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Fredrick Winslow Taylor: The Father of Time and Motion Theories

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Fredrick Winslow Taylor

Fredrick Winslow Taylor
Fredrick Winslow Taylor

Fredrick Winslow Taylor   is one of the few personalities who made tremendous impact on modern management system and made bare the enigma of productivity at the height of industrialization taking place in the late 19th century in the USA. He is now rightly referred to as the father of scientific management, the phrase 1st developed & coined by him.

He is most remembered for his time and motion study. He proposed to break a job into its segment parts and measure each to the second. One of his most famous studies involved shovels. He noticed that the workers used the same shovel for all types materials. He calculated that the most effective load for an adult was 21 lb and designed shovels that for each material would scoop up that amount.

Taylor believed that contemporary management was amateurish and should be studied as a discipline that workers should cooperate with management ( and hence would not need trade unions) and that the best results would come from the partnership between a trained & qualified management and a cooperative & innovative workforce. Each side needed the other”.

He is known for coinage of the term scientific management in his article “The Principles of Scientific Management” published in 1911.

Taylor developed 5 principles of Scientific Management:

  1. Scientific study each par of a task & develop the one best way of doing it.
  2. Select the best person to do the job.
  3. Train, teach and develop the worker.
  4. Provide financial incentives for following the designated methods.
  5. Divide work & responsibility so that managers are responsible for planning the work methods & workers are responsible for executing the work as planned.

Taylor’ concept of Time & Motion Study eventually evolved into a great discipline studied in universities and widely used in the industry. Now it finds application in almost all industries, conveyor lines, robotics and what not.

Taylor was born in Philadelphia on March 20, 1865 in a wealthy & liberal family. His mother was a spirited abolitionist & feminist. Both parents believed in high thinking & plain living.

In 1890 only at age 25, Taylor earned engineering degree at the Stevens Institute Of Technology in New Jersey through correspondence which was very unfamiliar system at that time. At that time he was holding a full time job. It is said that no one has broken that record till date.

Young Taylor discovered in him a good sportsman & he won the US lawn Tennis Association doubles championship where he used a patented spoon shaped racket that he himself designed.

Taylor chose to work as a machinist & pattern maker in Philadephia at he Enterprise Hydraulic Works. In 1874, he became an apprentice machinist to learn factory conditions at the grass-roots level. Taylor became an ordinary laborer at the Midvale Steel Company. But he quickly rose up the ladder from machinist to foreman, to maintenance foreman, and to chief draftsman. In a span of only 6 years he advanced to research director, then chief engineer.

It is in this company that he introduced piecework in the factory. He aimed to find the most efficient way of doing a specific work. He closely studied how work was done and would the measure the quality produced (Kanigel44). Taylor’s studies took place at a time of great industrial development after the American Civil War. Capitalists were becoming wealthier with introduction of mass production systems but laborers received little for their hard works. There were frustrations among the workers & the poor. Production was riddled with a lot of problems such as carelessness, unsafe conditions, inefficiencies and soldiering (worker foot dragging) on the job. Management thought to tackle the problems by incentive bonuses.

At the age of 37 Taylor became a consulting engineer. He focused on cost cutting methods when a problem called for new customers & products. At the Simonds Roller Bearing Company he increased productivity while improving efficiency & quality. At Simonds he was able to replace 120 workers with only 35. At the time he was sharply criticized because his innovation methods cause people to lose jobs. This earned him a lot of enemies & critics who tried to rumor that Taylor “took a harsh & ruthless approach” to chopping heads rather than saving jobs. He believed that unions would not be necessary if workers were paid their individual worth. Ironically, that is exactly what they had hired Taylor to do, but they never expected that he would actually to do it. In fact displaced workers were moved to other jobs and didn’t lose employment.  After disputes with new management at Bethlehem, Taylor was eventually fired in May of 1901. Though he didn’t suffer financially due to losing job but the event severely hurt him in the soul. He started focusing on his home, hobbies and his ailing wife Louise Spooner, adopted 3 orphaned children. After Bethlehem, Taylor never joined in any factory as an employee.

The system he described in his book “The Principles of Scientific Management” emanates from his experience & studies at many companies he worked. In solving problems of his clients Taylor concentrated much of his thinking to his client’s problems and motives for each particular situation. Consultants use this type of process today. He was the first person in the history to make a systematic attempt to improve both output and work life in factories.

While on a lecturing tour in the Midwest in 1915 he contracted influenza. Fredrick Winslow Taylor was admitted to a hospital in Philadelphia and celebrated his 59th birthday there. He died the next day.

Taylor’s core values and teachings comprise the following:

  1. The rule of reason
  2. Improved quality
  3. Lower costs
  4. Higher wages
  5. Higher output
  6. Labor-management cooperation
  7. Experimentation
  8. Clear tasks and goals
  9. Feedback
  10. Training
  11. Mutual help and support
  12. Stress reduction
  13. The careful selection and development of people

He was the 1st person a systematic study of interactions among job requirements, tools, methods and human skill to fit people to jobs both psychologically and physically and to let data and facts do the talking rather than prejudice, options or egomania.

– Fredrick Winslow Taylor –

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