Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bicylcle Ball Inspection Case Study - F.W. Taylor - As Described in Shop Management

Another illustration of the application of this principle of measuring a
man's performance against a given task at frequent intervals to an
entirely different line of work may be of interest. For this purpose the
writer chooses the manufacture of bicycle balls in the works of the
Symonds Rolling Machine Company, in Fitchburg, Mass. All of the work
done in this factory was subjected to an accurate time study, and then
was changed from day to piece work, through the assistance of functional
foreman ship, etc. The particular operation to be described however, is
that of inspecting bicycle balls before they were finally boxed for
shipment. Many millions of these balls were inspected annually. When the
writer undertook to systematize this work, the factory had been running
for eight or ten years on ordinary day work, so that the various
employees were "old hands," and skilled at their jobs. The work of
inspection was done entirely by girls--about one hundred and twenty
being employed at it--all on day work.

This work consisted briefly in placing a row of small polished steel
balls on the back of the left hand, in the crease between two of the
fingers pressed together, and while they were rolled over and over, with
the aid of a magnet held in the right hand, they were minutely examined
in a strong light, and the defective balls picked out and thrown into
especial boxes. Four kinds of defects were looked for--dented, soft,
scratched, and fire cracked--and they were mostly 50 minute as to be
invisible to an eye not especially trained to this work. It required the
closest attention and concentration. The girls had worked on day work
for years, ten and one-half hours per day, with a Saturday half-holiday.

The first move before in any way stimulating them toward a larger output
was to insure against a falling off in quality. This was accomplished
through over-inspection. Four of the most trustworthy girls were given
each a lot of balls which had been examined the day before by one of the
regular inspectors. The number identifying the lot having been changed
by the foreman so that none of the over-inspectors knew whose work they
were examining. In addition, one of the lots inspected by the four
over-inspectors was examined on the following day by the chief
inspector, selected on account of her accuracy and integrity.

An effective expedient was adopted for checking the honesty and accuracy
of the over-inspection. Every two or three days a lot of balls was
especially prepared by the foreman, who counted out a definite number of
perfect balls, and added a recorded number of defective balls of each
kind. The inspectors had no means of distinguishing this lot from the
regular commercial lots. And in this way all temptation to slight their
work or make false returns was removed.

After insuring in this way against deterioration in quality, effective
means were at once adopted to increase the output. Improved day work was
substituted for the old slipshod method. An accurate daily record, both
as to quantity and quality, was kept for each inspector. In a
comparatively short time this enabled the foreman to stir the ambition
of all the inspectors by increasing the wages of those who turned out a
large quantity and good quality, at the same time lowering the pay of
those who fell short, and discharging others who proved to be
incorrigibly slow or careless. An accurate time study was made through
the use of a stop watch and record blanks, to determine how fast each
kind of inspection should be done. This showed that the girls spent a
considerable part of their time in partial idleness, talking and half
working, or in actually doing nothing.

Talking while at work was stopped by seating them far apart. The hours
of work were shortened from 10 1/2 per day, first to 9 1/2, and later to
8 1/2; a Saturday half holiday being given them even with the shorter
hours. Two recesses of ten minutes each were given them, in the middle
of the morning and afternoon, during which they were expected to leave
their seats, and were allowed to talk.

The shorter hours and improved conditions made it possible for the girls
to really work steadily, instead of pretending to do so. Piece work was
then introduced, a differential rate being paid, not for an increase in
output, but for greater accuracy in the inspection; the lots inspected
by the over-inspectors forming the basis for the payment of the
differential. The work of each girl was measured every hour, and they
were all informed whether they were keeping up with their tasks, or how
far they had fallen short and an assistant was sent by the foreman to
encourage those who were falling behind, and help them to catch up.

The principle of measuring the performance of each workman against a
standard at frequent intervals, of keeping them informed as to their
progress, and of sending an assistant to help those who were falling
down, was carried out throughout the works, and proved to be most

The final results of the improved system in the inspecting department
were as follows:

(a) Thirty-five girls did the work formerly done by one hundred and

(b) The girls averaged from $6.50 to $9.00 per week instead of $3.50 to
$4.50, as formerly.

(c) They worked only 8 1/2 hours per day, with Saturday a half-holiday,
while they had formerly worked 10 1/2 hours per day.

(d) An accurate comparison of the balls which were inspected under the
old system of day work with those done under piece work, with
over-inspection, showed that, in spite of the large increase in output
per girl, there were 58 per cent more defective balls left in the
product as sold under day work than under piece work. In other words,
the accuracy of inspection under piece work was one-third greater than
that under day work.

That thirty-five girls were able to do the work which formerly required
about one hundred and twenty is due, not only to the improvement in the
work of each girl, owing to better methods, but to the weeding out of
the lazy and unpromising candidates, and the substitution of more
ambitious individuals.

A more interesting illustration of the effect of the improved conditions
and treatment is shown in the following comparison. Records were kept of
the work of ten girls, all "old hands," and good inspectors, and the
improvement made by these skilled hands is undoubtedly entirely due to
better management. All of these girls throughout the period of
comparison were engaged on the same kind of work, viz.: inspecting
bicycle balls, three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter.

The work of organization began in March, and although the records for
the first three months were not entirely clear, the increased output due
to better day work amounted undoubtedly to about 33 per cent. The
increase per day from June on day work, to July on piece work, the hours
each month being 10 1/2 per day, was 37 per cent. This increase was due
to the introduction of piece work. The increase per day from July to
August (the length of working days in July being 10 1/2 hours, and in
August 9 1/2 hours, both months piece work) was 33 per cent.

The increase from August to September (the length of working day in
August being 9 1/2 hours, and in September 8 1/2 hours) was 0.08 per
cent This means that the girls did practically the same amount of work
per day in September, in 8 1/2 hours, that they did in August in 9 1/2

To summarize: the same ten girls did on an average each day in
September, on piece work, when only working 8 1/2 hours per day, 2.42
times as much, or nearly two and one-half times as much, in a day (not
per hour, the increase per hour was of course much greater) as they had
done when working on day work in March with a working day of 10 1/2
hours. They earned $6.50 to $9.00 per week on piece work, while they had
only earned $3.50 to $4.50 on day work. The accuracy of inspection under
piece work was one-third greater than under day work.

The time study for this work was done by my friend, Sanford E. Thompson,
C. E. who also had the actual management of the girls throughout the
period of transition. At this time Mr. H. L. Gantt was general
superintendent of the company, and the work of systematizing was under
the general direction of the writer. It is, of course, evident that the
nature of the organizations required to manage different types of
business must vary to an enormous extent, from the simple tonnage works
(with its uniform product, which is best managed by a single strong man
who carries all of the details in his head and who, with a few
comparatively cheap assistants, pushes the enterprise through to
success) to the large machine works, doing a miscellaneous business,
with its intricate organization, in which the work of any one man
necessarily counts for but little.

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