Monday, January 21, 2008

Tool Time Cont'd - Musings on Scientific Management and Frederick W. Taylor

I was reading a report on the study of mass production and the beginnings of scientific management (Nothing like a little reading excitement), and it was a careful recount of the development of Frederick Taylor's methods.

For the uninitiated, Taylor designed a differential piece-rate work system, and hypothesized that machinery alone does not do much to improve productivity beyond a fairly linear relationship of effort (time) to results (product). In order for this relationship really to improve, total factor productivity must be improved.

For its day, this was a thunderous achievement in theory and practice. It was the theory which upheld much of modern day steel-making profits, and of course, the creation of the Ford manufacturing empire.

Nonetheless, these theories somehow left the customer floating in a see of uniformity, for though the products that benefited from mass production improved cost, they did so largely at the expense of customization.

For example, in the production of the Ford Model T, the goal was uniformity and affordability of purchase and service. Since the Model T was competing against relative non-consumption (i.e. there were not that many cars on the road), mere affordability of purchase and service was a suitable standard of customer satisfaction.

Fast forward to today and I am not sure but what Taylor's teachings might fall on deaf ears of customers looking for an experience and a unique product.

It is precisely for this reason that we have purchased hand tools which celebrate maximum human involvement and flexibility in design. This choice is a deliberate result of picking an organization size and makeup that matches with the volume and style requirements of the times. Because of this fact, I am quite certain that Local Motors would have had difficulty in the late 1800s just like there are many cracks in the foundation of the old Automotive Manufacturers today.

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