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- Shop Management - 2/24 -
unjust treatment they are almost sure to lean so far in the other direction as to do an equally great injustice to their employer.
On the other hand, the men who use the opportunity offered by a scarcity of labor to exact wages higher than the average of their class, without doing more than the average work in return, are merely laying up trouble for themselves in the long run. They grow accustomed to a high rate of living and expenditure, and when the inevitable turn comes and they are either thrown out of employment or forced to accept low wages, they are the losers by the whole transaction.
The only condition which contains the elements of stability and permanent satisfaction is that in which both employer and employees are doing as well or better than their competitors are likely to do, and this in nine cases out of ten means high wages and low labor cost, and both parties should be equally anxious for these conditions to prevail. With them the employer can hold his own with his competitors at all times and secure sufficient work to keep his men busy even in dull times. Without them both parties may do well enough in busy times, but both parties are likely to suffer when work becomes scarce.
The possibility of coupling high wages with a low labor cost rests mainly upon the enormous difference between the amount of work which a first-class man can do under favorable circumstances and the work which is actually done by the average man.
That there is a difference between the average and the first-class man is known to all employers, but that the first-class man can do in most cases from two to four times as much as is done by an average man is known to but few, and is fully realized only by those who have made a thorough and scientific study of the possibilities of men.
The writer has found this enormous difference between the first-class and average man to exist in all of the trades and branches of labor which he has investigated, and these cover a large field, as he, together with several of his friends, has been engaged with more than usual opportunities for thirty years past in carefully and systematically studying this subject.
The difference in the output of first-class and average men is as little realized by the workmen as by their employers. The first-class men know that they can do more work than the average, but they have rarely made any careful study of the matter. And the writer has over and over again found them utterly incredulous when he informed them, after close observation and study, how much they were able to do. In fact, in most cases when first told that they are able to do two or three times as much as they have done they take it as a joke and will not believe that one is in earnest.
It must be distinctly understood that in referring to the possibilities of a first-class man the writer does not mean what he can do when on a spurt or when he is over-exerting himself, but what a good man can keep up for a long term of years without injury to his health. It is a pace under which men become happier and thrive.
The second and equally interesting fact upon which the possibility of coupling high wages with low labor cost rests, is that first-class men are not only willing but glad to work at their maximum speed, providing they are paid from 30 to 100 per cent more than the average of their trade.
The exact percentage by which the wages must be increased in order to make them work to their maximum is not a subject to be theorized over, settled by boards of directors sitting in solemn conclave, nor voted upon by trades unions. It is a fact inherent in human nature and has only been determined through the slow and difficult process of trial and error.
The writer has found, for example, after making many mistakes above and below the proper mark, that to get the maximum output for ordinary shop work requiring neither especial brains, very close application, skill, nor extra hard work, such, for instance, as the more ordinary kinds of routine machine shop work, it is necessary to pay about 30 per cent more than the average. For ordinary day labor requiring little brains or special skill, but calling for strength, severe bodily exertion, and fatigue, it is necessary to pay from 50 per cent to 60 per cent above the average. For work requiring especial skill or brains, coupled with close application, but without severe bodily exertion, such as the more difficult and delicate machinist's work, from 70 per cent to 80 per cent beyond the average. And for work requiring skill, brains, close application, strength, and severe bodily exertion, such, for instance, as that involved in operating a well run steam hammer doing miscellaneous work, from 80 per cent to 100 per cent beyond the average.
There are plenty of good men ready to do their best for the above percentages of increase, but if the endeavor is made to get the right men to work at this maximum for less than the above increase, it will be found that most of them will prefer their old rate of speed with the lower pay. After trying the high speed piece work for a while they will one after another throw up their jobs and return to the old day work conditions. Men will not work at their best unless assured a good liberal increase, which must be permanent.
It is the writer's judgment, on the other hand, that for their own good it is as important that workmen should not be very much over-paid, as it is that they should not be under-paid. If over-paid, many will work irregularly and tend to become more or less shiftless, extravagant, arid dissipated. It does not do for most men to get rich too fast. The writer's observation, however, would lead him to the conclusion that most men tend to become more instead of less thrifty when they receive the proper increase for an extra hard day's work, as, for example, the percentages of increase referred to above. They live rather better, begin to save money, become more sober, and work more steadily. And this certainly forms one of the strongest reasons for advocating this type of management.
