Frederick Taylor's Piece Rate System - 1895 - Part 4
46. Before the best results were finally attained in the case of work done by metal-cutting tools, such as lathes, planers, boring mills, etc., a long and expensive series of experiments was made, to determine, formulate, and finally practically apply to each machine the law governing the proper cutting speed of tools, namely, the effect on the cutting speed of altering any one of the
following variables : the shape of the tool (i.e., lip angle, clearance angle, and the line of the cutting edge), the duration of the cut, the quality or hardness of the metal being cut, the depth of the cut, and the thickness of the feed or shaving.
47. It is the writer’s opinion that a more complicated and difficult piece of rate-fixing could not be found than that of determining the proper price for doing all kinds of machine work on miscellaneous steel and iron castings and forgings, which vary in their chemical composition from the softest iron to the hardest tool steel. Yet this problem was solved through the rate-fixing department and the “ differential rate,” with the final result of completely harmonizing the men and the management, in place of the constant war that existed under the old system. At the same time the quality of the
work was improved and the output of the machinery and the men was doubled, and in many cases trebled. At the start there was naturally great opposition to the ratefixing department, particularly to the man who was taking time observations of the various elements of the work ; but when the men found that the rates were fixed without regard to the records of the quickest time in which they had actually done each job, and that the knowledge of the department was more accurate than
their own, the motive for hanging back or “ soldiering ” on this work ceased, and with it the greatest cause for antagonism and war between the men and the management
48. As an illustration of the great variety of work to which elementary rate-fixing has already been successfully applied, the writer would state that while acting as general manager of two large sulphite pulp mills he directed the application of piece-work to all of the complicated operations of manufacturing throughout one of these mills, by means of elementary rate-fixing, with the
result, within eighteen months, of more than doubling the output of the mill.
The difference between elementary rate-fixing and the ordinary plan can perhaps be best explained by a simple illustration. Suppose the work to be planing a surface on a piece of cast iron. In the ordinary system the rate-fixer would look through his records of work done by the planing machine, until he found a piece of work as nearly as possible similar to the proposed job, and then guess at the time required to do the new piece of work. Under the elementary system, however, some such analysis as the following would be made :
Work done by Man. Minutes.
Time to lift piece from floor to planer table — - ■
Time to level and set work true on table
Time to put on stops and bolts —
Time to remove stops and bolts
Time to remove piece to floor
Time to clean machine “■
Work done by Machine . Minutes .
Time to rough off cut X in* thick, 4 feet long, 2 X in. wide . t
Time to rough off cut % in. thick, 3 feet long, 12 in. wide etc. -■
Time to finish cut 4 feet long, 2# in. wide
Time to finish cut 3 feet long, 12 in. wide, etc —
Add per cent, for unavoidable delays
It is evident that this job consists of a combination of elementary operations, the time required to do each of which can be readily determined by observation.
This exact combination of operations may never occur again, but elementary operations similar to these will be performed in differing combinations almost every day in the same shop.
A man whose business it is to fix rates soon becomes so familiar with the time required to do each kind of elementary work performed by the men, that he can write down the time from memory.
In the case of that part of the work which is done by the machine, the rate-fixer refers to tables which are made out for each machine, and from which he takes the time required for any combination of breadth, depth, and length of cut
49. While, however, the accurate knowledge of the quickest time in which work can be done, obtained by the rate-fixing department and accepted by the men as standard, is the greatest and most important step toward obtaining the maximum output of the establishment, it is one thing to know how much work can be done in a day and an entirely different matter to get even the best
men to work at their fastest speed or anywhere near it.
50. The means which the writer has found to be by far the most effective in obtaining the maximum output of a shop, and which, so far as he can see, satisfies the legitimate requirements, both of the men and management, is the differential rate system of piece-work.
This consists briefly in paying a higher price per piece, or per unit, or per job, if the work is done in the shortest possible time and without imperfections, than is paid if the work takes a longer time or is imperfectly done.
