Saturday, August 3, 2013

Task Work - Some More Thoughts - F.W. Taylor

Piece work embodying the task idea can be used to advantage when there
is enough work of the same general character to keep a number of men
busy regularly; such work, for instance, as the Bethlehem yard labor
previously described, or the work of bicycle ball inspection referred to
later on. In piece work of this class the task idea should always be
maintained by keeping it clearly before each man that his average daily
earnings must amount to a given high sum (as in the case of the
Bethlehem laborers, $1.85 per day), and that failure to average this
amount will surely result in his being laid off.

 It must be remembered
that on plain piece work the less competent workmen will always bring
what influence and pressure they can to cause the best men to slow down
towards their level and that the task idea is needed to counteract this
influence. Where the labor market is large enough to secure in a
reasonable time enough strictly first-class men, the piece work rates
should be fixed on such a basis that only a first-class man working at
his best can earn the average amount called for. This figure should be,
in the case of first-class men as stated above, from 30 per cent to 100
per cent beyond the wages usually paid. The task idea is emphasized with
this style of piece work by two things--the high wages and the laying
off, after a reasonable trial, of incompetent men; and for the success
of the system, the number of men employed on practically the same class
of work should be large enough for the workmen quite often to have the
object lesson of seeing men laid off for failing to earn high wages and
others substituted in their places.

There are comparatively few machine shops, or even manufacturing
establishments, in which the work is so uniform in its nature as to
employ enough men on the same grade of work and in sufficiently close
contact to one another to render piece work preferable to the other
systems. In the great majority of cases the work is so miscellaneous in
its nature as to call for the employment of workmen varying greatly in
their natural ability and attainments, all the way, for instance, from
the ordinary laborer, through the trained laborer, helper, rough
machinist, fitter, machine hand, to the highly skilled special or
all-round mechanic. And while in a large establishment there may be
often enough men of the same grade to warrant the adoption of piece work
with the task idea, yet, even in this case, they are generally so
scattered in different parts of the shop that laying off one of their
number for incompetence does not reach the others with sufficient force
to impress them with the necessity of keeping up with their task.

It is evident then that, in the great majority of cases, the four
leading principles in management can be best applied through either task
work with a bonus or the differential piece rate in spite of the slight
additional clerical work and the increased difficulty in planning ahead
incident to these systems of paying wages. Three of the principles of
management given above, namely, (a) a large daily task, (b) high pay for
success, and (c) loss in case of failure form the very essence of both
of these systems and act as a daily stimulant for the men. The fourth
principle of management is a necessary preliminary, since without having
first thoroughly standardized all of the conditions surrounding work,
neither of these two plans can be successfully applied.

In many cases the greatest good resulting from the application of these
systems of paying wages is the indirect gain which comes from the
enforced standardization of all details and conditions, large and small,
surrounding the work. All of the ordinary systems can be and are almost
always applied without adopting and maintaining thorough shop standards.
But the task idea can not be carried out without them.

The differential rate piece work is rather simpler in its application
than task work with bonus and is the more forceful of the two. It should
be used wherever it is practicable, but in no case until after all the
accompanying conditions have been perfected and completely standardized
and a thorough time study has been made of all of the elements of the
work. This system is particularly useful where the same kind of work is
repeated day after day, and also whenever the maximum possible output is
desired, which is almost always the case in the operation of expensive
machinery or of a plant occupying valuable ground or a large building.
It is more forceful than task work with a bonus because it not only
pulls the man up from the top but pushes him equally hard from the
bottom. Both of these systems give the workman a large extra reward when
he accomplishes his full task within the given time. With the
differential rate, if for any reason he fails to do his full task, he
not only loses the large extra premium which is paid for complete
success, but in addition he suffers the direct loss of the piece price
for each piece by which he falls short. Failure under the task with a
bonus system involves a corresponding loss of the extra premium or
bonus, but the workman, since he is paid a given price per hour,
receives his ordinary day's pay in case of failure and suffers no
additional loss beyond that of the extra premium whether he may have
fallen short of the task to the extent of one piece or a dozen.

In principle, these two systems appear to be almost identical, yet this
small difference, the slightly milder nature of task work with a bonus,
is sufficient to render it much more flexible and therefore applicable
to a large number of cases in which the differential rate system cannot
be used. Task work with a bonus was invented by Mr. H. L. Gantt, while
he was assisting the writer in organizing the Bethlehem Steel Company.
The possibilities of his system were immediately recognized by all of
the leading men engaged on the work, and long before it would have been
practicable to use the differential rate, work was started under this
plan. It was successful from the start, and steadily grew in volume and
in favor, and today is more extensively used than ever before.

F.W. Taylor, Shop Management

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