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large variety in manufactures, as well as in the building trades, structural and engineering work, that it is not only practicable but comparatively easy to obtain, through a systematic and scientific time study, exact information as to how much of any given kind of work either a first-class or an average man can do in a day, and with this information as a foundation, he has over and over again seen the fact demonstrated that workmen of all classes are not only willing, but glad to give up all idea of soldiering, and devote all of their energies to turning out the maximum work possible, providing they are sure of a suitable permanent reward.
With accurate time knowledge as a basis, surprisingly large results can be obtained under any scheme of management from day work up; there is no question that even ordinary day work resting upon this foundation will give greater satisfaction than any of the systems in common use, standing as they do upon soldiering as a basis.
To many of the readers of this book both the fundamental objects to be aimed at, namely, high wages with low labor cost, and the means advocated by the writer for attaining this end; namely, accurate time study, will appear so theoretical and so far outside of the range of their personal observation and experience that it would seem desirable, before proceeding farther, to give a brief illustration of what has been accomplished in this line.
The writer chooses from among a large variety of trades to which these principles have been applied, the yard labor handling raw materials in the works of the Bethlehem Steel Company at South Bethlehem, Pa., not because the results attained there have been greater than in many other instances, but because the case is so elementary that the results are evidently due to no other cause than thorough time study as a basis, followed by the application of a few simple principles with which all of us are familiar.
In almost all of the other more complicated cases the large increase in output is due partly to the actual physical changes, either in the machines or small tools and appliances, which a preliminary time study almost always shows to be necessary, so that for purposes of illustration the simple case chosen is the better, although the gain made in the more complicated cases is none the less legitimately due to the system.
Up to the spring of the year 1899, all of the materials in the yard of the Bethlehem Steel Company had been handled by gangs of men working by the day, and under the foremanship of men who had themselves formerly worked at similar work as laborers. Their management was about as good as the average of similar work, although it was bad all of the men being paid the ruling wages of laborers in this section of the country, namely, $1.15 per day, the only means of encouraging or disciplining them being either talking to them or discharging them; occasionally, however, a man was selected from among these men and given a better class of work with slightly higher wages in some of the companies' shops, and this had the effect of slightly stimulating them. From four to six hundred men were employed on this class of work throughout the year.
The work of these men consisted mainly of unloading from railway cars and shoveling on to piles, and from these piles again loading as required, the raw materials used in running three blast furnaces and seven large open-hearth furnaces, such as ore of various kinds, varying from fine, gravelly ore to that which comes in large lumps, coke, limestone, special pig, sand, etc., unloading hard and soft coal for boilers gas-producers, etc., and also for storage and again loading the stored coal as required for use, loading the pig-iron produced at the furnaces for shipment, for storage, and for local use, and handling billets, etc., produced by the rolling mills. The work covered a large variety as laboring work goes, and it was not usual to keep a man continuously at the same class of work.
Before undertaking the management of these men, the writer was informed that they were steady workers, but slow and phlegmatic, and that nothing would induce them to work fast.
The first step was to place an intelligent, college-educated man in charge of progress in this line. This man had not before handled this class of labor, although he understood managing workmen. He was not familiar with the methods pursued by the writer, but was soon taught the art of determining how much work a first-class man can do in a day. This was done by timing with a stop watch a first-class man while he was working fast. The best way to do this, in fact almost the only way in which the timing can be done with certainty, is to divide the man's work into its elements and time each element separately. For example, in the case of a man loading pig-iron on to a car, the elements should be: (a) picking up the pig from the ground or pile (time in hundredths of a minute); (b) walking with it on a level (time per foot walked); (c) walking with it up an incline to car (time per foot walked); (d) throwing the pig down (time in hundredths of a minute), or laying it on a pile (time in hundredths of a minute); (e) walking back empty to get a load (time per foot walked).
In case of important elements which were to enter into a number of rates, a large number of observations were taken when practicable on different first-class men, and at different times, and they were averaged.
The most difficult elements to time and decide upon in this, as in most cases, are the percentage of the day required for rest, and the time to allow for accidental or unavoidable delays.