51. To illustrate : Suppose 20 units or pieces to be the largest amount of work of a certain kind that can be done in a day. Under the differential rate system, if a workman finishes 20 pieces per day, and all of these pieces are perfect, he receives, say, 15 cents per piece, making his pay for the day 15 X 20 = $3. If, however, he works too slowly and turns out, say, only 19 pieces, then, instead of receiving 15 cents per piece he gets only 12 cents per piece, making his pay for the day 12 X 19 = $2.28, instead of #3 per day.
If he succeeds in finishing 20 pieces, some of which are imperfect, then he should receive a still lower rate of pay, say 10 cents or 5 cents per piece, according to circumstances, making his pay for the day $ 2 , or only $1, instead of $3.
It will be observed that this style of piece-work is directly the opposite of the ordinary plan. To make the difference between the two methods more clear : Supposing under the ordinary system of piece-work that the workman has been turning out 16 pieces per day, and has received 15 cents per piece ; then his day’s wages would be 15 X 16 =$2.40. Through extra exertion he succeeds in increasing his output to 20 pieces per day, and thereby increases his pay to 15 X 20 =$3. The employer, under the old system, however, concludes that $3 is too much for the man to earn per day, since other men are only getting from $2.25 to $2.50, and therefore cuts the price from 15 cents per piece to 12 cents, and the man finds himself working at a more rapid pace and yet earning only the same old wages, ia X 20 = $2.40 per day. What wonder that men do not care to repeat this performance many times ?
53. Whether cooperation, the differential plan, or some other form of piece-work be chosen in connection with elementary rate-fixing, as the best method of working, there are certain fundamental facts and principles which must be recognized and incorporated in any system of management before true and lasting success can be attained ; and most of these facts and principles will be found to be not far removed from what the strictest moralists would call justice.
54. The most important of these facts is, that MEN WILE NOT DO AN EXTRAORDINARY DAY’S WORK FOR AN ordinary day’s pay ; and any attempt on the part of employers to get the best work out of their men and' give them the standard wages paid by their neighbors will surely be, and ought to be, doomed to failure.
55. Justice, however, not only demands for the workman an increased reward for a large day’s work, but should compel him to suffer an appropriate loss in case his work falls off either in quantity or quality. It is quite as important that the deductions for bad work should be just, and graded in proportion to the shortcomings of the workman, as that the reward should be proportional to the work done.
The fear of being discharged, which is practically the only penalty applied in many establishments, is entirely inadequate to producing the best quantity and quality of work ; since the workmen find that they can take many liberties before the management makes up its mind to apply this extreme penalty.
56. It is clear that the differential rate satisfies automatically, as it were, the above condition of properly graded rewards and deductions. Whenever a workman works for a day (or even a shorter period) at his maximum, he receives under this * system unusually high wages ; but when he falls off either in quantity or quality from the highest rate of Efficiency his pay falls below even the ordinary.
57. The lower differential rate should be fixed at a figure which will allow the workman to earn scarcely an ordinary day’s pay when he falls off from his maximum pace, so as to give him every inducement to work hard and well.
58. The exact percentage beyond the usual standard which must be paid to induce men to work to their maximum varies with different trades and with different sections of the country, And there are places in the United States where the men (generally speaking) are so lazy and demoralized that no sufficient inducement can be offered to make them do a full day’s work.
59. It is not, however, sufficient that each workman’s ambition should be aroused by the prospect of larger pay at the end of even a comparatively short period of
time. The stimulus to maximum exertion should be a
This involves such vigorous and rapid inspection and returns as to enable each workman in most cases to know each day the exact result of his previous day’s work — i. e ., whether he has succeeded in earning his maximum pay, and exactly what his losses are for careless or defective work. Two-thirds of the moral effect, either of a reward or penalty, is lost by even a short postponement.
60. It will again be noted that the differential rate system forces this condition both upon the management and the workmen, since the men while working under it are above all anxious to know at the earliest possible minute whether they have earned their high rate or not. And it is equally important for the management to know whether the work has been properly done.
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Updated 4 November 2018, 24 July 2018