Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Industrial Engineering - History

Industrial engineers (IE) are employed and productivity improvement and cost reduction are practiced in many companies using IE  philosophy, principles, methods, techniques and tools.

What is industrial engineering?



The Call for Cost Reduction by Engineers - ASME President - 1880

The first president of ASME in his presidential address in 1880 exhorted mechanical engineers to understand the relation between elements of engineering design and production and elements of cost accounting that determine the production cost as well as the life cycle cost of engineering items. Even though attention to cost was given by civil engineers earlier, the call by ASME president led to the emergence of a branch/discipline of engineering termed "Industrial Engineering." 

Pennsylvania State College, USA introduced the first industrial engineering major in 1907. Hugo Diemer was the faculty who introduced it. He authored a book in 1911 which he explained the role of industrial engineering. Principles of Industrial Engineering, a book in industrial engineering by Charles B. Going was published in 1911. Charles taught industrial engineering subject in a module on works management organized at Columbia University by Prof. Walter Rautentruanch.

James Gunn is given the credit for using the term "industrial engineer" first in an article in 1901. He wanted a new engineer to emerge "production" or "industrial".  The "industrial" or "production" engineer of Gunn understands the cost accounting and cost analysis in relation to engineering activities. The term industrial engineer appealed to some. Subsequently the course in industrial engineering was also started. Even production engineering emerged as a separate branch that focused much more on the technical function of creating process plans, instructing and training operators. The focus of industrial engineering became productivity, efficiency and cost reduction.


I would like to state the philosophy of industrial engineering as "engineering systems can be redesigned or improved and installed periodically for productivity increase or improvement." The primary drivers of productivity improvement are developments in basic engineering disciplines and developments in industrial engineering (developments in productivity science, productivity engineering and productivity management). The additional drivers are developments in related disciplines, for example, economics, mathematics, statistics, optimization techniques, ergonomics, psychology and sociology etc. - Narayana Rao, 1 April 2021.

Evolution of Industrial Engineering - James Gunn, Towne, Taylor, Diemer, Going, Barnes

Background for Development of Industrial Engineering

The late-nineteenth-century factory initially was a collection of skilled machinists and mechanical artisans working in a big work areas based on their skills. The management of production activity was basically done a first-line supervisor, the  foreman. He organized materials and labor, directed machine operations, recorded costs, hired and fired employees, and basically the principal production management. The manager or general manager above him looked after external issues related to supplies of goods and services.

In the 1870s and 1880s, critics began to attack the model of the factory wherein each operator worked according his personal methods and mostly worked under a piece rate system. Their critique became the basis for the best-known effort to encourage coordination within the firm during the first half of the twentieth century under production manager. Shop Management theory and practice was proposed by F.W. Taylor.  The changes in management that occurred during period were  known under various labels - systematic management, scientific management, efficiency engineering. As stated above, in 1901, the term "industrial engineering" was proposed and in 1908, it became a course, and a branch of engineering. Shop Management and subsequent books fostered greater sensitivity to the manager’s role in production and led to greater diversity in industrial practice also as managers selectively implemented ideas and techniques.

The attack on traditional factory management originated in two late-nineteenth-century developments. The first was the maturation of the engineering profession,  based on formal education and mutually accepted standards of behavior and formally educated engineers embraced  scientific experimentation and analysis in place of sporadic developments based on experience. The second development  was the rise of systematic management, an effort among engineers and sympathizers to substitute system for the informal methods that had evolved with the factory system.  The factories replaced traditional managers who focused less on production methods with engineers  and managerial systems replaced guesswork and ad hoc evaluations.  By the late 1880s, cost accounting systems, methods for planning and scheduling production and organizing materials, and incentive wage plans were developed. Their objective was an unimpeded flow of materials and information. Systematic management sought to extract the efficiency benefit required to run a factory by developing science for each work element. It also developed planning systems that helped in realizing the organization's goals through work of managers and operators. It promoted decisions based on performance by giving wages based on merit rating and incentives based on quantity of output rather than on personal qualities and relationships.

