeling the coal to the fireman, wheeling out the ashes, helping clean fires and keeping the boiler room and the outside of the boilers clean can be made into the daily task for a man, and if these items do not sum up into a full day's work, on the average, other duties can be added until a proper task is assured. Or, the various details of sweeping, cleaning, and keeping a certain section of a shop floor windows, machines, etc., in order can be united to form a task. Or, in a small factory which turns out a uniform product and in uniform quantities day after day, supplying raw materials to certain parts of the factory and removing finished product from others may be coupled with other definite duties to form a task. The task should call for a large day's work, and the man should be paid more than the usual day's pay so that the position will be sought for by first-class, ambitious men. Clerical work can very properly be done by the task in this way, although when there is enough of it, piece work at so much per entry is to be preferred.

In all cases a clear cut, definite inspection of the task is desirable at least once a day and sometimes twice. When a shop is not running at night, a good time for this inspection is at seven o'clock in the morning, for instance. The inspector should daily sign a printed card, stating that he has inspected the work done by ----, and enumerating the various items of the task. The card should state that the workman has satisfactorily performed his task, "except the following items," which should be enumerated in detail.

F.W. Taylor - Shop Management


Updated  18 June 2017, 27 May 2017

Hollis Godfrey in his 1913 article THE TRAINING OF INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERS specifically mentions training for industrial engineers in the planning department.

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