Introduction to Industrial Engineering

By Jane M. Fraser

Chapter 12

The past and the future


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12.4 The factory and the manager

The changes discussed so far - interchangeable parts, new sources of power, specialization of labor, and the development of the corporation - all were involved in the development of factories, where workers, machines, power, and raw material were brought together in one site on a large scale, resulting in great increases in efficiency.

An agricultural society became an industrial and urban society. Work became centralized in cities, leading to a mass movement from rural areas to urban areas. In the United Kingdon, "urban areas (towns of 5,000 or more) contained about 13 percent of the population at mid-century [1750]; by the 1801 census they contained 25 percent." (Hughes, 62-63). London grew by about 170 percent from 1750 to 1831, but the county of Lancashire grew by about 400 percent during the same period (Hughes, page 61).

The factory changed the nature of work. Rural life may not always have been pleasant, but factory work was dirty, noisy, and often unsafe, involved long hours, and often paid poorly. The pace of work was set by others, not by the worker.

Legislation reduced some of the worst abuses. According to Hughes (page 65),

It came to be understood that the daily attachment of human beings to the ceaseless motions of machinery run by prime moves was destructive of human life.

Laws limited the working hours of children, regulated the use of women and girls in mines, and mandated some level of sanitation. Poor Laws created a system of poor relief.

While in the short run, many suffered, in the long run, the Industrial Revolution and the development of the factory, led to a great increase in the standard of living. The creation of the factory was accompanied by the growth of capital goods, that is, the "tools, equipment, machines, and buildings that society produces in order to expedite the production process" (Heilbroner and Milbert, page 70-71). Capital goods make human work more productive, meaning that more goods can be produced with the same amount of labor.

The workers no longer controlled the pace or other aspects of work, but the owner often did not take on that task either. The manager became the person who organized the factory and the work. Many aspects of the organization of work now performed by IEs, including facility layout and production scheduling, were done by managers now, not by workers.

[where?] Specialization, a trend we have discussed earlier, often meant that a worker became skilled at a particular task. The factory, on the other hand, has supported a long term trend of deskilling. Noble, in his book Forces of Production argues that ....

Production methods have become largely a matter of specialized technical training instead of being based on the foremanís lifelong experience. (Drucker, page 144)