Contribution of F.W.Taylor

In the 1890s,  Frederick Winslow Taylor, became the most vigorous and successful proponent of systematic management. As an executive in production engineering and management,  he introduced factory accounting (cost accounting) systems and based on those records made engineering changes in systems that gave lower cost of operation and production. Taylor explained his systems through papers and discussions in meetings of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The systems and practices developed by Taylor permitted engineers and managers to use operating records to guide their engineering and production management actions. Taylor focused on reducing metal cutting times through various engineering improvements to increase productivity of machines. The improvements include use of cutting fluids, higher power in the machines for increasing feed, development of high speed steel, development of tool life equation and many more improvements. Taylor estimated the time required for taking each cut and reduced the time taken by improvement in cutting speed, feed and depth of cut.

Taylor also advocated production control systems that allowed managers to know more precisely what was happening on the shop floor, piece-rate systems that encouraged workers to follow orders and instructions, and various related measures. Taylor developed time study of elements to measure time taken by machines and men to perform various tasks done by operators. Data collected from multiple machines and multiple operators were used to identify ways of working that gave minimum times. In 1895, he employed a colleague, Sanford E. Thompson, to help him determine the optimum time to perform industrial tasks; their goal was to compute, by rigorous study of the worker’s movements and the timing of those movements with stopwatches, standards for skilled occupations that could be published and sold to employers.

Between 1898 and 1901, as a consultant to the Bethlehem Iron Company, Taylor introduced all of his systems and vigorously pursued his research on the operations of metal-cutting tools.  Taylor’s discovery of high-speed steel in 1900, which improved the performance of metal-cutting tools, assured his fame as an inventor. In his effort to introduce systematic methods in many areas of the company’s operations, Taylor developed an integrated view of managerial innovation and a broader conception of the shop/production manager’s role.  In 1901, when he left Bethlehem, Taylor resolved to devote his time and ample fortune to promoting his new conception of industrial management. In the paper, Shop Management ( 1903),  he portrayed an integrated complex of systematic management methods and also productivity improvement of machine shops. 

In the following years,  he began to rely more heavily on anecdotes from his career to emphasize the links between improved managemen and greater productivity.   Second,Taylor tried to generalize his management principles to more areas of work. Between 1907 and 1909, with the aid of a close associate, Morris L. Cooke, he wrote a sequel to Shop Management that became The Principles of Scientific Management (1911).   Taylor came out with four principles and  relied on colorful stories from his experience and language to illuminate “principles” of management. To suggest the integrated character and broad applicability of scientific management, he equated it to a “complete mental revolution.”

 Taylor had fashioned scientific management from systematic management. The two approaches were intimately related. Systematic and scientific management had common roots, attracted the same kinds of people, and had the same business objectives. Yet in retrospect the differences stand out. Systematic management was diffuse and utilitarian, a series of isolated measures that did not add up to a larger whole or have recognizable implications beyond day-to-day industrial operations. Scientific management added significant detail and a larger view.

The Principles extended the potential of scientific management to nonbusiness endeavors and made Taylor a central figure in the efficiency movement of the 1910s.  To engineers and nonengineers alike, he created order from the diverse prescriptions of a generation of technical writers. By the mid-l910s, he had achieved wide recognition in American engineering circles and had attracted a devoted following in France, Germany, Russia, and Japan. Pennsylvania State College introduced the first industrial engineering major in 1907 and promoted the thinking of Taylor.

Taylor's  insistence that the proper introduction of management methods required the services of an expert intermediary helped in the emergence of  industrial engineering independent consultants and accelerated the rise of a new profession.

Initially, the spread of systematic management occurred largely through the work of independent consultants, a few of whom, such as the accountant J. Newton Gunn, achieved prominence by the end of the nineteenth century. By 1900, Taylor overshadowed the others; by 1910, he had devised a promotional strategy that relied on a close-knit corps of consultants to install his techniques, train the client’s employees, and instill a new outlook and spirit of cooperation. The expert was to ensure that the spirit and mechanism of scientific management went hand in hand. This activity of Taylor produced a number of successful consulting firms and the largest single cluster of professional consultants devoted to industrial management.

Between 1901 and 1915, Taylor’s immediate associates introduced scientific management in nearly two hundred American businesses, 80 percent of which were factories  Some of the plants were large and modern, like the Pullman and Remington Typewriter works.  Approximately one-third of the total were large-volume producers for mass markets. A majority fell into one of two broad categories. First were those whose activities required the movement of large quantities of materials between numerous workstations (textile mills, railroad repair shops, automobile plants). Their managers sought to reduce delays and bottlenecks and increase throughput.

