Thursday, April 11, 2019

Task Management - F.W. Taylor

Task Management

The essence of task management lies in the fact that the control of the
speed problem rests entirely with the management; and, on the other
hand, the true strength of the Towne-Halsey system rests upon the fact
that under it the question of speed is settled entirely by the men
without interference on the part of the management. Thus in both cases,
though from diametrically opposite causes, there is undivided control,
and this is the chief element needed for harmony.

The writer has seen many jobs successfully nursed in several of our
large and well managed establishments under these drifting systems, for
a term of ten to fifteen years, at from one-third to one-quarter speed.
The workmen, in the meanwhile, apparently enjoyed the confidence of
their employers, and in many cases the employers not only suspected the
deceit, but felt quite sure of it.

The great defect, then, common to all the ordinary systems of management
(including the Towne-Halsey system, the best of this class) is that
their starting-point, their very foundation, rests upon ignorance and
deceit, and that throughout their whole course in the one element which
is most vital both to employer and workmen, namely, the speed at which
work is done, they are allowed to drift instead of being intelligently
directed and controlled.

The writer has found, through an experience of thirty years, covering a
large variety in manufactures, as well as in the building trades,
structural and engineering work, that it is not only practicable but
comparatively easy to obtain, through a systematic and scientific time
study, exact information as to how much of any given kind of work either
a first-class or an average man can do in a day, and with this
information as a foundation, he has over and over again seen the fact
demonstrated that workmen of all classes are not only willing, but glad
to give up all idea of soldiering, and devote all of their energies to
turning out the maximum work possible, providing they are sure of a
suitable permanent reward.

With accurate time knowledge as a basis, surprisingly large results can
be obtained under any scheme of management from day work up; there is no
question that even ordinary day work resting upon this foundation will
give greater satisfaction than any of the systems in common use,
standing as they do upon soldiering as a basis.

To many of the readers of this book both the fundamental objects to be
aimed at, namely, high wages with low labor cost, and the means
advocated by the writer for attaining this end; namely, accurate time
study, will appear so theoretical and so far outside of the range of
their personal observation and experience that it would seem desirable,
before proceeding farther, to give a brief illustration of what has been
accomplished in this line.

The writer chooses from among a large variety of trades to which these
principles have been applied, the yard labor handling raw materials in
the works of the Bethlehem Steel Company at South Bethlehem, Pa., not
because the results attained there have been greater than in many other
instances, but because the case is so elementary that the results are
evidently due to no other cause than thorough time study as a basis,
followed by the application of a few simple principles with which all of
us are familiar.

In almost all of the other more complicated cases the large increase in
output is due partly to the actual physical changes, either in the
machines or small tools and appliances, which a preliminary time study
almost always shows to be necessary, so that for purposes of
illustration the simple case chosen is the better, although the gain
made in the more complicated cases is none the less legitimately due to
the system.
(My comment: Taylor also did method studies)

Up to the spring of the year 1899, all of the materials in the yard of
the Bethlehem Steel Company had been handled by gangs of men working by
the day, and under the foremanship of men who had themselves formerly
worked at similar work as laborers. Their management was about as good
as the average of similar work, although it was bad all of the men being
paid the ruling wages of laborers in this section of the country,
namely, $1.15 per day, the only means of encouraging or disciplining
them being either talking to them or discharging them; occasionally,
however, a man was selected from among these men and given a better
class of work with slightly higher wages in some of the companies'
shops, and this had the effect of slightly stimulating them. From four
to six hundred men were employed on this class of work throughout the

The work of these men consisted mainly of unloading from railway cars
and shoveling on to piles, and from these piles again loading as
required, the raw materials used in running three blast furnaces and
seven large open-hearth furnaces, such as ore of various kinds, varying
from fine, gravelly ore to that which comes in large lumps, coke,
limestone, special pig, sand, etc., unloading hard and soft coal for
boilers gas-producers, etc., and also for storage and again loading the
stored coal as required for use, loading the pig-iron produced at the
furnaces for shipment, for storage, and for local use, and handling
billets, etc., produced by the rolling mills. The work covered a large
variety as laboring work goes, and it was not usual to keep a man
continuously at the same class of work.

Before undertaking the management of these men, the writer was informed
that they were steady workers, but slow and phlegmatic, and that nothing
would induce them to work fast.

