Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unfavorable Results of Aggregation, Specialisation and Standardization - Industrial Engineering Remedies

Although the immediate effect is industrial expansion at
an increasing rate of increase, there are certain further re-
sults that are not favorable.

The first unfavorable result is the disappearance of the
generally trained all-around skilled artisan. There is little
opportunity under the present industrial system for a boy
to learn a trade as every apprentice learned his trade in
former years. Factory or shop conditions do not permit
it, and the wage inducements are against it. A machine
tender on a special job can acquire in a few months, or
even weeks, enough skill in his limited routine to earn larger

1 This is, of course, only an illustration. The making of spectacles is
specialized to an immensely greater degree than this.

wages than the apprentice can hope to get in three years,
and the ordinary beginner does not and perhaps can not
look beyond this fact.

The second unfavorable effect is that although general
standardization (that is, standardization of such things as
weights and measures, screw threads, sizes of wire, sections
of steel rails or structural shapes) is wholly desirable,
private standardization (or standardization of each manu-
facturer's special product) leads to inflexibility and re-
sistance to desirable change and improvement. Every-
thing about the whole establishment drawings, patterns,
special machinery, processes, operations, materials having
once been standardized and installed for the standard
product, can be changed and adapted to a different product
only at considerable expense and trouble. It is a matter
of common complaint that our American manufacturers
very often oppose a tacit or even a stubborn resistance to
advancement; that they buy up and pigeon-hole patents for
improvements in their field; that they seek to control a
market by masterful salesmanship, by combinations to
regulate products and prices, rather than by progressive
betterments of output. It is asserted by authorities of the
highest credibility that we are losing, indeed have lost, our
mechanical supremacy, largely through over-standardization,
over-adherence to standard products lost it to Continental
manufacturers whose less complete standardization left
them more elasticity, both of equipment and of mind, and
enabled them to follow improvement after improvement,
until in excellence of product, and especially in efficiency of
product, they have left us far behind.

It would not be right to leave unmodified the impression
that the disadvantages or the dangers just suggested are
sufficient to overbalance or perhaps even to balance the
benefits to industry and to the public which have come so
far through standardization and specialization in manu-

facturing. The low cost of the product which has thus
been secured has put it within the reach of large classes
of buyers who would otherwise have been unable to pur-
chase. The volume of manufactures, many of which in
turn become the basis of other manufactures, has not only
filled the world's stores with necessities, conveniences, luxu-
ries, and tools of livelihood, but has made it possible to
provide profitable occupation for the increase of the throng-
ing nations who are filling up the once-abundant acres of the
earth. Specialization, also, has furnished well-paid posi-
tions in vast numbers for a class of ability which could not
have commanded skilled wages and which, if it were not
for this opening, would have had to be content with the
smaller pay of common labor. As against these great
economic and social advantages, the drawbacks I referred
to are perhaps small. Still, the dangers do exist, and they
may increase if they are not recognized and met. It is part
of the problem of the industrial engineer of the present and
of the future to find preventive measures against the in-
flexibility the ossification which threatens us when we
become over-standardized, and against the dreadful narrow-
ing of functions and the deadly monotony of occupation
which comes to us when our work is over-specialized.

We need, then, some countercheck that may be balanced
against specialization and standardization, so that we may
enjoy their economic advantages without incurring evils that
lie beyond. This countercheck it is part of the industrial
engineer's function to provide.

The answer appears in the
doctrines of that first apostle of scientific management,
Frederick W. Taylor in the gospels also according to
Harrington Emerson and H. L. Gantt, and other leaders of
advanced thought in this field. It is, in part, the exaltation
of specialization its investment with a new dignity, with
depth in place of breadth, making fwtensiveness instead of
#tensiveness, the goal of desirability; and with this, the

recognition of a standard as something which itself must
continually advance as something which is a living evo-
lution and not a rigid crystallization.

But we must not follow this thought further, as we have
to consider another condition springing from aggregation
as well as from specialization and standardization, and in-
volving that most intensely interesting and important of all
the problems of industrial engineering the relation be-
tween employer and workman. This is the exchange of
the workman's independent individuality for membership in
a class. Under the old order the village blacksmith was
a character, a landmark, a figure in local history and a
theme in literature. Under the new order, the counter-
part of this iron worker in a modern smithshop probably
tends a forge press or works as one of the gang, and passes
unnoticed to and from his work and into and out of his
employer's service, filling a job designated by a number,
and perhaps not even known by his own name.

And now we come to a very important point. When a
plant employs thousands, and even a department employs
hundreds, it is only by infrequent and improbable chance
that a superintendent or manager can observe any individual
difference among his many employees. Very rarely is any
attempt made even to keep records by which individual per-
formance can be studied and compared, if the supervising
official should be anxious to make such comparison. The
man of superior efficiency, even though he may do two
or three times as well as the inferior workman beside him,
has little chance of recognition and practically no chance
of reward proportioned to his worth. His position is fixed,
his wage is fixed, by his class and occupation. As Mr.
Gantt has pointed out, it is inevitable that under such con-
ditions the exertions of the more energetic man should be
turned to the attempt to raise the class rate. It is inevitable
that the efficient man should say: " I can't make any more

money by laying more brick a day than Smith or Brown or
Jones; but if I get Smith and Brown and Jones and all the
boys to join in a demand for higher wages for bricklayers,
we can get them."

A direct result of the submergence of the individual in a
class is the elevation of the class into the attitude of an
individual in its demand for recognition. But the class
demands larger pay, not as the equivalent of larger work,
but as a tribute to larger power. As a rule, the amount of
work done by each man tends downward to the level of the
least efficient; while the wages secured by the class through
collective bargaining tend upward toward the maximum that
can be grasped and held by the power of the union. This
is immensely unsatisfactory to the employer, but it is the
logical consequence of conditions that the employer not
the employee has created.

One more great difficulty confronting the industrial
engineer in the administration of the manufacturing sys-
tem is the material counterpart of this impersonalizing of
the man. It is the disindividualizing of the work, or, to
use the more familiar language of the shop, of the job.
As the practice of specialization already referred to divides
all operations among different workmen and departments,
the manufacture of any single thing, whether this thing
is a locomotive or a watch or a bridge or a ton of copper
or a pair of shoes or a train mile, starts in many different
places by the apparently independent acts of many different
men. Further, each of these separate acts, which is going
to be co-ordinated with other acts so as to produce some
completed article, each of these separate acts is not a sole
individual act, but is one of a series of repeated identical
acts performed by the workmen. I hope I make this point
clear. Each unit of product is built up out of manifold
dements gathered from the work of many men. The work
of each man is divided and subdivided among many units

of product. The lines of movement between the many
workmen on the one hand, and the many units of product
on the other hand, are an enormously complex interlace-
ment. The industrial engineer must control the orderly
guidance of this interlacement; he must see not only that the
elementary producers do their work and do it efficiently,
but that the elements thus produced are kept in the right
balance and proportion and are combined to form the right
product at the right place and at the right time. In every
direction, then, the spaces, forces, institutions of industry
have far outgrown the limits of the man. It seems as
though the world of manufacturing were no longer one of
persons, but of classes, departments, systems. And yet, in
all human affairs the originating and guiding power is the
individual brain. Nothing can take its place. However
complex the order, it must rest upon a systematic support
of human intelligences and wills. And the method of co-
ordination by which many minds and hands carry on one
of the vast industrial enterprises of the day is organization.
Its fundamental principles and methods will be taken up
in the following chapter.

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