The records available suggest that the consultants provided valuable services to many managers. They typically devoted most of their time to machine operations, tools and materials, production schedules, routing plans, and cost and other record systems. Apart from installing features of systematic management, their most notable activity was to introduce elaborate production-control mechanisms (bulletin boards and graphs, for example) that permitted managers to monitor operations

Between 1910 and 1920, industrial engineering spread rapidly. Large firms introduced staff departments devoted to production planning, time study, and other industrial-engineering activities and consulting firms also developed further. By 1915, the year of Taylor’s death,  professional organization,  the Taylor Society founded in 1910 was active. Western Efficiency Society was founded in 1912.  The Society of Industrial Engineers was founded in 1917. These societies provided forums for the discussion of techniques and the development of personal contacts. Financial success and professional recognition increasingly depended on entrepreneurial and communications skills rather than technical expertise alone. A new generation of practitioners, including many university professors developed successful consulting practices.

Contributions of Gilbreth, Emerson and Bedaux

Competition for clients and recognition, especially after the recession of 1920-21 made executives more cost-conscious-produced other changes. Some industrial engineering consultants began to seek clients outside manufacturing. Spurred by the growing corps of academicians who argued that the principles of factory management applied to all businesses, they reorganized offices, stores, banks, and other service organizations. A Society of Industrial Engineers survey of leading consulting firms in 1925 reported that many confined their work to plant design, accounting systems, machinery, or marketing . A third trend was an increasing preoccupation with labor issues and time study. This emphasis reflected several postwar developments, most notably and ominously the increasing popularity of consultants who devoted their attention to cost cutting through the aggressive use of time study.

By the early 1920s, industrial engineers  had divided into two separate and increasingly antagonistic camps. One  influential group of industrial engineers, centered in the Taylor Society, embraced personnel management and combined it with orthodox industrial engineering to form a revised and updated version of scientific management. A handful of Taylor Society activists, Richard Feiss of Joseph & Feiss, Henry S. Dennison of Dennison Manufacturing, Morris E. Leeds of Leeds & Northrup, and a few others, mostly owner-managers, implemented the new synthesis. They introduced personnel management and more controversial measures such as profit sharing, company unionism, and unemployment insurance that attacked customary distinctions between white- and blue-collar employees and enlisted the latter, however modestly, in the management of the firm.

A larger group emphasized the potential of incentive plans based on time and motion study and disregarded or deemphasized the technical improvement.  Their more limited approach reflected the competition for clients, the trend toward specialization, and the continuing attraction of rate cutting. Indicative of this tendency was the work of two of the most successful consultants of the post- 1915 years, Harrington Emerson and Charles E. Bedaux. This led to the development of a major weakness in Industrial Engineering. Industrial engineers got the description of "Time Study Men."

Harrington Emerson

Emerson (1853-1931) was a creative personality. Attracted to Taylor at the turn of the century, he briefly worked as an orthodox practitioner and played an influential role in Taylor’s promotional work. He soon became a respected accounting theorist and a successful reorganizer of railroad repair facilities. As his reputation grew, however, he broke with Taylor and set up a competing business with a large staff of engineers and consultants. Between 1907 and 1925, he had over two hundred clients  He also published best-selling books and promoted a mail-order personal efficiency course. He was probably the best-known industrial engineer of the late 1910s and early 1920s.’ Emerson’s entrepreneurial instincts defined his career. An able technician, he was capable of overseeing the changes associated with orthodox scientific management. He also recruited competent assistants, such as Frederick Parkhurst and C. E. Knoeppel, who later had distinguished consulting careers, and E. K. Wunnerlund, who became the head of industrial engineering at General Motors. But Emerson always viewed his work as a business and.tailored his services to this customer’s interests. In practice, this meant that his employees spent most of their time conducting time studies and installing incentive wage systems. By the mid-1920s, General Motors, Westinghouse, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Aluminum Company of America, American Radiator, and many other large and medium-sized industrial firms had introduced the Emerson system and in many cases an industrial engineering department staffed by former Emerson employees.