The first step was to place an intelligent, college-educated man in
charge of progress in this line. This man had not before handled this
class of labor, although he understood managing workmen. He was not
familiar with the methods pursued by the writer, but was soon taught the
art of determining how much work a first-class man can do in a day. This
was done by timing with a stop watch a first-class man while he was
working fast. The best way to do this, in fact almost the only way in
which the timing can be done with certainty, is to divide the man's work
into its elements and time each element separately. For example, in the
case of a man loading pig-iron on to a car, the elements should be: (a)
picking up the pig from the ground or pile (time in hundredths of a
minute); (b) walking with it on a level (time per foot walked); (c)
walking with it up an incline to car (time per foot walked); (d)
throwing the pig down (time in hundredths of a minute), or laying it on
a pile (time in hundredths of a minute); (e) walking back empty to get a
load (time per foot walked).

In case of important elements which were to enter into a number of
rates, a large number of observations were taken when practicable on
different first-class men, and at different times, and they were

The most difficult elements to time and decide upon in this, as in most
cases, are the percentage of the day required for rest, and the time to
allow for accidental or unavoidable delays.

In the case of the yard labor at Bethlehem, each class of work was
studied as above, each element being timed separately, and, in addition,
a record was kept in many cases of the total amount of work done by the
man in a day. The record of the gross work of the man (who is being
timed) is, in most cases, not necessary after the observer is skilled in
his work. As the Bethlehem time observer was new to this work, the gross
time was useful in checking his detailed observations and so gradually
educating him and giving him confidence in the new methods.

The writer had so many other duties that his personal help was confined
to teaching the proper methods and approving the details of the various
changes which were in all cases outlined in written reports before being
carried out.

As soon as a careful study had been made of the time elements entering
into one class of work, a single first-class workman was picked out and
started on ordinary piece work on this job. His task required him to do
between three and one-half and four times as much work in a day as had
been done in the past on an average.

Between twelve and thirteen tons of pig-iron per man had been carried
from a pile on the ground, up an inclined plank, and loaded on to a
gondola car by the average pig-iron handler while working by the day.
The men in doing this work had worked in gangs of from five to twenty

The man selected from one of these gangs to make the first start under
the writer's system was called upon to load on piece work from
forty-five to forty-eight tons (2,240 lbs. each) per day.

He regarded this task as an entirely fair one, and earned on an average,
from the start, $1.85 per day, which was 60 per cent more than he had
been paid by the day. This man happened to be considerably lighter than
the average good workman at this class of work. He weighed about 130
pounds. He proved however, to be especially well suited to this job, and
was kept at it steadily throughout the time that the writer was in
Bethlehem, and some years later was still at the same work.

Being the first piece work started in the works, it excited considerable
opposition, both on the part of the workmen and of several of the
leading men in the town, their opposition being based mainly on the old
fallacy that if piece work proved successful a great many men would be
thrown out of work, and that thereby not only the workmen but the whole
town would suffer.

One after another of the new men who were started singly on this job
were either persuaded or intimidated into giving it up. In many cases
they were given other work by those interested in preventing piece work,
at wages higher than the ruling wages. In the meantime, however, the
first man who started on the work earned steadily $1.85 per day, and
this object lesson gradually wore out the concerted opposition, which
ceased rather suddenly after about two months. From this time on there
was no difficulty in getting plenty of good men who were anxious to
start on piece work, and the difficulty lay in making with sufficient
rapidity the accurate time study of the elementary operations or "unit
times" which forms the foundation of this kind of piece work.

Throughout the introduction of piece work, when after a thorough time
study a new section of the work was started, one man only was put on
each new job, and not more than one man was allowed to work at it until
he had demonstrated that the task set was a fair one by earning an
average of $1.85 per day. After a few sections of the work had been
started in this way, the complaint on the part of the better workmen was
that they were not allowed to go on to piece work fast enough. It
required about two years to transfer practically all of the yard labor
from day to piece work. And the larger part of the transfer was made
during the last six months of this time.

As stated above, the greater part of the time was taken up in studying
"unit times," and this time study was greatly delayed by having
successively the two leading men who had been trained to the work leave
because they were offered much larger salaries elsewhere. The study of
"unit times" for the yard labor took practically the time of two trained
men for two years. Throughout this time the day and piece workers were
under entirely separate and distinct management. The original foremen
continued to manage the day work, and day and piece workers were never
allowed to work together. Gradually the day work gang was diminished and
the piece workers were increased as one section of work after another
was transformed from the former to the latter.

