Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Frederick Taylor's Piece Rate System - 1895 - Part 3

Frederick Taylor's Piece Rate System - 1895 - Part 3

31. Cooperation, or profit sharing, has entered the
mind of every student of the subject as one of the pos-
sible and most attractive solutions of the problem ; and
there have been certain instances, both in England and
France., of at least a partial success of cooperative experi-

So far as I know, however, these trials have been
made either in small towns, remote from the manufact-
uring centres, or in industries which in many respects
are not subject to ordinary manufacturing conditions.

32. Cooperative experiments have failed, and, I think,
are generally destined to fail, for several reasons, the
first and most important of which is, that no form of co-
operation has yet been devised in which each individual
is allowed free scope for his personal ambition. This
always has been and will remain a more powerful incen-
tive to exertion than a desire for the general welfare.
The few misplaced drones, who do the loafing and share
equally in the profits with the rest, under cooperation
are sure to drag the better men down toward their level.

33. The second and almost equally strong reason for
failure lies in the remoteness of the reward. The aver-
age workman (I don’t say all men) cannot look forward
to a profit which is six months or a year away. The
nice time which they are sure to have to-day if they
take things easily, proves more attractive than hard
work with a possible reward to be shared with others
six months later.

34. Other and formidable difficulties in the path of
cooperation are, the equitable division of the profits, and
the fact that, while workmen are always ready to share
the profits, they are neither 'able nor willing to share the
losses. Further than this, in many cases it is neither
right nor just that they should share either in the profits
or the losses, since these may be due in great part to
causes entirely beyond their influence or control, and to
which they do not contribute.

35. When we recognize the real antagonism that
exists between the interests of the men and their em-
ployers under all of the systems of piece-work* in com-
mon use, and when we remember the apparently ir-
reconcilable conflict implied in the fundamental and per-
fectly legitimate aims of the two, namely, on the part
of the men, —


And on the part of the employers, —


What wonder that most of us arrive at the conclusion
that no system of piece-work can be devised which will
enable the two to cooperate without antagonism, and to
their mutual benefit ?

36. Yet it is the opinion of the writer that even if a
system has not already been found which harmonizes
the interests of the two/ still the basis for harmonious
cooperation lies in the two following facts :

First . That the workmen in nearly 1 every trade can

1 The writer’s knowledge of the speed attained in the manufacture
of textile goods is very limited. It is his opinion, however, that ow-
ing to the comparative uniformity of this class of work, and the
enormous number of machines and men engaged on similar opera-
tions, the maximum output per man and machine is more nearly real-
ized in this class of manufactures than in any other. If this is the
case, the opportunity for improvement does not exist to the same ex-
tent here as in other trades. Some illustrations of the possible in-
crease in- the daily output of men and machines are given in para-
graphs 78 to 82.

and will materially increase their present output per
day, providing they are assured of a permanent and
larger return for their time than they have heretofore

Second. That the employers can well afford to pay
higher wages per piece even permanently , providing
each man and machine in the establishment turns out a
proportionately larger amount of work.

37. The truth of the latter statement arises from the
well recognized fact that, in most lines of manufacture,
the indirect expenses equal or exceed the wages paid di-
rectly to the workmen, and that these expenses remain
approximately constant, whether the output of the es-
tablishment is great or small.

From this it follows that it is always cheaper to pay
higher wages to the workmen when the output is pro-
portionately increased : the diminution in the indirect
portion of the cost per piece being greater than the in-
crease in wages. Many manufacturers, in considering
the cost of production, fail to realize the effect that the
volume of output has on the cost. They lose sight of the
fact that taxes, insurance, depreciation, rent, interest,
salaries, office expenses, miscellaneous labor, sales ex-
penses, and frequently the cost of power (which in the
aggregate amount to as much as wages paid to work-
men), remain about the same whether the output of the
establishment is great or small.

38. In our endeavor to solve the piece-work problem
by the application of the two fundamental facts above
referred to, let us consider the obstacles in the path of
harmonious cooperation, and suggest a method for their

39. The most formidable obstacle is the lack of
knowledge on the part of both the men and the man-
agement (but chiefly the latter) of the quickest time in
which each piece of work can be done ; or, briefly, the
lack of accurate time-tables for the work of the place.

40. The remedy for this trouble lies in the establish-
ment in every factory of a proper rate-fixing department ;
a department which shall have equal dignity and com-
mand equal respect with the engineering and managing
departments, which shall be organized and conducted in
an equally scientific and practical manner.

41. The rate-fixing, as at present conducted, even in
our best managed establishments, is very similar to the
mechanical engineering of fifty or sixty years ago.
Mechanical engineering at that time consisted in imitat-
ing machines which were in more or less successful use,
or in guessing at the dimensions and strength of the
parts of a new machine ; and as the parts broke down
or gave out, in replacing them with the stronger ones.
Thus each new machine presented a problem almost in-
dependent of former designs, and one which could only
be solved by months or years of practical experience and
a series of break-downs.

Modern engineering, however, has become a study,
not of individual machines, but of the resistance of ma-
terials, the fundamental principles of mechanics, and of
the elements of design.

42. On the other hand, the ordinary rate-fixing (even
the best of it), like the old-style engineering, is done by
a foreman or superintendent who, with the aid of a
clerk, looks over the record of the time in which a whole
job was done as nearly like the new one as can be found,
and then guesses at the time required to do the new job.
No attempt is made to analyze and time each of the
classes of work, or elements of which a job is composed ;
although it is a far simpler task to resolve each job into
its elements, to make a careful study of the quickest
time in which each of the elementary operations can be
done, and then to properly classify, tabulate, and index
this information, and use it when required for rate-fix-
ing, than it is to fix rates, with even an approximation
to justice, under the common system of guessing.

43. In fact, it has never occurred to most superin-
tendents that the work of their establishments consists
of various combinations of elementary operations which
can be timed in this way ; and a suggestion that this is
a practical way of dealing with the piece-work problem
usually meets with derision, or, at the best, with the
answer that “ It might do for some simple business, but
my work is entirely too complicated.”

44. Yet this elementary system of fixing rates has
been in successful operation for the past ten years, on
work complicated in its nature and covering almost as
wide a range of variety as any manufacturing that the
writer knows of. In 1883, while foreman of the ma-
chine shop of the Midvale Steel Company of Philadel-
phia, it occurred to the writer that it was simpler to
time each of the elements of the various kinds of work
done in the place, and then find the quickest time in
which each job could be done, by summing up the total
times of its component parts, than it was to search
through the records of former jobs and guess at the
proper price. After practising this method of rate-fixing
himself for about a year as well as circumstances would
permit, it became evident that the system was a success.
The writer then established the rate-fixing department,
which has given out piece-work prices in the place ever

45. This department far more than paid for itself
from the very start ; but it was several years before the
full benefits of the system were felt, owing to the fact
that the best methods of making and recording time ob-
servations of work done by the men, as well as of deter-
mining the maximum capacity of each of the machines
in the place, and of making working-tables and time-
tables, were not at first adopted.

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