Sunday, July 22, 2018

Frederick Taylor's Piece Rate System - 1895 - Part 2

Frederick Taylor's Piece Rate System - Part 2

16. If the plan of grading labor and recording each man’s performance is so much superior to the old day-work method of handling men, why is it not all that is required? Because no foreman can watch and study all of his men all of the time, and because any system of laying out and apportioning work, and of returns and records, which is sufficiently elaborate to keep proper account of the performance of each workman, is more complicated than piece-work. It is evident that that system is the best which, in attaining the desired result, presents in the long run the course of least resistance.

17. The inherent and most serious defect of even the best managed day-work lies in the 'fact that there is nothing about the system that is self-sustaining. When once the men are working at a rapid pace there is nothing but the constant, unremitting watchfulness and energy of the management to keep them there ; while with every form of piece-work each new rate that is fixed insures a given speed for another section of work, and to that extent relieves the foreman from worry.

18. From the best type of day-work to ordinary piece-work, the step is a short one. With good day-work the various operations of manufacturing should have been divided into small sections or jobs, in order to properly gauge the efficiency of the men ; and the quickest time should have been recorded in which each operation has been performed. The change from paying by the hour to paying by the job is then readily accomplished.

19. The theory upon which the ordinary system of piece-work operates to the benefit of the manufacturer is exceedingly simple. Each workman, with a definite price for each job before him, contrives a way of doing it in a shorter time, either by working harder or by improving his method ; and he thus makes a larger profit. After the job has been repeated a number of times at the more rapid rate, the manufacturer thinks that he should also begin to share in the gain, and therefore reduces the price of the job to a figure at which the workman, although working harder, earns, perhaps, but little more than he originally did when on day-work.

20. The actual working of the system, however, is far different. Even the most stupid man, after receiving two or three piece-work “ cuts ” as a reward for his having worked harder, resents this treatment and seeks a remedy for it in the future. Thus begins a war, generally an amicable war, but none the less a war, between the workmen and the management. The latter endeavors by every means to induce the workmen to increase the out put, and the men gauge the rapidity with which they work, so as never to earn over a certain rate of wages, knowing that if they exceed this amount the piece-work price will surely be cut sooner or later.

21. But the war is by no means restricted to piece-work. Every intelligent workman realizes the importance, to his own interest, of starting in on each new job as slowly as possible. There are few foremen or superintendents who have anything but a general idea as to how long it should take to do a piece of work that is new to them. Therefore, before fixing a piece-work price, they prefer to have the job done for the first time by the day. They watch the progress of the work as closely as their other duties will permit, and make up their minds how quickly it can be done. It becomes the workman’s interest then to go just as slowly as possible and still convince his foreman that he is working well.

22. The extent to which, even in our largest and best managed establishments, this plan of holding back on the work, — “ marking time ”, or “ soldiering ”, as it is called — is carried on by the men, can scarcely be understood by one who has not worked among them. It is by no means uncommon for men to work at the rate of one-third, or even one-quarter, their maximum speed, and still preserve the appearance of working hard. And when a rate has once been fixed on such a false basis it is easy for the men to nurse successfully “ a soft snap ” of this sort through a term of years, earning in the mean-
while just as much wages as they think they can without having the rate cut

23. Thus arises a system of hypocrisy and deceit on the part of the men which is thoroughly demoralizing and which has led many workmen to regard their employers as their natural enemies, to be opposed in whatever they want, believing that whatever is for the interest of the management must necessarily be to their detriment.

24. The effect of this system of piece-work on the character of the men is, in many cases, so serious as to make it doubtful whether, on the whole, well managed day-work is not preferable.

25. There are several modifications of the ordinary method of piece-work which tend to lessen the evils of the system, but I know of none that can eradicate the fundamental causes for war, and enable the managers and the men to heartily cooperate in obtaining the maximum product from the establishment. It is the writer’s opinion, however, that the differential rate system of piece-work, which will be described later, in most cases entirely harmonizes the interests of both parties.

26. One method of temporarily relieving the strain between workmen and employers consists in reducing the price paid for work, and at the same time guaranteeing the men against further reduction for a definite period. If this period be made sufficiently long, the men are tempted to let themselves out and earn as much money as they can, thus “ spoiling ” their own job by another “ cut ” in rates when the period has expired.

27. Perhaps the most successful modification of the ordinary system of piece-work is the “gain-sharing” plan. This was invented by Mr. Henry R. Towne, in 1886, and has since been extensively and successfully applied by him in the Yale & Towne Manufacturing Co., at Stamford, Conn. It was admirably described in a paper which he read before this Society in 1888. This system of paying men is, however, subject to the serious, and I think fatal, defect that it does not recognize the personal merit of each workman ; the tendency being rather to herd men together and promote trades-unionism, than to develop each man’s individuality.

28. A still further improvement of this method was made by Mr. F. A. Halsey, and described by him in a paper entitled “The Premium Plan of Paying for Labor,” and presented to this Society in 1891. Mr. Halsey’s plan allows free scope for each man’s personal ambition, which Mr. Towne’s does not.

29. Messrs. Towne and Halsey’s plans consist briefly in recording the cost of each job as a starting-point at a certain time ; then, if, through the effort of the workmen in the future, the job is done in a shorter time and at a lower cost, the gain is divided among the workmen and the employer in a definite ratio, the workmen receiving, say, one-half, and the employer one-half.

30. Under this plan, if the employer lives up to his promise, and the workman has confidence in his integrity, there is the proper basis for cooperation to secure sooner or later a large increase in the output of the establishment.

Yet there still remains the temptation for the workman to “ soldier ” or hold back while on day-work, which is the most difficult thing to overcome. And in this as well as in all the systems heretofore referred to, there is the common defect that the starting-point from which the first rate is fixed is unequal and unjust. Some of the rates may have resulted from records obtained when a good man was working close to his maximum speed, while others are based on the performance of a medium man at one-third or one-quarter speed. From this follows a great inequality and injustice in the reward even of the same man when at work on different jobs. The result is far from a realization of the ideal condition in which the same return is uniformly received for a given expenditure of brains and energy. Other defects in the gain-sharing plan, and which are corrected by the differential rate system, are :

( 1) That it is slow and irregular in its operation in reducing costs, being dependent upon the whims of the men working under it.

(2) That it fails to especially attract first-class men and discourage inferior men.

(3) That it does not automatically insure the maximum output of the establishment per man and machine.

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