Industrial Progress and Human Economics Part 7

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The man who has acquired the dangerous half-knowledge should take a post graduate course in some inst.i.tution where men are treated by all the most powerful agencies known to science. There may be no inst.i.tutions of this kind in existence, but the great need will doubtless bring the establishment of many.

The men who have lost faith in their own machinery should be told that no company can survive the effects of weak-kneed advocates.

Any company is better for a certain amount of aggressive compet.i.tion. Any company can stand more or less opposition from its friends the enemy, but no company can continue to exist under the blighting effects of the men who have lost this confidence in them or their product.

The post graduate course for restoration of the near-wise man should include educational means of all kinds. The means should be especially adapted to the need of each student or patient.

There might be a phonograph in each room, which should work all night and all day. This machine should repeat over and over a few short sentences like the following:

"The only perfect machine is the one you do not know."

"Study the machines offered by your compet.i.tors, just to get the same degree of knowledge of the 'other' machines--not for the purpose of slandering or even mentioning--but just to restore your confidence in the relative value of your own machine."

"Don't try to get back your belief that your own machine is perfect--that has gone forever--only look at the other machines and learn that your own is the best."

This kind of confidence will not be exuberant, but it will have marked efficiency in the cold gray world in which you are to again try your strength.


We find that in keeping with the trend toward specialization, the machine shop is now manned and directed by specialists, whose close application to the technical science of their respective specialties has in a degree obscured other elements with which their interests should be coordinated. Among these we generally find the so-called human element. This feature of specialization, which is the natural result of concentration and undivided attention to the work in hand, has entailed a string of consequences that has lessened the spirit of fellowship and co-operation.

The workman in the old machine shop was known as a machinist, an apprentice or a helper. The machinist trade required skill at bench, vise and forge, and in the operation of the lathe and planer. It also required a general knowledge and resourcefulness which enabled the machinist to make good with the meager facilities. The large specialized shop of today was not known.

Today the machine shop is filled with a variety of machines which have grown out of the original types. Each shop's equipment is selected to serve the needs of that shop, and since each shop has a special purpose, its equipment seldom includes the full range of machine-shop machinery.

Today the work flows through the machine shop in lots of large numbers of pieces of a kind, and each machine, as well as each worker, is kept at one kind of work and usually at one simple operation.

The worker in the machine shop of today is no longer known as a machinist, because that term does not cover the present range of positions. Even the term "all-round machinist" is no longer satisfactory.

Specialization has made so many divisions in the work that it has resulted in developing men for special branches, so that today we have relatively few men who can skillfully operate for instance the engine lathe and planer. Even if there are those who ever had that ability, most of them have lost it through disuse.

The workers are now designated by many names indicating their special work.

The all-embracing term machine shop is divided into departments for drafting, designing, accounting, production, flow of work control, cost accounting and many other divisions. Each calls for executives and workers having special t.i.tles.

The subdivision of work has resulted in each executive and worker acquiring a high degree of ability and skill for work of his kind, and it keeps each one doing the highest cla.s.s of work for which he is qualified so that his time is not wasted in the simpler operations which can be performed by men of lesser ability.

We can readily see the economic gain that accrues when the worker becomes more efficient; first, though the greater skill acquired as a result of fewer operations to perform, and second, through the use of the highly developed special machines, for then he is able to produce a greater value for a given expenditure of effort.

We can also see the gain that results from specialization by the executives, for each one's attention is concentrated to the management of a smaller range of work; but the average mortal has not yet reached the point of accepting the fact that to some extent there should be a division between mental and physical tasks. It is needless to say that no one in these days would suggest even a possibility of a general division of the work along the line between the abilities of the brain and hand and in these days of construction and operation of intricate mechanisms like electric and telephone instruments and machinery, aeroplane, automobiles, railroad machinery, machine shop machinery, army and navy machinery, from the smallest instrument and small arms to the big machines like the battleship. The need of the man in whom is combined the ability of brain and hand transcends any possibility of our meeting the demand. But specialization does require both kinds of division. The one that divides along the line between mental and physical tasks provides great opportunities for those men who have special ability at either the mental or physical tasks. It is undoubtedly true that the greatest achievements have been attained by those who have been unable to combine the great mental and physical ability. Such men by nature and preference are most fitted and most comfortable in the positions in which there is a greater proportion of use for either the brains or fingers.

Every student of this subject early recognizes that the man at the physical task should not be unnecessarily distracted by the vexing problems of planning and directing the work. In some way this does not seem to fit a democracy, but rather seems to lead toward autocracy. However, let us keep in mind that specialization is essential, not only at each physical task, but at the tasks at which there may be expended a combination of the mental and physical, and also at those tasks that are wholly mental, and that a division should be made to get the best results from the whole organization. While it may seem autocratic to leave to one group the determination of the methods of work, and to another the task of doing the work, the fact remains that this is an element of specialization. That which seems so objectionable to a man with an alert mind, is not so objectionable when he realizes that many men of the highest type are happiest when given a chance to work out tasks unembarra.s.sed by problems of procedure. While this has been one of the great tragedies of industrial life, when square pegs have been put in round holes, it is one of the most important questions that an engineer has to consider.

