Industrial Engineering

Pioneers Of Industrial Engineering

While Frederick W. Taylor did not use the term industrial engineering in his work, his writings and talks are generally credited as being the beginning of the discipline. One cannot presume to be well versed in the origins of industrial engineering without reading Taylor’s books: Shop Management and The Principles of Scientific Management. An engineer to the core, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology and developed several inventions for which he received patents. While his engineering accomplishments would have been sufficient to guarantee him a place in history, it was his contributions to management that resulted in a set of principles and concepts considered by Drucker to be “possibly the most powerful as well as lasting contribution America has made to Western thought since the Federalist Papers.”

The core of Taylor’s system consisted of breaking down the production process into its component parts and improving the efficiency of each. Paying little attention torules of thumb and standard practices, he honed manual tasks to maximum efficiency by examining each component separately and eliminating all false, slow, and useless movements. Mechanical work was accelerated through the use of jigs, fixtures, and other devices many invented by Taylor himself. In essence, Taylor was trying to do for work units what Whitney had done for material units: standardize them and make them interchangeable.

Improvement of work efficiency under the Taylor system was based on the analysis and improvement of work methods, reduction of the time required to carry out the work, and the development of work standards. With an abiding faith in the scientific method, Taylor’s contribution to the development of “time study” was his way of seeking the same level of predictability and precision for manual tasks that he had achieved with his formulas for metal cutting.

Taylor’s interest in what today we classify as the area of work measurement was also motivated by the information that studies of this nature could supply for planning activities. In this sense, his work laid the foundation for abroader “science of planning”: a science totally empirical in nature but one that he was able to demonstrate could significantly improve productivity. To Taylor, scientific management was a philosophy based not only on the scientific study of work but also on the scientific selection, education, and development of workers.

His classic experiments in shoveling coal, which he initiated at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1898, not only resulted in development of standards and methods for carrying out this task, but also led to the creation of tool and storage rooms as service departments, the development of inventory and ordering systems, the creation of personnel departments for worker selection, the creation of trainingdepartments to instruct workers in the standard methods, recognition of the importance of the layout of manufacturing facilities to ensure minimum movement of people and materials, the creation of departments for organizing and planningproduction, and the development of incentive payment systems to reward those workers able to exceed standard outputs. Any doubt about Taylor’s impact on the birth and development of industrial engineering should be erased by simply correlating the previously described functions with many of the fields of work and topics that continue to play a major role in the practice of the profession and its educational content at the university level.

The other cornerstone of the early days of industrial engineering was provided by the husband and wife team of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth. Consumed by a similar passion for efficiency, Frank Gilbreth’s application of the scientific method to the laying of bricks produced results that were as revolutionary as those of Taylor’s shoveling experiment. He and Lillian extended the concepts of scientific management to the identification, analysis, and measurement of fundamental motions involved in performing work. By applying the motion-picture camera to the task of analyzing motions they were able to categorize the elements of human motions into 18 basic elements or therbligs. This development marked a distinct step forward in the analysis of human work, for the first time permitting analysts to design jobs with knowledge of the time required to perform the job. In many respects thesedevelopments also marked the beginning of the much broader field of human factors or ergonomics.

While their work together stimulated much research and activity in the field of motion study, it was Lillian who also provided significant insight and contributions tothe human issues associated with their studies. Lillian’s book, The Psychology of Management (based on her doctoral thesis in psychology at Brown University), advanced the premise that because of its emphasis on scientific selection and training, scientific management offered ample opportunity for individual development, while traditional management stifled such development by concentrating power in a central figure. Known as the “first lady of engineering,” she was the first woman to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering and is generally credited with bringing to the industrial engineering profession a concernfor human welfare and human relations that was not present in the work of many pioneers of the scientific management movement.

In 1912, the originators and early pioneers, the first educators and consultants, and the managers and representatives of the first industries to adopt the concepts developed by Taylor and Gilbreth gathered at the annual meeting of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in New York City. The all-day session on Friday, December 6, 1912, began with a presentation titled “The Present State of the Art of Industrial Management.” This report and the subsequent discussions provide insight and understanding about the origin and relative contributions of the individuals involved in the birth of a unique new profession: industrial engineering.

In addition to Taylor and Gilbreth, other pioneers present at this meeting included Henry Towne and Henry Gantt. Towne, who was associated with the Yale and Towne Manufacturing Company, used ASME as the professional society to which he presented his views on the need for a professional group with interest in the problems of manufacturing and management. This suggestion ultimately led to the creation of the Management Division of ASME, one of the groups active today in promoting and disseminating information about the art and science of management, including many of the topics and ideas industrial engineers are engaged in. Towne was also concerned with the economic aspects and responsibilities of the engineer’s job including the development of wage payment plans and the remuneration of workers. His work and that of Frederick Halsey, father of the Halsey premium planof wage payment, advanced the notion that some of the gains realized from productivity increases should be shared with the workers creating them.

Gantt’s ideas covered a wider range than some of his predecessors. He was interested not only in standards and costs but also in the proper selection and training of workers and in the development of incentive plans to reward them. Although Gantt was considered by Taylor to be a true disciple, his disagreements with Taylor on several points led to the development of a “task work with bonus” system instead of Taylor’s “differential piece rate” system and explicit procedures for enabling workers to either protest or revise standards. He was also interested in scheduling problems and is best remembered for devising the Gantt chart: a systematic graphical procedure for planning and scheduling activities that is still widely used in project management.

In attendance were also the profession’s first educators including Hugo Diemer, who started the first continuing curriculum in industrial engineering at Pennsylvania State College in 1908; William Kent, who organized an industrial engineering curriculum at Syracuse University in the same year; Dexter Kimball, who presented an academic course in works administration at Cornell University in 1904; and C. Bertrand Thompson, an instructor in industrial organization at Harvard, where theteaching of Taylor’s concepts had been implemented. Consultants and industrial managers at the meeting included Carl Barth, Taylor’s mathematician and developer of special purpose slide rules for metal cutting; John Aldrich of the New EnglandButt Company, who presented the first public statement and films about micro- motion study; James Dodge, president of the Link-Belt Company; and Henry Kendall, who spoke of experiments in organizing personnel functions as part of scientific management in industry. Two editors present were Charles Going of the Engineering Magazine and Robert Kent, editor of the first magazine with the title of Industrial Engineering. Lillian Gilbreth was perhaps the only pioneer absent since at that time women were not admitted to ASME meetings.

Another early pioneer was Harrington Emerson. Emerson became a champion of efficiency independent of Taylor and summarized his approach in his book, the Twelve Principles of Efficiency. These principles, which somewhat paralleled Taylor’s teachings, were derived primarily through his work in the railroad industry. Emerson, who had reorganized the work shops of the Santa Fe Railroad, testifiedduring the hearings of the Interstate Commerce Commission concerning a proposed railroad rate hike in 1910 to 1911 that scientific management could save “a million dollars a day.” Because he was the only “efficiency engineer” with firsthandexperience in the railroad industry, his statement carried enormous weight and served to emblazon scientific management on the national consciousness. Later in his career he became particularly interested in selection and training of employees and is also credited with originating the term dispatching in reference to shop floorcontrol, a phrase that undoubtedly derives from his railroad experience


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