Industrial engineering grew out of the industrial age, the result of studies popularized by management pioneer Frederick Taylor and the Gilbreths, Lillian and Frank. Taylor, the Father of Scientific Management, proposed work methods designed to increase worker productivity. Frank Gilbreth was known as the Father of Time and Motion Studies. His wifeLillian was a psychologist. The couple believed, like Taylor, that there was “one best way” to accomplish a task, and their work established time and motion studies as a tool of industrial engineering. Both Taylor and the Gilbreths focused their studies on the human side of the machine. Mechanical engineering was already an established field, but the new science of industrial engineering looked atthe operators of the machine.
Frederick Taylor is one of the most influential figures of his time. Born to a wealthy family in Philadelphia in 1856, he was accepted to study at Harvard. But his eyesight failed, and he became an industrial apprentice in the depression of 1873. He went to work as a machine shop laborer at Midvale Steel Company in 1878, and was promoted to gang-boss, foreman, andfinally, chief engineer. He later earned a degree by night study from Stevens Institute of Technology and went on to become general manager of Manufacturing Investment Company, and then a consulting engineer to management.
Taylor devised the system of “scientific management,” a form of industrial engineering that established the organization of work. He developed detailed systems intended to gainmaximum efficiency from both workers and machines in the factory, relying on time and motion study to find the “one best method” to achieve a goal. This sort of task-oriented optimization of work tasks is nearly ubiquitous today in menial industries, such as assembly lines and fast-food restaurants.
But Taylor believed there was a human side of industrialization; that employees and managementshould work together to make life better for both parties.
He published “The Principles of Scientific Management” in 1911, establishing principles that became known as “Taylorism.” The main elements of Scientific Management are:
• Time Studies
• Functional or Specialized Supervision
• Standardization of Tools and Implements
• Standardization of Work Methods
• Separate Planning Function
•Management by Exception Principle
• The Use of “Slide-Rules and Similar Time-Saving Devices”
• Instruction Cards for Workmen
• Task Allocation and Large Bonus for Successful Performance
• The Use of the “Differential Rate”
• Mnemonic Systems for Classifying Products and Implements
• A Routing System
• A Modern Costing System
Taylor’s core values were the rule of reason, improvedquality, lower costs, higher wages, higher output, labor-management cooperation, experimentation, clear tasks and goals, feedback, training, mutual help and support, stress reduction, and the careful selection and development of people. He is described as “the first person to present a systematic study of interactions among job requirements, tools, methods, and human skill, to fit people to jobs bothpsychologically and physically, and to let data and facts do the talking rather than prejudice, opinions, or egomania.”
Unfortunately, Taylor was often misunderstood, and his work called oppressive and undemocratic. In later years, he withdrew from public life. But for better or for worse, his work set the stage for twentieth century business management.
Taylor died in 1915.
Frank and LillianGilbreth
The names of Frank and Lillian Moller Gilbreth are synonymous with the early history of industrial management and engineering. The couple was one of the “great husband and wife teams in science and engineering.” Together, they founded Gilbreth Inc., a Providence, Rhode Island, consulting firm that introduced innovative motion studies and efficiency techniques in the work place and at...