Industrial Engineering

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Methods Engineering and Work Simplification in Industrial Engineering

Methods Engineering and Work Simplification in Industrial Engineering

These reactions led to an increased interest in the work of the Gilbreths. Their efforts in methods analysis, which had previously been considered rather theoretical and impractical, became the foundation for the resurgence of industrial engineering in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1927, H. B. Maynard, G. J. Stegmerten, and S. M. Lowry wrote Time and Motion Study, emphasizing the importance of motion study and good methods. This eventually led to the term methods engineering as the descriptor of a technique emphasizing the “elimination of every unnecessary operation” prior to the determination of a time standard. In 1932, A. H. Mogenson published Common Sense Applied to Time and Motion Study, in which he stressed the concepts of motion study through an approach he chose to call work simplification. His thesis was simply that the people who know any job best are the workers doing that job. Therefore, if the workers are trained in the steps necessary to analyze and challenge the work they are doing, then they are also the ones most likely to implement improvements. His approach was to train key people in manufacturing plants at his Lake Placid Work Simplification Conferences so that they could in turn conduct similar training in their own plants for managers and workers. This concept of taking motion study training directly to the workers through the work simplification programs was a tremendous boon to the war production effort during World War II.

The first Ph.D. granted in the United States in the field of industrial engineering was also the result of research done in the area of motion study. It was awarded to Ralph M. Barnes by Cornell University in 1933 and was supervised by Dexter Kimball. Barnes’s thesis was rewritten and published as Motion and Time Study: the first full-length book devoted to this subject. The book also attempted to bridge the growing chasm between advocates of time study versus motion study by emphasizing the inseparability of these concepts as a basic principle of industrial engineering.

Another result of the reaction was a closer look at the behavioral aspects associated with the workplace and the human element. Even though the approach taken by Taylor and his followers failed to appreciate the psychological issues associated with worker motivation, their work served to catalyze the behavioral approach to management by systematically raising questions on authority, motivation, and training. The earliest writers in the field of industrial psychology acknowledged their debt to scientific management and framed their discussions in terms consistent with this system.

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