Two elements which were important to the success of this work should be

First, on the morning following each day's work, each workman was given
a slip of paper informing him in detail just how much work he had done
the day before, and the amount he had earned. This enabled him to
measure his performance against his earnings while the details were
fresh in his mind. Without this there would have been great
dissatisfaction among those who failed to climb up to the task asked of
them, and many would have gradually fallen off in their performance.

Second, whenever it was practicable, each man's work was measured by
itself. Only when absolutely necessary was the work of two men measured
up together and the price divided between them, and then care was taken
to select two men of as nearly as possible the same capacity. Only on
few occasions, and then upon special permission, signed by the writer,
were more than two men allowed to work on gang work, dividing their
earnings between them. Gang work almost invariably results in a failing
off in earnings and consequent dissatisfaction.

An interesting illustration of the desirability of individual piece work
instead of gang work came to our attention at Bethlehem. Several of the
best piece workers among the Bethlehem yard laborers were informed by
their friends that a much higher price per ton was paid for shoveling
ore in another works than the rate given at Bethlehem. After talking the
matter over with the writer he advised them to go to the other works,
which they accordingly did. In about a month they were all back at work
in Bethlehem again, having found that at the other works they were
obliged to work with a gang of men instead of on individual piece work,
and that the rest of the gang worked so slowly that in spite of the high
price paid per ton they earned much less than Bethlehem.

Table 1, on page 54, gives a summary of the work done by the piece-work
laborers in handling raw materials, such as ores, anthracite and
bituminous coal, coke, pig-iron, sand, limestone, cinder, scale, ashes,
etc., in the works of the Bethlehem Steel Company, during the year
ending April 30, 1900. This work consisted mainly in loading and
unloading cars on arrival or departure from the works, and for local
transportation, and was done entirely by hand, i.e., without the use of
cranes or other machinery.

The greater part of the credit for making the accurate time study and
actually managing the men on this work should be given to Mr. A. B.
Wadleigh, the writer's assistant in this section at that time.

When the writer left the steel works, the Bethlehem piece workers were
the finest body of picked laborers that he has ever seen together. They
were practically all first-class men, because in each case the task
which they were called upon to perform was such that only a first-class
man could do it. The tasks were all purposely made so severe that not
more than one out of five laborers (perhaps even a smaller percentage
than this) could keep up.

[Footnotes to table 1]

1)  It was our intention to fix piece work rates which should enable
first-class workmen to average about 60 per cent more than they had been
earning on day work, namely $1.85 per day. A year's average shows them
to have earned $1.88 per day, or three cents per man per day more than
we expected--an error of 1 6/10 per cent.

2)  The piece workers handled on an average 3 56/100 times as many tons
per day as the day workers.

[end footnotes to table 1]

It was clearly understood by each newcomer as he went to work that
unless he was able to average at least $1.85 per day he would have to
make way for another man who could do so. As a result, first-class men
from all over that part of the country, who were in most cases earning
from $1.05 to $1.15 per day, were anxious to try their hands at earning
$1.85 per day. If they succeeded they were naturally contented, and if
they failed they left, sorry that they were unable to maintain the
proper pace, but with no hard feelings either toward the system or the
management. Throughout the time that the writer was there, labor was as
scarce and as difficult to get as it ever has been in the history of
this country, and yet there was always a surplus of first-class men
ready to leave other jobs and try their hand at Bethlehem piece work.

Perhaps the most notable difference between these men and ordinary
piece workers lay in their changed mental attitude toward their
employers and their work, and in the total absence of soldiering on
their part. The ordinary piece worker would have spent a considerable
part of his time in deciding just how much his employer would allow him
to earn without cutting prices and in then trying to come as close as
possible to this figure, while carefully guarding each job so as to
keep the management from finding out how fast it really could be done.
These men, however, were faced with a new but very simple and
straightforward proposition, namely, am I a first-class laborer or not?
Each man felt that if he belonged in the first class all he had to do
was to work at his best and he would be paid sixty per cent more than
he had been paid in the past. Each piece work price was accepted by the
men without question. They never bargained over nor complained about
rates, and there was no occasion to do so, since they were all equally
fair, and called for almost exactly the same amount of work and fatigue
per dollar of wages.