Bedaux (1886-1944) was a French immigrant who was a clerk at a St. Louis chemical company. In 1910 when an expert arrived to conduct time studies, Bedaux quickly grasped the essentials of time study and replaced the outsider. Then he found other clients. The turning point in his career came in 1912, when he accompanied several Emerson engineers to France as an interpreter. In Paris he struck out on his own, reorganized several factories, and studied the writings of Taylor and Emerson. Returning to the United States during World War I, he launched the Bedaux Company and began to cultivate clients.  He relied on a simple, compelling promise: he would save more money than he charged. Although Bedaux employed able engineers and usually made some effort to reorganize the plant, his specialty was the incentive wage. His men worked quickly, used time studies to identify bottlenecks and set production standards, installed a wage system similar to Emerson’s.  Bedaux’s clients included General Electric, B. F. Goodrich, Standard Oil of New Jersey, Dow Chemical, Eastman Kodak, and more than two hundred other American firms by the mid-1930s. His European offices were even more successful.

Whereas Taylor and his followers opposed wage cutting and “speed-up” efforts, Emerson was more flexible, and Bedaux made a career of forcing workers to do more for less. One notable result was a resurgence of strikes and union protests. By the 1930s, Bedaux had become infamous on both sides of the Atlantic. In response to his notoriety, he revised his incentive plan to increase the worker’s share and dropped much of his colorful terminology, including the famous B unit. Bedaux’s business survived, though neither he nor his firm regained the position they had enjoyed in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Bedaux’s legacy was a substantial burden for other industrial engineers. The growth of labor unrest in the 1930s and the frequent appearance of the “Be-do” plan on grievance lists revived the association of industrial engineering with labor turmoil. Regardless of their association with Bedaux and his tactics, industrial engineers became the targets of union leaders and their allies. In industries such as autos and tires, worker protests paralyzed the operations of industrial engineering departments and led to the curtailment or abandonment of many activities.

Diffusion of Industrial Engineering

There are at least three partial measures of the diffusion of industrial engineering.  First, the many references to cost accounting, centralized production planning and scheduling, systematic maintenance procedures, time study, and employment management in the trade press and in the records of industrial corporations indicate that these activities were no longer novel or unfamiliar to executives. The promotional work of the consultants, the “efficiency craze,” and the growth of management education in universities had made the rudiments of industrial engineering widely available; only the oldest or most isolated executives were unaware of them. The critical issue was no longer the desirability of the new management; it was the particular combination of techniques suitable for a given firm or plant, the role of the outside consultant, if any, and the authority of the staff experts.

Second, the information on industrial wage systems that the National Industrial Conference Board assiduously collected in the 1920s and 1930s documents widespread acceptance of incentive wage plans, particularly among large corporations. In 1928, for example, 6 percent of the smallest companies (1-50 employees) had incentive wage plans, while 56 percent of the largest firms (more than 3,500 employees) had such plans. In earlier years, small firms devoted to industrial reform had been among the most vigorous proponents of industrial engineering. But their ranks did not grow, and they were soon overshadowed by large corporations, which found in industrial engineering an effective answer to the problems that often prevented large, expensive factories from achieving their potential. Incentive wage plans were an indicator of this trend.  Feiss, Dennison, and others hoped to transform the character of industrial work through the use of incentives and personnel programs; judging from the information that survives, big business managers had more modest goals. Their principal objective was to make the best use of existing technology and organization by enlisting the workers’ interest in a higher wage. In the early 1930s, many managers were attracted to the “work simplification” movement that grew out of the Gilbreths’ activities, but the effects were apparently negligible, at least until the World War II mobilization effort. To most manufacturers, industrial engineering provided useful answers to a range of shop-floor problems; it was a valuable resource but neither a stimulus to radical change nor a step toward a larger goal.

