Major Contributors to Scientific Management

Taylor’s ideas inspired others to study and develop methods of scientific management. His most prominent disciples were Frank and Lillian Gilberth and Henry Gantt.

A construction contractor by background, Frank Gilberth gave up his contracting career in 1912 to study scientific management, after hearing Taylor speak at a professionals meeting. Along with his wife Lillian, a psychologist, he studied work arrangements to eliminate wasteful hand and body motions. The Gilberths also experimented with the design and use of the proper tools and equipment for optimizing work performance. Frank Gilberth is probably best known for his experiments in reducing the number of motions in bricklaying.

The Gilbreths were among the first to use motion picture films to study hand and body motions. They devised a micro-chronometer that recorded time to 1 / 2,000 of a second, placed it in the field of study being photographed, and thus determined how long a worker spent enacting each motion. Wasted motions missed by the naked eye could be identified and eliminated. The Gilbreths also devised a classifications scheme to label 17 basic hand motions – such as “search”, “select” , “grasp”, and “hold” – which they called therbligs (Gibreth spelled backward with the transposed. This scheme allowed the Gilbreths to more precisely analyze the exact elements of workers hand movements.

Another associate of Taylor’s at Midvale and Bethlehem Steel was a young engineer named Henry L Gantt. Like Taylor and the Gilbreths, Gantt sought to increase worker efficiency through scientific investigation. He extended some of Taylor’s original ideas and added a few of his own. For instance, Gantt devised an incentive system that gave workers a bonus for completing their jobs in less time than the allowed standard. He also introduced a bonus for a supervisor to be paid for each worker who made the standard plus an extra bonus if all that supervisor’s workers made it. In so doing, Gantt expanded the scope of scientific management to encompass the work of managers as well as that of operatives. Gantt is probably most noted for creating a graphic bar chart that could be used by managers as a scheduling device for planning and controlling work.

Details on a Management Classic:

Probably the most widely cited example of scientific management is Taylor’s pig iron experiment. Workers loaded “pigs” of iron weighting 92 pounds onto rail cars. Their average daily output was 12.5 tons. Taylor believed that if the job was scientifically analyzed to determine the one best way to load pig iron, the output could be increased to 47 or 48 tons per day.

Taylor began his experiment by looking for a physically strong subject ho placed a high value on the dollar. The individual Taylor chose was a big, strong Dutch immigrant, whom the called “Schmidt” Schmidt like the others loaders, earned $1.15 a day, which even at the turn of the century was bar6ely a subsistence wage. Taylor offered Schmidt $1.85 a day if he would do what Taylor asked.

Using money to motivate Schmidt, Taylor asked him to load the pig irons, alternating various job factors to see what impact the changes had on Schmidt’s daily output. For instance, on some days, Schmidt would lift the pig irons by bending his knees; on the other days; he would keep his legs straight and use his back. Taylor experimented with rest periods, walking speed, carrying positions, and other variables. After a long period of methodically trying various combinations of procedures, techniques, Taylor obtained the level of productivity he thought possible. By putting the right person on the job with the correct tools and equipment, by having the worker follow his instructions exactly and by motivating the worker with a significantly higher daily wage, Taylor was able to reach his 48 ton objective.

It’s important to understand what Taylor saw at Midvale Steel that aroused his determination to improve the way things were done in the plant. At the time, there were no clear concepts of worker and management responsibilities. Virtually no effective work standards existed. Workers purposely worked at a slow pace. Management decisions were of the seat of the pants variety based on hunch and intuition. Workers were placed on jobs with little or no concern for matching their abilities and aptitudes with the tasks required. Most important, management and workers considered themselves to be in continual conflict. Rather than cooperating to their mutual benefit, they perceived their relationship as a zero sum game – any gain by one would be at the expenses of the other.