This section is from the "Modern Machine Shop Construction, Equipment, And Management" book, by Oscar E. Perrigo. Also see Amazon: Modern Machine Shop Construction, Equipment, And Management.
Many methods for increasing the efficiency of men. Direct and indirect methods. Classification of methods. Special rewards. Personal instruction. Planning machine operations. Better machines, attachments, and tools. Better drawings. System of payments. Personal interest in the work. Agreeable shop conditions. The Bonus System. The Premium Plan. The Piece Work Plan. Requirements for a successful system. Causes of dissatisfaction. Shop operation sheets. Selection of Foremen.
There axe many methods by which we may increase the efficiency of the men employed in the average manufacturing establishment. These will quite naturally fall into one of the two classes as follows, namely:
Methods directly affecting efficiency.
Methods indirectly affecting efficiency.
Of methods which may properly be included in the first class, those tending directly to increase efficiency, we have:
(a) By giving him a special reward for performing an amount of good work over and above that which has been determined to be a fair day's work. This is commonly called "the bonus plan".
(b) By personal instruction as to the best methods by which the operative may handle his work.
(c) By planning machine operations and describing them clearly upon Shop Operation Sheets.
(d) By providing the operative with better machines, attachments, and tools.
(e) By providing better, clearer, and more easily understood drawings than those of former years.
Of matters and methods which operate indirectly to increase the workman's efficiency the more important will be:
(a) By adopting a system of payments that is agreeable to him as to methods and time intervals.
(b) By increasing his personal interest in his work.
(c) By making shop conditions more agreeable to him.
Referring to direct methods of increasing the efficiency of the workman, it may confidently be said that experience has amply proved that the greatest incentive to a workman is a special reward for unusual effort in turning out his work. This work is sought to be accomplished by the Bonus System, the Premium Plan, and the Piece Work Plan, etc. Each of these has its essential principle, intended more or less to interest the workman as well as to benefit the concern.
The work for daily wages, without regard to the kind of work or the amount of the output, is usually monotonous and unsatisfactory to a man ambitious to better his condition. He may endeavor, by demonstrating his ability and energy, to attract the attention of his superiors and so lead to an increase in his pay. In this he is often disappointed, and all the more when he thinks he sees another man getting more pay for less effort and ability. The result is liable to be discouragement and a lessening of the output.
The Piece Work Plan is intended to remedy some of these difficulties. Sometimes it has done so, but frequently it has only served to aggravate them, depending to a considerable extent upon how it was managed. The results sought by this plan were:
To reduce the actual cost of the work to the employer.
To insure a fixed cost which might be used as a basis in calculating total labor costs.
To lower the amount and therefore the unit cost of supervision of the work by providing an incentive to the workman to use greater interest and energy in performing it.
To increase the output of the plant.
Generally speaking, the question of the financial interest of the workman has seemed to receive rather slight consideration. The principal thought of the employer has appeared to be, at least from the workman's point of view, that of reducing the cost per piece to a less figure than it had been by the day pay plan, and to assure himself of a fixed price.
The plan is to have all mechanical work done "by the piece," whether it was a single operation by hand or machine, the entire work of making a single piece, or the making and assembling of a group of parts. As in day work the employer furnished everything but labor, although occasionally the workman furnished such small consumable tools as files, etc. The promise held out to the workman was that by a little extra effort he would be enabled to add considerably to his wages.
The success of the piece work plan depended almost entirely upon the accuracy with which the piece work rate was determined, and, secondly, on how well the rate fixed was adhered to, when the workman's wages were increased beyond what the employer thought was reasonable. The usual methods were crude and inefficient in comparison with those now in use. Generally the rate was based upon the ordinary output of a day's work on the day rate plan, and therefore computed by the interested workman himself. "Working for a rate" became the usual comment on a slow man. The result was that piece work rates were usually set much too high at the outset. This angered the employer, who retaliated by cutting the rate, generally to a lower point than it should have been. Then the workman would object and threaten to quit. Perhaps the next man "working for a rate" would do a fairer day's work, and the employer, remembering his former experience, would set the rate so low that even a good man could not make day pay at it. The difficulty might be patched up, but the situation was very likely to become an armed truce in which each party watched the other suspiciously. Friendly relations between the employer and the workmen were destroyed and the piece work plan was discredited by both.
The causes which were contributing factors to this condition appear to be as follows:
An improper system, or lack of system, for fixing piece work rates.