In the case of the yard labor at Bethlehem, each class of work was studied as above, each element being timed separately, and, in addition, a record was kept in many cases of the total amount of work done by the man in a day. The record of the gross work of the man (who is being timed) is, in most cases, not necessary after the observer is skilled in his work. As the Bethlehem time observer was new to this work, the gross time was useful in checking his detailed observations and so gradually educating him and giving him confidence in the new methods.
The writer had so many other duties that his personal help was confined to teaching the proper methods and approving the details of the various changes which were in all cases outlined in written reports before being carried out.
As soon as a careful study had been made of the time elements entering into one class of work, a single first-class workman was picked out and started on ordinary piece work on this job. His task required him to do between three and one-half and four times as much work in a day as had been done in the past on an average.
Between twelve and thirteen tons of pig-iron per man had been carried from a pile on the ground, up an inclined plank, and loaded on to a gondola car by the average pig-iron handler while working by the day. The men in doing this work had worked in gangs of from five to twenty men.
The man selected from one of these gangs to make the first start under the writer's system was called upon to load on piece work from forty-five to forty-eight tons (2,240 lbs. each) per day.
He regarded this task as an entirely fair one, and earned on an average, from the start, $1.85 per day, which was 60 per cent more than he had been paid by the day. This man happened to be considerably lighter than the average good workman at this class of work. He weighed about 130 pounds. He proved however, to be especially well suited to this job, and was kept at it steadily throughout the time that the writer was in Bethlehem, and some years later was still at the same work.
Being the first piece work started in the works, it excited considerable opposition, both on the part of the workmen and of several of the leading men in the town, their opposition being based mainly on the old fallacy that if piece work proved successful a great many men would be thrown out of work, and that thereby not only the workmen but the whole town would suffer.
One after another of the new men who were started singly on this job were either persuaded or intimidated into giving it up. In many cases they were given other work by those interested in preventing piece work, at wages higher than the ruling wages. In the meantime, however, the first man who started on the work earned steadily $1.85 per day, and this object lesson gradually wore out the concerted opposition, which ceased rather suddenly after about two months. From this time on there was no difficulty in getting plenty of good men who were anxious to start on piece work, and the difficulty lay in making with sufficient rapidity the accurate time study of the elementary operations or "unit times" which forms the foundation of this kind of piece work.
Throughout the introduction of piece work, when after a thorough time study a new section of the work was started, one man only was put on each new job, and not more than one man was allowed to work at it until he had demonstrated that the task set was a fair one by earning an average of $1.85 per day. After a few sections of the work had been started in this way, the complaint on the part of the better workmen was that they were not allowed to go on to piece work fast enough. It required about two years to transfer practically all of the yard labor from day to piece work. And the larger part of the transfer was made during the last six months of this time.
As stated above, the greater part of the time was taken up in studying "unit times," and this time study was greatly delayed by having successively the two leading men who had been trained to the work leave because they were offered much larger salaries elsewhere. The study of "unit times" for the yard labor took practically the time of two trained men for two years. Throughout this time the day and piece workers were under entirely separate and distinct management. The original foremen continued to manage the day work, and day and piece workers were never allowed to work together. Gradually the day work gang was diminished and the piece workers were increased as one section of work after another was transformed from the former to the latter.
Two elements which were important to the success of this work should be noted:
First, on the morning following each day's work, each workman was given a slip of paper informing him in detail just how much work he had done the day before, and the amount he had earned. This enabled him to measure his performance against his earnings while the details were fresh in his mind. Without this there would have been great dissatisfaction among those who failed to climb up to the task asked of them, and many would have gradually fallen off in their performance.
Second, whenever it was practicable, each man's work was measured by itself. Only when absolutely necessary was the work of two men measured up together and the price divided between them, and then care was taken to select two men of as nearly as possible the same capacity. Only on few occasions, and then upon special permission, signed by the writer, were more than two men allowed to work on gang work, dividing their earnings between them. Gang work almost invariably results in a failing off in earnings and consequent dissatisfaction.
An interesting illustration of the desirability of individual piece work
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