A third source, contemporary surveys of the industrial engineering work of large corporations, provides additional support for this conclusion.   A 1928 survey by the Special Conference Committee, an elite group of large industrial firms, emphasized related problem. It reported wide differences in the practice of time study, in the duties of time-study technicians, and in the degree of commitment to time study as an instrument for refining and improving the worker’s activities. At Western Electric, which had one of the largest industrial engineering staffs, a manufacturing planning department was responsible for machinery and methods; the time-study expert was simply a rate setter. At Westinghouse, which also had a large industrial engineering department, time-study technicians were responsible for methods and rates. However, a report from the company’s Mansfield, Ohio, plant indicated that the time-study engineer could propose changes in manufacturing methods “in cooperation with the foremen.” Most companies had similar policies. The time-study expert was expected to suggest beneficial changes to his superiors, often after consulting the foreman, but had no independent authority to introduce them. Essentially, the “expert” was a rate setter. In most plants, industrial engineering focused on detail, seldom threatened the supervisors or workers, and even more rarely produced radical changes in methods.

Experience at Du Pont

A recent, detailed examination of industrial engineering at E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Company, a Special Conference Committee member, suggests the range of possibilities that could exist in a single firm (Rumm 1992, 175-204). Du Pont executives created an Efficiency Division in 1911 after the company’s general manager read The Principles. Rather than employ an outside consultant, they appointed two veteran managers to run the division. These men conducted time and motion studies, “determined standard times and methods for tasks, set standard speeds for machinery, and made suggestions for rearranging the flow of work, improving tools, and installing labor-saving equipment.” Yet they encountered a variety of difficulties; their proposals were only advisory, they clashed with the new employment department when they proposed to study fatigue and the matching of workers and jobs, and they found that many executives were indifferent to their work. Worst of all, they could not show that their activities led to large savings. In 1914, after the introduction of functional supervision in the dynamite-mixing department apparently caused several serious accidents, the company disbanded the Efficiency Division.

Although some Du Pont plants introduced time-study departments in the following years, the company did nothing until 1928, when it created a small Industrial Engineering Division within the larger Engineering Department. The IED was to undertake a “continuous struggle to reduce operating costs.” That battle was comparatively unimportant until the Depression underlined the importance of cost savings. In the 1930s, the IED grew rapidly, from twenty eight engineers in 1930 to over two hundred in 1940. It examined “every aspect of production,” conducted job analyses, and introduced incentive wage plans.  IED engineers began with surveys of existing operations. They then “consolidated processes, rearranged the layout of work areas, installed materials-handling equipment, and trimmed work crews.” To create “standard times” for particular jobs, they used conventional stopwatch time study as well as the elaborate photographic techniques the Gilbreths had developed. By 1938, they had introduced incentive wage plans in thirty plants; one-quarter of all Du Pont employees were affected.

Du Pont introduced a variety of incentive plans. Three plants employed the Bedaux Company to install its incentive system. Other managers turned to less expensive consultants, and others, the majority, developed their own “in-house” versions of these plans. Some executives, and workers, became enthusiastic supporters of incentive wages; others were more critical. Despite the work of the aggressive and ever-expanding IED, many workers found ways to take advantage of the incentive plans to increase their wages beyond the anticipated ranges. Wage inflation ultimately led the company to curtail the incentive plans. Time and motion study, however, remained hallmarks of Du Pont industrial engineering.

During the depression of the 1930s, when they developed a new sensitivity to the value of industrial engineering, they defined it as a way to cut factory costs.  One reason for this perspective was bureaucratic: Du Pont had developed an extensive personnel operation in the 1910s and 1920s, which had authority over employee training, welfare programs, and labor negotiations. Equally important was the apparent assumption that industrial engineering only pertained to the details of manufacturing activities, especially the work of machine operators. Despite mounting pressures to reduce costs, the company’s offices, laboratories, and large white-collar labor force remained off-limits to the IED. Despite these handicaps, the IED had a significant impact because rapid technological change in the industry created numerous opportunities for organizational change and Du Pont avoided relations with powerful unions.

Du Pont executives were receptive to the “principles” of industrial engineering but focused on the particulars, which they assessed in terms of their potential for improving short-term economic performance. As a result there was little consistency in their activities until the 1940s; even then, industrial engineering was restricted to the company’s manufacturing operations. This approach, fragmentary and idiosyncratic by the standards of Taylor or Dennison, was logical and appropriate to executives whose primary objective was to fine-tune a largely successful organization.

