Frederick W. Taylor has been a key figure in the development of modern industry in particular, and organizations in general.
This American engineer and inventor is considered the father of scientific administration and his contributions made the industry the most productive sector it is today, moving from cottage production to mass production, creating the modern consumer culture.
Below we will discover the life of this researcher through a biography of Frederick W. Taylor, And we will know its main contributions to industrial production and labor management.
Brief biography of Frederick W. Taylor
Frederick Winslow Taylor was born March 20, 1856 in Germantown, Pennsylvania, United States. He grew up in a family with a good financial situation, which contributed greatly to his studies, having access to university studies.
Youth and visual problems
Frederick W. Taylor began his law studies at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, although later he was accepted to Harvard University. It could have been the start of a successful legal career, but sadly, life gave him a major setback.
Already since adolescence he was showing symptoms of a disease affecting his eyesightWhat got worse at Harvard and he had to quit the race in half. In addition, this rare disease was accompanied by physical problems, which caused him to have a weak body which prevented him from participating in the sports activities his teammates were doing.
But despite these problems, Taylor, far from being bitter, began to reflect on them and how the physical response of athletes could be improved by using instruments and tools that already existed, or at least by using a method. blade. These first thoughts would be fundamental in their way of thinking, linking better performance and better productivity to the application of certain strategies.
Fortunately, in 1875, Taylor recovered from his visual problems. At this time, he entered as a worker in an industrial steel company located in Philadelphia. A few years later, in 1878, he worked for the Midvale Steel Company in Utah, where he quickly evolved and held various positions: machinist, group leader, foreman, foreman and director of the planning office until that time. that you reach the post of Chief Engineer.
In 1881, at only 25 years old, Frederick W. Taylor he began to introduce the idea of ”the study of time” in the Midvale Steel Company. Yas, from an early age, was characterized by being an extremely attentive and meticulous person and, being in the company, she devoted herself to observing the workings of the workers in charge of cutting the metallic material.
Taylor focused on how the workers did the whole process, focusing on each step followed, As simple and mundane as it sounds. From his observation, he conceived the notion of breaking down work into simpler steps in order to be able to analyze them in more depth. For him, it was essential that these stages have a determined and strict execution time, well timed.
Scientific organization of work
Still working at the Midvale Steel Company, Taylor obtained a degree in mechanical engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1883. He is credited with having obtained this diploma, as he studied every evening and, during the day, went to his workplace in the company. In this way, he got the job of engineer in the company, and from there he designed and built a new machine shop to increase productivity.
Thanks to his ideas of careful observation at work, Taylor contribute to the emergence of a new conception of work: the scientific organization of work. With the intention of further researching this idea, Taylor decided to quit his job at Midvale Steel Company and joined the Manufacturing Investment Company, where he worked for three years and will develop a new, more oriented engineering approach. towards management consulting.
His innovative vision for work opened up many career opportunities for him and as a result Frederick W. Taylor had the opportunity to participate in various business projects. The last company he was involved in was Bethlehem Steel Corporation, where he continued to develop new processes to optimize, in this case, the processes related to cast iron work and pallet manufacturing.
Retirement, final years and death
At 45, Frederick W. Taylor decided to retire from work, Although he continued to give lectures to disseminate his principles of scientific labor administration. Taking advantage of this retirement, he spent time with his wife Louise M. Spooner and their three adopted children, residing in Philadelphia between 1904 and 1914.
During this decade, Taylor he received several awards for his idea of time control in industrial production. In 1906, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers appointed him president, and in the same year he received an honorary doctorate in science from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1912 he appeared before a special committee of the United States Congress to outline the characteristics of the machinery management system he had created.
Frederick W. Taylor died March 21, 1915 in Philadelphia at the age of 59 the day before. He was very hardworking and was always interested in making his system of scientific organization of work known, presenting it in different institutes and universities.
Theory of scientific administration
Frederick W. Taylor’s greatest contribution to the field of industrial engineering is his theory of scientific administration. This is based on the generation a system in which both employee and employer have the opportunity to receive as many benefits as possible. To achieve this, the administration must be able to properly train its workers so that their performance is better and better, increasing quality, efficiency and production.
Taylor believed that each worker had their own skills that had to be taken into account when ordering them to do a certain job. In addition, through constant training, those skills in which they are already basic goods can be improved so as to perfect themselves and increase production accordingly.
In Taylor’s day, the most common conception was that the goals of employees and bosses could not match. However, Taylor argues that this shouldn’t be the case, because it is possible to target both groups on the same common goal, which is higher and more efficient productivity.
Main system errors
For Taylor, there were a number of mistakes that were prevalent in nineteenth-century industry and needed to be corrected if productivity was to be increased. Among the main ones are:
1. Poor management
Industrial administrations have performed poorly because of their mismanagement.
Downtime was attributed to tasks performed by employees, resulting in decreased productivity and little time.
2. Methods that generated exhaustion
Many of the methods that they have continued to use in the industry have proven to be very unnecessary. The worker invested a lot of effort but the system was inefficient, Causing this effort to end up being rejected.
3. Management was not aware of their business processes
It was extremely common for management to be unfamiliar with its own business processes, hoping that it would magically bear the desired fruits.
The administration barely had a clue of the tasks carried out at the factory, And I did not know how much time passed each of the activities that took place were taking place.
