Motion Study – Gilbreth Original Texts

Frank Gilbrethai??i??s ai???Motion Studyai??? does for Bricklayers what Frederick Winslow Taylorai??i??s ai???Scientific Managementai??? did for iron workers; however there are subtle differences.

In various Improvement forums, Taylor gets abused quite regularly, but little is ever discussed about the Gilbreths (Lillian and Frank) and their contribution to Scientific Management. Both camps began studying management about a half century after the industrial revolution in America. At that time few laborers were educated beyond a primary school level ai??i?? a trade was a prized goal. Both camps saw the laborer as a critical cog in the industrial machine. They all agreed that telling people to work faster or they were fired, carrot and stick approach, was not a way to best motivate and utilize the people. Both camps felt that there needed to be a scientific approach to getting the most out of your labor without overburdening them.

Taylorai??i??s approach seemed to fit the man to the method. Strong, ignorant types should be moving the pig iron at scheduled intervals with scheduled rest breaks. This was at a time when companies were not required to give breaks. Gilbreth chose to study the motions and their impact on quality, cost and worker performance.

The version I read wasnai??i??t designed for a Kindle Reader so it had some challenges; however, I found the text fascinating and Gilbrethai??i??s insights quite on par with todayai??i??s top lean thinkers. One example Gilbreth discusses that you should not simply look to see if a motion is wasteful and can be eliminated, but rather look at the entire process for removal. He frequently references a standard work card and acknowledges how difficult it is to change the habits of an experienced person verses a newbie. Problems still discussed regularly in Lean circles.

I feel these early pioneers get a very bad rapai??i??Iai??i??ll agree if we measure them to todayai??i??s standards they are crude and opinionated, especially Taylor with his ai???workers work and managers thinkai??? attitude, but Taylor and Gilbreth were the true Patriarchs of continuous improvement. I do feel that they tried to toe the line between what is best for company and what is best for labor. With minimal predecessors to look up to these pioneers changed the way people thought about manufacturing forever.

Final notes on the current relevance of these original textsai??i??.Shigeo Shingo, sensei to many, references in many of his book how he was inspired by Scientific Management. Gwendolyn Gallsworth, visual thinker extraordinaire, discusses using visual workplace to eliminate motions.


Leave a Reply