During the first third of the twentieth century, industrial engineers successfully argued that internal management was as important to the health of the enterprise as technology, marketing, and other traditional concerns. Their message had its greatest impact in the 1910s and 1920s, when their “principles” won wide acceptance and time study and other techniques became common-place. Managers whose operations depended on carefully planned and coordinated activities and reformers attracted to the prospect of social harmony were particularly receptive. By the 1930s, the engineers’ central premise, that internal coordination required self-conscious effort and formal managerial systems, had become the acknowledged basis of industrial management.



Allan Mogensen's Common Sense Applied to Motion and Time Study (1932)

Ralph Barnes's Indus­trial Engineering and Management: Problems and Policies (1931).

Steward M. Lowry, Harold B. Maynard, and G. J. Stegmerten's widely used Time and Motion Study and Formulas for Wage Incentives.

The 1927 edition treated motion study only briefly and insubstantially, while devoting many chapters to stopwatch methods and rate setting formulas. In 1932, the authors approached Lillian Gilbreth and her research group for more detailed information on their methods. By 1940 Lowry, Maynard, and Stegmerten had reduced their treatment of wage incentive formulas from nine chapters to three, and increased the number of chapters devoted to motion study to seven.

IE History - Some Recollections
Andrew Shultz

Principles, Functions and Focus Areas of Industrial Engineering - Narayana Rao



Contributions of Industrial Engineering Pioneers, Researchers and Scholars in Chronological Order

Taylor - Machine - Engineering Based Productivity Improvement

Taylor - Productivity Science and Art of Metal Cutting - Important Points

Taylor's Industrial Engineering - First Proposal 1895

Industrial Engineering Described in Shop Management by F.W. Taylor

Productivity Improvement in Machine Shop - F.W. Taylor

Development of Science in Mechanic Arts - F.W. Taylor (Human work)

Time Study for Process Time Reduction - F.W. Taylor  (Human work)

Taylor on Quality, Human Relations and Management

Gilbreth - Human Effort Focus

Gilbreth's Human Effort Industrial Engineering Motion Study - Part 1

Gilbreth's Human Effort Industrial Engineering - Motion Study - Part 2

Gilbreth's Human Effort Industrial Engineering - Motion Study - Part 3

Gilbreth's Human Effort Industrial Engineering - Motion Study - Part 4

Gilbreth's Human Effort Industrial Engineering - Productivity Science of Motion Study - Variables Affecting of Motion Time.

Gilbreth's Human Effort Industrial Engineering - Productivity Science of Motion Study - Future Scope

Process Charts - Gilbreths - 1921

Psychology Evaluation of Scientific Management by Lilian Gilbreth - 1914

Harrington Emerson - A Pioneer Industrial Engineer - His Principles and Practices

Prof. Hugo Diemer - Taylor's Industrial Engineering

Industrial Engineering - The Concept - Developed by Going in 1911

Taylor Society Bulletin

H.B. Maynard - Operation Analysis - Introduction

H.B. Maynard - Methods Time Measurement (MTM) - Introduction

Work Simplification - Alan Mogensen

Method Study - Ralph M. Barnes - Important Points of Various Chapters

Product Industrial Engineering

L.D. Miles - Value Analysis and Engineering - Introduction

L.D. Miles - 13 Techniques of Value Analysis

Japanese Contribution

Yoichi Ueno - Japanese Leader in Efficiency - Productivity Movement

Taiichi Ohno on Industrial Engineering - Toyota Style Industrial Engineering

Industrial Engineering - Foundation of Toyota Production System

Taylor's Industrial Engineering in New Framework - Narayana Rao




Westinghouse manual of time study procedure. © Aug. 10, 1945, AA 4994.94.

Westinghouse operation analysis. © Aug. 10, 1945, AA 49,493. Westminster press ...

Georgia Tech Fall 2005 Engineering Enterprise Issue has an article on History of IE at Georgia

Updated on 1 June 2021,  1 April 2021,  19 May 2020,  9 April 2020, 10 November 2019, 22 December 2014

The updates to this post are examples of industrial engineering - continuous improvement based on periodic reviews as well as when a relevant information becomes available or an idea comes to mind.

The first creation of the post is the example of basic engineering - product design as well as process design. The updates made show that there will be opportunities for improvement. Similarly in engineering systems, there is opportunity for industrial engineering, periodic and continuous improvement. 


  1. Its a very nice description on the history and evolution of Industrial Engineering. Thanks.

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