4. Non-uniform methods
The working methods used in the factories were not uniform, which made the final process very long inefficient. each task within the factory may be subject to different standards, Make the quality of the final product uneven.
Principles of scientific labor administration
For Taylor, the idea of scientific administration of work is based on four fundamental principles, namely:
1. Scientific organization of the work
The scientific organization of work is a principle directly linked to the action of those responsible for administrative tasks. They are the ones who have to make sure that inefficient methods are changed and that the workers have to meet the agreed deadlines for the completion of each task.
Taylor believes that in order to comply with this principle, the administration must first know what are the times associated with each activity, what delays do they involve, why do they occur and what specific actions do workers take? in each task.
2. Choice of worker and training
Unlike many factories at the time, Frederick W. Taylor argued that each worker should be chosen on the basis of their specific abilities and skills. It was not at all appropriate to expect that by just starting the job the operator would acquire the skills on his own.
If one wishes to have a high degree of efficiency and quality in production, it is necessary to hire workers with certain basic skills and to make them take on tasks in which they will know how to defend themselves. A worker who feels comfortable with what he is doing is a worker who has well-being, who motivates him to do well the task assigned to him..
By breaking down the entire production process into simpler and more specific tasks, it is possible to identify which skills are ideal for each of them. Thus, by identifying job applicants who possessed such skills, they can be assigned tasks in which they will perform appropriately, thus preventing them from feeling frustrated with the uncertainty of not knowing whether they will know. how to do it.
For the performance of the company to be as desired, there must be cooperation between workers and managers. Although it is the workers who physically operate the system, employees and employers will have to pursue the same goal: increased production and efficiency.
That is why Taylor considers that workers’ remuneration should be linked to their productionSimply put, they charge based on the amount of work you’ve done. Knowing that the more tasks performed or products manufactured, the more the worker will earn, according to Taylor, will be motivated and will work harder to earn better. It is also intended to avoid the simulation of tasks, which means that employees reduce their productivity or do not work directly.
According to the Taylorist mentality, if the worker is paid by the hour, he is more likely to reduce his activity if he is not supervised by the head, limiting himself to doing the minimum so as not to be made redundant, lengthening the breaks and waiting for the day to finish the job. By introducing this system in which he is charged for the product, employees will look for ways to behave in the most efficient manner. knowing that this is directly linked to higher incomes.
Thus, Taylor argues that in order to achieve cooperation between workers and bosses, each worker must be paid for the unit of work performed, but in addition, a coordination group of workers must be organized. The coordinators will have to know in depth the activities carried out by the workers, so that they have the moral authority to give them orders and, at the same time, they can train them in more things about the task they are developing in particular .
Foremen must take care of specific areas of the production chain in order to support coordination of all workers and their tasks. Through its methodical and thorough examination of the entire process, it will be possible to perfect the system, detect critical problems and assign new tasks to workers who are not performing their current job to the maximum.
4. Division of labor between managers and operators
This last principle of Taylor is really innovative for its time, because it involves that it is essential that the workload between managers and workers be equal. He believes that a fair and coherent division of labor must be sought if the objective is to achieve maximum efficiency in all processes.
The administration must take care of all the elements related to the analysis of the situations, generate plans related to the future of the company as well as seek strategies to realize a greater profit.
Contributions by Frederick W. Taylor
Taylor was the first to come up with a scientific approach to work. His experience as both an operator and a workshop manager has enabled him to understand that workers were not as productive as they could be and as a result the performance of the company was declining.. It is also thanks to this that he understood that it is only by involving both management and operators in the organization that it would be possible to improve its production.
Each worker was prohibited from being responsible for making the product from start to finish, that is, in a traditional artisanal way. For example, Taylor did not consider it logical that in a shoe factory all the workers make shoes, that is to say cut the sole, sew the fabrics, paint them, varnish, make the laces … more logical was that each worker made a part, in the time required there will also be those who will sew, assemble the parts, put them in boxes and other tasks.
The traditional form involved a lot of waste of timeWhile Taylor’s proposal in the form of an assembly line, in which hundreds of units of the same product could be manufactured at a time, meant lower costs and higher productivity per unit of time. Having each worker perform a simple task assigned to them greatly simplified the whole process.
With this he raised the need to plan the work, which, although nowadays it is obvious, at the time was not at all common. Taylor was the first to believe that in order to create a product in the shortest possible time, it was necessary to plan the steps to be taken and to derive different tasks from each worker, making them all responsible for the final product.
He also introduced the idea of personnel selection, which is fundamental in today’s human resource departments. We could not expect that all workers in a company know how to do everything or that they do the same exercise. They had to be selected and placed in such a way that they could perform tasks in which they already had a certain level of management or that they get a good job so that they would be motivated and thus have greater productivity and efficiency.
Whenever possible, Taylor argued that workers should be constantly trainedIt didn’t matter how good they were at a certain task. The aim was to improve production and to be able to retrain workers as much as possible. The best thing that employees and managers could do was train themselves in specific tasks to be attractive to companies, which is fundamental in today’s working philosophy.
Frederick W. Taylor helped the administration play a bigger role. Before, it was normal that they could hardly do anything and all the responsibility for the industrial process fell on the workers. However, with the ideas of business planning, work control and personnel selection as the means to increase production, managers had more weight in companies. It would be the germ of the creation of industrial engineering as a scientific discipline.
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