In referring to high wages and low labor cost as fundamental in good management, the writer is most desirous not to be misunderstood.
By high wages he means wages which are high only with relation to the average of the class to which the man belongs and which are paid only to those who do much more or better work than the average of their class. He would not for an instant advocate the use of a high-priced tradesman to do the work which could be done by a trained laborer or a lower-priced man. No one would think of using a fine trotter to draw a grocery wagon nor a Percheron to do the work of a little mule. No more should a mechanic be allowed to do work for which a trained laborer can be used, and the writer goes so far as to say that almost any job that is repeated over and over again, however great skill and dexterity it may require, providing there is enough of it to occupy a man throughout a considerable part of the year, should be done by a trained laborer and not by a mechanic. A man with only the intelligence of an average laborer can be taught to do the most difficult and delicate work if it is repeated enough times; and his lower mental caliber renders him more fit than the mechanic to stand the monotony of repetition. It would seem to be the duty of employers, therefore, both in their own interest and in that of their employees, to see that each workman is given as far as possible the highest class of work for which his brains and physique fit him. A man, however, whose mental caliber and education do not fit him to become a good mechanic (and that grade of man is the one referred to as belonging to the "laboring class"), when he is trained to do some few especial jobs, which were formerly done by mechanics, should not expect to be paid the wages of a mechanic. He should get more than the average laborer, but less than a mechanic; thus insuring high wages to the workman, and low labor cost to the employer, and in this way making it most apparent to both that their interests are mutual.
To summarize, then, what the aim in each establishment should be:
(a) That each workman should be given as far as possible the highest grade of work for which his ability and physique fit him.
(b) That each workman should be called upon to turn out the maximum amount of work which a first-rate man of his class can do and thrive.
(c) That each workman, when he works at the best pace of a first-class man, should be paid from 30 per cent to 100 per cent according to the nature of the work which he does, beyond the average of his class.
And this means high wages and a low labor cost. These conditions not only serve the best interests of the employer, but they tend to raise each workman to the highest level which he is fitted to attain by making him use his best faculties, forcing him to become and remain ambitious and energetic, and giving him sufficient pay to live better than in the past.
Under these conditions the writer has seen many first-class men developed who otherwise would have remained second or third class all of their lives.
Is not the presence or absence of these conditions the best indication that any system of management is either well or badly applied? And in considering the relative merits of different types of management, is not that system the best which will establish these conditions with the greatest certainty, precision, and speed?
In comparing the management of manufacturing and engineering companies by this standard, it is surprising to see how far they fall short. Few of those which are best organized have attained even approximately the maximum output of first-class men.
Many of them are paying much higher prices per piece than are required to secure the maximum product while owing to a bad system, lack of exact knowledge of the time required to do work, and mutual suspicion and misunderstanding between employers and men, the output per man is so small that the men receive little if any more than average wages, both sides being evidently the losers thereby. The chief causes which produce this loss to both parties are: First (and by far the most important), the profound ignorance of employers and their foremen as to the time in which various kinds of work should be done, and this ignorance is shared largely by the workmen. Second: The indifference of the employers and their ignorance as to the proper system of management to adopt and the method of applying it, and further their indifference as to the individual character, worth, and welfare of their men. On the part of the men the greatest obstacle to the attainment of this standard is the slow pace which they adopt, or the loafing or "soldiering,'" marking time, as it is called.
This loafing or soldiering proceeds from two causes. First, from the natural instinct and tendency of men to take it easy, which may be called natural soldiering. Second, from more intricate second thought and reasoning caused by their relations with other men, which may be called systematic soldiering. There is no question that the tendency of the average man (in all walks of life) is toward working at a slow, easy gait, and that it is only after a good deal of thought and observation on his part or as a result of example, conscience, or external pressure that he takes a more rapid pace.
There are, of course, men of unusual energy, vitality, and ambition who naturally choose the fastest gait, set up their own standards, and who
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