Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Frederick Winslow Taylor

Frederick Winslow Taylor (March 20, 1856 – March 21, 1915) was an American mechanical engineer who sought to improve industrial efficiency. He is regarded as the father of scientific management and was one of the first management consultants. Taylor was one of the intellectual leaders of the Efficiency Movement and his ideas, broadly conceived, were highly influential in the Progressive Era.

Taylor was born in 1856 to a wealthy Quaker family in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Taylor's father, Franklin Taylor, a Princeton-educated lawyer, built his wealth on mortgages. Taylor's mother, Emily Annette Taylor (née Winslow), was an ardent abolitionist and a coworker with Lucretia Mott. His father's ancestor, Samuel Taylor, settled in Burlington, New Jersey, in 1677. His mother's ancestor, Edward Winslow, was 1 of the 15 original Mayflower Pilgrims that brought servants or children, and 1 of 8 that had the honorable distinction of Mister. Winslow served for many years as the Governor of the Plymouth colony.

Educated early by his mother, Taylor studied for two years in France and Germany and traveled Europe for 18 months. In 1872, he entered Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, with the plan of eventually going to Harvard and becoming a lawyer like his father. In 1874, Taylor passed the Harvard entrance examinations with honors. However, allegedly due to rapidly deteriorating eyesight, Taylor chose quite a different path.

Instead of attending Harvard, Taylor became an apprentice patternmaker and machinist, gaining shop-floor experience at Enterprise Hydraulic Works in Philadelphia (a pump-manufacturing company whose proprietors were friends of the Taylor family). He left his apprenticeship for 6 months, and represented a group of New England machine tool manufacturers at Philadelphia's centennial exposition. Taylor finished his 4 year apprenticeship, and then in 1878 he became a machine shop laborer at Midvale Steel Works. At Midvale, Taylor was quickly promoted to time clerk, journeyman machinist, gang-boss over the lathe hands, machine shop foreman, and then research director and finally chief engineer of the works (while maintaining his position as machine shop foreman). Taylor's fast promotions surely reflected not only his talent but also his family's relationship with Edward Clark, partial owner of Midvale Steel. (Edward Clark's son Clarence Clark, who was also a manager at Midvale Steel, married Taylor's sister.)

Early on at Midvale, working as a laborer and machinist, Taylor recognized that on a massive scale the workmen were not working their machines, or themselves, nearly as hard as they could (which he referred to as soldiering). This resulted in excessively high labor costs for the company. Soon he became a foreman and expected more output from the workmen. In order to determine how much work should properly be expected (which was unknown to management at the time), he began to study and analyze the productivity of both the men and the machines (although the word "productivity" was not used at the time, and the applied science of productivity had not yet been developed). The focus on the human component eventually became Scientific Management, while the focus on the machine component led to his famous metalcutting and materials innovations.

While working at Midvale, he and Clarence Clark won the first tennis doubles tournament in the 1881 US National Championships, the precursor of the US Open. Taylor became a student of Stevens Institute of Technology, studying via correspondence and obtaining a degree in mechanical engineering in 1883. On May 3, 1884, he married Louise M. Spooner of Philadelphia.

From 1890 until 1893 Taylor worked as a general manager and a consulting engineer to management for the Manufacturing Investment Company of Philadelphia, a company that operated large paper mills in Maine and Wisconsin. He spent time as a plant manager in Maine. In 1893, Taylor opened an independent consulting practice in Philadelphia. His business card read "Consulting Engineer - Systematizing Shop Management and Manufacturing Costs a Specialty". Through these consulting experiences, Taylor perfected his management system. In 1898, Taylor joined Bethlehem Steel in order to solve an expensive machine shop capacity problem. As a result, he and Maunsel White, with a team of assistants, developed high speed steel, which paved the way for greatly increased mass production. Taylor was forced to leave Bethlehem Steel in 1901 after antagonisms with other managers.

After leaving Bethlehem Steel, Taylor focused the rest of his career on publicly promoting his management and machining methods through lecturing, writing, and consulting. In 1910, due to the Eastern Rate Case, Frederick Winslow Taylor and his Scientific Management methodologies become famous worldwide. In 1911, Taylor introduces The Principles of Scientific Management paper to the American mechanical engineering society (8 years after his Shop Management paper).

On October 19, 1906, Taylor was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Pennsylvania. Taylor eventually became a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Late winter of 1915 Taylor caught pneumonia and one day after his fifty-ninth birthday, on March 21, 1915 he died. He was buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.

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