A careful inquiry into the condition of these men when away from work
developed the fact that out of the whole gang only two were said to be
drinking men. This does not, of course, imply that many of them did not
take an occasional drink. The fact is that a steady drinker would find
it almost impossible to keep up with the pace which was set, so that
they were practically all sober. Many if not most of them were saving
money, and they all lived better than they had before. The results
attained under this system were most satisfactory both to employer and
workmen, and show in a convincing way the possibility of uniting high
wages with a low labor cost.

This is virtually a labor union of first-class men, who are united
together to secure the extra high wages, which belong to them by right
and which in this case are begrudged them by none, and which will be
theirs through dull times as well as periods of activity. Such a union
commands the unqualified admiration and respect of all classes of the
community; the respect equally of workmen, employers, political
economists, and philanthropists. There are no dues for membership, since
all of the expenses are paid by the company. The employers act as
officers of the Union, to enforce its rules and keep its records, since
the interests of the company are identical and bound up with those of
the men. It is never necessary to plead with, or persuade men to join
this Union, since the employers themselves organize it free of cost; the
best workmen in the community are always anxious to belong to it. The
feature most to be regretted about it is that the membership is limited.

The words "labor union" are, however, unfortunately so closely
associated in the minds of most people with the idea of disagreement and
strife between employers and men that it seems almost incongruous to
apply them to this case. Is not this, however, the ideal "labor union,"
with character and special ability of a high order as the only
qualifications for membership.

What the writer wishes particularly to emphasize is that this whole
system rests upon an accurate and scientific study of unit times, which
is by far the most important element in scientific management. With it,
greater and more permanent results can be attained even under ordinary
day work or piece work than can be reached under any of the more
elaborate systems without it.

In 1895 the writer read a paper before The American Society of Mechanical Engineers entitled "A Piece Rate System." His chief object in writing it was to advocate the study of unit times as the foundation of good management. Unfortunately, he at the same time described the "differential rate" system of piece work, which had been introduced by him in the Midvale Steel Works. Although he called attention to the fact that the latter was entirely of secondary importance, the differential rate was widely discussed in the journals of this country and abroad while practically nothing was said about the study of "unit times." Thirteen members of the Society discussed the piece rate system at length, and only two briefly referred to the study of the "unit times."

The writer most sincerely trusts that his leading object in writing this book will not be overlooked, and that scientific time study will receive the attention which it merits. Bearing in mind the Bethlehem yard labor as an illustration of the application of the study of unit times as the
foundation of success in management, the following would seem to him a fair comparison of the older methods with the more modern plan.

For each job there is the quickest time in which it can be done by a
first-class man. This time may be called the "quickest time," or the
"standard time" for the job. Under all the ordinary systems, this
"quickest time" is more or less completely shrouded in mist. In most
cases, however, the workman is nearer to it and sees it more clearly
than the employer.

Under ordinary piece work the management watch every indication given
them by the workmen as to what the "quickest time" is for each job, and
endeavor continually to force the men toward this "standard time," while
the workmen constantly use every effort to prevent this from being done
and to lead the management in the wrong direction. In spite of this
conflict, however, the "standard time" is gradually approached.

Under the Towne-Halsey plan the management gives up all direct effort to
reach this "quickest time," but offers mild inducements to the workmen
to do so, and turns over the whole enterprise to them. The workmen,
peacefully as far as the management is concerned, but with considerable
pulling and hauling among themselves, and without the assistance of a
trained guiding hand, drift gradually and slowly in the direction of the
"standard time," but rarely approach it closely.

With accurate time study as a basis, the "quickest time" for each job
is at all times in plain sight of both employers and workmen, and is
reached with accuracy, precision, and speed, both sides pulling hard in
the same direction under the uniform simple and just agreement that
whenever a first-class man works his best he will receive from 30 to 100
per cent more than the average of his trade.

Probably a majority of the attempts that are made to radically change
the organization of manufacturing companies result in a loss of money to
the company, failure to bring about the change sought for, and a return
to practically the original organization. The reason for this being that
there are but few employers who look upon management as an art, and that
they go at a difficult task without either having understood or
appreciated the time required for organization or its cost, the troubles
to be met with, or the obstacles to be overcome, and without having
studied the means to be employed in doing so.

F.W. Taylor, Shop Management

Updated on 11 April 2019, 3 August 2013

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