Industrial Engineering

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HISTORY OF INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING - SPECIALIZATION OF LABOR

HISTORY OF INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING - SPECIALIZATION OF LABOR

The concepts presented by Adam Smith in his treatise The Wealth of Nations also lie at the foundation of what eventually became the theory and practice of industrial engineering. His writings on concepts such as the division of labor and the “invisible hand” of capitalism served to motivate many of the technological innovators of the Industrial Revolution to establish and implement factory systems. Examples of these developments include Arkwright’s implementation of management control systems to regulate production and the output of factory workers, and the well-organized factory that Watt, together with an associate, Matthew Boulton, built to produce steam engines. The efforts of Watt and Boulton and their sons led to the planning and establishment of the first integrated machine manufacturing facility in the world, including the implementation of concepts such as a cost control system designed to decrease waste and improve productivity and the institution of skills training for craftsmen. Many features of life in the twentieth century including widespread employment in large- scale factories, mass production of inexpensive goods, the rise of big business, and the existence of a professional manager class are a direct consequence of the contributions of Smith and Watt.

Another early contributor to concepts that eventually became associated with industrial engineering was Charles Babbage. The findings that he made as a result of visits to factories in England and the United States in the early 1800s were documented in his book entitled On the Economy of Machinery and Manufacturers. The book includes subjects such as the time required for learning a particular task, the effects of subdividing tasks into smaller and less detailed elements, the time and cost savings associated with changing from one task to another, and the advantages to be gained by repetitive tasks. In his classic example on the manufacture of straight pins, Babbage extends the work of Adam Smith on the division of labor by showing that money could be saved by assigning lesser-paid workers (in those days women and children) to lesser-skilled operations and restricting the higher-skilled, higher- paid workers to only those operations requiring higher skill levels. Babbage also discusses notions related to wage payments, issues related to present-day profit sharing plans, and even ideas associated with the organization of labor and labor relations. It is important to note, however, that even though much of Babbage’s work represented a departure from conventional wisdom in the early nineteenth century, he restricted his work to that of observing and did not try to improve the methods of making the product, to reduce the times required, or to set standards of what the times should be.

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