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 tlie 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 eveiy 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 im-
proving 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 hav-
ing worked harder, resents this treatment and seeks a
remedy for it in the future. Thus begins a war, gener-
ally an amicable war, but none the less a war, between
the workmen and the management. The latter endeav-
ors 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 impor-
tance, to his own interest, of starting in on each new job
as slowly as possible. There are few foremen or super-
intendents 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 pos-
sible and still convince his foreman that he is working

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 under-
stood 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 with-
out 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 fun-
damental 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 opin-
ion, however, that the differential rate system of piece-
work, which will be described later, in most cases en-
tirely 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 guaran-
teeing 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 work-
men 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 re-
ceiving, 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 integ-
rity, there is the proper basis for cooperation to secure
sooner or later a large increase in the output of the

Yet there still remains the temptation for the work-
man 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 fol-
lows 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 differ-
ential 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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