PIONEERS OF INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING – TAYLOR AND SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT (Part one)
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 to rules 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.