The human view will make us all labor towards the complete elimination of degrading tasks, by changing machinery and processes so as to fit the various types of men available. Through it all, we must see to it, that our scheme of work is true to the fundamental law of specialization, and that we recognize that there must be some division between the physical and mental tasks, and that this does not necessarily lead away from democracy. In fact, we must recognize there are two extremes. At one extreme we find the ideal of a highly specialized organization in which the greatest value in quality of work and quant.i.ty of output is possible through a complete co-ordination of the work of all types of men, each at his own kind of work, in which each can excel; and the other extreme in which we find a general disorganization which returns us to the primitive condition in which man's energies were most inefficiently used. Such a state is the natural result of anarchy, and it is a state that would leave this or any other country an easy prey to a country in which specialization existed.

One means team work of great wealth-producing capacity, and the other a state in which the struggle for mere existence would be severe.

The salvation of the world will be worked out if there is at least one well disposed nation that stands firmly for specialized industrial organizations. This will result in both industrial and military supremacy--for it is now well known that military supremacy cannot exist without the highest types of machinery building shops.

Such a nation could dominate all others and could ultimately check the disorganizing activities of the well-intentioned but shortsighted reformers.

The higher form fits our highest civilization and national security, and the other is a direct step toward chaos.

Nevertheless there is almost a stampede of sentiment against specialization and its product--the large industrial organization.

This stampede has taken many of our otherwise well informed people, and now we are seeing its extreme effect in the iconoclastic fever that is raging in Russia and elsewhere.

We know that the individual, the industry or the nation that specializes will produce the greatest results with a given expenditure of energy, and we know that all this plan of specialization requires a co-ordination of the work of all.

There should be brought about through specialization the highest degree of ability on the part of the executive officers, as well as the highest skill of the workers, and each man should have the satisfaction of knowing that no one on the face of the globe can excel him at his specialty, and furthermore that his energies are expended in the best way to produce value.

Many men have already realized this ideal. Many industrial organizations have also attained it in a very high degree, and while there was a trend of some of the nations toward specialization before the war, there was developed in America a spirit of antagonism toward the large units that had grown up as a result of this specialization. Not that specialization was objectionable, but that industrial supremacy of an organization was thought to be a distinct menace.

Since it is in these specialized industries that the individual should find his best opportunity to produce the greatest wealth for a given expenditure of effort, such organizations should be maintained and all others should be gradually changed over so as to make the most economical use of the man power of the nation.

We have found by experience that industrial organizations are successful if they specialize. We have handed down to us the saying that "The Jack of all trades is master of none". Our brains accept these statements, we recognize them as facts, but owing to one of the irrational traits of the human being, it is one thing to believe and another to practice. It is one thing to superficially know that it is important for us to specialize as individuals, and it is quite another matter to bring ourselves to act in conformity with this fundamental law.

The great economic gain or advantage possessed by the Ford Company, and many of the other companies in this country, is not due to the fact that they have selected a wonderful model that is superior to others in every way, but it is based on the fact that specialization makes it possible for the various officers and workers to become the foremost men in their respective offices.

Specialization of an industry becomes effective only when each man continues at a given job or work. Shifting men about the plant is harmful, excepting in so far as it may be good to promote men from position to position to fit the development of the men and the industry. The plant can be wrecked by changing men from position to position without changing the product. It can also be, wrecked by changing the form of its product in fact any change, whether it is a change of the product or a change of the men, which interferes with the continuity of operation of a man along habit lines is an economic loss to that organization.

We have stated that each man should specialize in order to produce the greatest value for a given expenditure of energy--that specialization of the industries is necessary.

That each man has some special knowledge that fits his environment.

That the skilled worker has a special knowledge for his duties.

We have pointed out the need of a closer relationship between the specialists. That they are all interdependent and must cooperate.

In setting forth the importance of the worker we must remember the equal importance of every other member of a well-balanced industry.

Lay directors and even lay chief officers are not necessarily a menace or even burdens, if they have a fair conception of human nature and the importance of each element in an organization, and the full necessity of coordination of all.

They should know, however, that every man should be paid first in cash and second in honor, appreciation, esteem, good will inspiration, commendation for his good work and good qualities, careful consideration of his troubles and a genuine knowledge that his interests are being justly considered.


The following chapter is given in its original form as a lecture to the Engineering Society of the Stevens Inst.i.tute of Technology.

Its value in furnishing a side-light on the subject of habit, to which the preceding chapters have been more directly applicable, lies in its emphasis on the importance of the inventor (or designer, if you prefer) having clearly before him at all times the effect of habits of thought and action both in himself and in all others. These modes must be both conserved and combated in himself when building up favorable mental state. He must build on habit in order to have his mind continue in its application to a chosen subject, and he must combat any tendency to follow habit lines of thought that may have been established by observation of the older forms or methods. His inventions must be of a kind that will be readily made, sold, and used by men whose habits of thought and action he cannot readily change.

This should be of value not only to the designer, but also to those who direct or co-operate with him.

In designing the parts of a machine, the need of tr.i.m.m.i.n.g here and there, of giving up this or that ideal form just to get things together, must be seen and done unflinchingly. And in the same way the whole scheme must be made to conform to the economic conditions.

If the machine under consideration is like a machine tool, and is to be offered for sale, then the manufacturing, selling, and use must be taken into account. In machine-tool design a wholly new invention is an exceedingly rare thing, and a successful new machine is still more rare.

We must remember our own tendency to follow precedent, and we must make an effort to see the problem in its natural form without being misled by the solutions evolved by others.

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Industrial Progress and Human Economics Part 7 summary

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