Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Joe Liu's informal post # 3

Something that was interesting for me to think about while reading The Principles of Scientific Management . . .

On page 42, the essay discusses why Mr. Gilbreth’s method of bricklaying was so effective in increasing output and maintaining harmony. Taylor states that the success was due to four elements: the development of the science of bricklaying, the careful selection and training of the bricklayers, bringing the bricklayers and science together, and having an equal division of work between the laborer and the management. Since bricklaying is a type of work which requires a skilled laborer that can place the bricks perfectly aligned with one another with just the right amount of mortar to ensure a tight and effective fit, it makes sense that with the correct adjustments and the proper help from other men (adjusting the scaffolding, minimizing the bricklayers brick and mortar height, inspecting and properly positioning the bricks for the bricklayer), this person can increase his output drastically in a year. This fact translates into one thing: more money!!!

When I read this, it brought into my mind the summer of 2005. I just graduated from high school and came back from the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra’s European tour. It was my last year of being a violinist in that orchestra, and I really wanted to do something else asides from just play the instrument, so I became an apprentice at the Phillip Injeian violin shop downtown. It was a 3 month program where I would make my own violin and do small repairs/help the master violinmaker at the shop.

When there was a much work to be done around the shop (many bows to be rehaired, multiple repairs to be done on violins, violas, cellos, etc), the system of work at the workshop was very similar to the bricklayer, which corresponded with the four elements of success previously stated. First, I was trained in at least knowing what was needed for any repair that was done in the shop, so in a way I was learning the developed “science” needed. Second, I guess I was “carefully selected” because he only accepted two apprentices for the summer. I have always been very close to him. Third, as a bit of a repeat, I did have to learn how everything was fixed and what tools were needed, so in a way it was brining me together with the “science.” And forth, there was an equal division of work between me and him. For everything that came into the shop, I would have to prepare the tools ahead of time and place them where he could have access to them readily at hand. I would also have to put them away and sharpen his tools while at the same time cleaning up any mess from the repair (glue, wood shavings, etc.).

So, the way I see it, he is the bricklayer and I am his help, which in turn means everything would be finished quicker and therefore, more money would be made in a smaller amount of time! But another thought that I won’t go into just now is that it is amazing how everything revolves around money. I read somewhere once that an engineer’s job is all based upon money, and it shows in this book: how to get the greatest amount of output for the least amount of money.

I know I somewhat ended this informal post going off in a tangent, but I felt it was interesting for me to go back into my apprentice days and connect it to this essay.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

One thing that this points out to me is that, as "modern" as scientific management is, it owes more to the old master/apprentice system, arguably, than it does to parallel "modern" innovations like the assembly line - Taylor, even when condescending, wants to make workers as distinctive as possible, not interchangeable (in contrast to how things work in Modern Times).