May 2, 2019

Principles of Efficiency - Harrington Emerson

Harrington Emerson contributed to the systems efficiency focus of industrial engineering.
Functions and Focus Areas of Industrial Engineering

Emerson's  book Twelve Principles of Efficiency was classic.

He discussed efficiency design of organization through 12 principles:

1. Clearly defined ideals.
2. Common sense - Efficiency Sense - Productivity Sense
3. Competent counsel
4. Discipline
5. The fair deal
6. Reliable, immediate and adequate records
7. Despatching
8. Standards and schedules
9. Standardized conditions
10. Standardized operations
11. Written standard-practice instructions
12. Efficiency-reward

Standards and standardization as a basis for efficiency was strongly advocated by him. Nearly two hundred companies adopted various features of the Emerson Efficiency system, which included production routing procedures, standardized working conditions and tasks, time and motion studies, and a bonus plan which raised workers' wages in accordance with greater efficiency and productivity [Guide].

Harrington Emerson (1853-1931) was one of America's pioneers in industrial engineering and management and organizational theory. His major contributions were to install his management methods at many industrial firms and to promote the ideas of scientific management and efficiency to a mass audience [Guide].

After a successful tenure as a general manager of a small Pennsylvania glass factory in 1900, Emerson resolved to take up efficiency engineering as a profession. Through meetings of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, he became personally acquainted with the pioneering work of Frederick W. Taylor, the founder of scientific management, ans assimilated much of the methodology for standardizing work and remunerating workers in accordance with productivity.

Between 1907 and 1910, the Emerson Company  consulted over 200 corporations, submitting reports for which they were paid twenty-five million dollars. Emerson efficiency methods were applied to department stores, hospitals, colleges, and municipal governments. Between 1911 and 1920 Emerson's firm averaged annual earnings of over $100,000.00.

To distinguish his methods from those of Taylor, Emerson published three books: Efficiency as a Basis for Operation and Wages (1909); The Twelve Principles of Efficiency (1912); and Colonel Schoonmaker and the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad (1913).

The 1910 Eastern Freight Case brought much wider public attention to Emerson's ideas.  Emerson served as Louis D. Brandeis's star witness in the appeal of major eastern trunk railroads to the Interstate Commerce Commission for a rate increase. Emerson testified that the railroads wasted one million dollars daily by not applying efficiency methods. His brief against the railroads won wide acclaim and marked the growth in public awareness of scientific management.  Emerson became known as the "High Priest of Efficiency." He spoke more frequently about his efficiency ideas to businessmen, civil organizations, and management and engineering students. In 1912, Emerson helped to found the New York Efficiency Society which promoted and disseminated the ideals of reform through scientific management. Emerson joined  other progressive engineers in founding the Society of Industrial Engineers in 1917.

Through the decade of the 1920s, Emerson publicized the potential for promoting efficiency on a global scale. He was one of eighteen prominent engineers chosen by Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover in 1921 to serve on a committee investigating the elimination of waste in industry.

Emerson documents are available in Pennsylvania State University Library. for reference.


Access the books by Emerson from
The Twelve Principles of Efficiency (1912)
Efficiency as a Basis for Operation and Wages

Quotations by Harrington Emerson

"The twentieth century dawns with as yet unaccomplished task of conservation, of eliminating wastes-wanton and wicked wastes of all kinds, wastes that make our civic governments a by-word, our destruction of natural resources a world scandal, our complacent industrial efficiency a peculiarly national disgrace, of all nations, we Americans ought to know better."
The Twelve Principles of Efficiency (1912) P.9]

"Efficiency like hygiene is a state, an ideal not a method" P.23

Strenuousness and efficiency are not only not the same, but are antagonistic. To be strenuous is to put forth greater effort; to be efficient it to put forth less effort.  (P.39)

"He did not know that efficiency reward  ought to be preceded by the careful, systematic, and expert application of  eleven other principles, of which "Wages" is a minor element of one."  P.41

Accounting in all its phases is a minor division of one of the twelve efficiency principles, trustworthy, immediate and adequate records. P.43

An efficiency engineer ought similarly to act as funnel, being equipped to gather from all available sources whatever is of operating value for the organization he is advising. P.54
Functions and Focus Areas of Industrial Engineering (Efficiency Engineer)

If all the ideals animating all the  organization from top to bottom could be lined so as to pull in the same straight line, the resultant would  be a very powerful effort. P.60 (Involve all in aligned mission, vision, objectives and goals).

The railway line between st. Petersburg and Moscow cost $337,000 a mile for a distance of 400 miles. In Finland similar line was made for $23,000 a mile P. 65 (Sentence rewritten)

The ideas of one company are that its customers shall be treated with absolute fairness, that its employees shall be of higher skill and be better paid than those of neighboring competitors, that they shall have permanence of employment.P.84

There are only a dozen shops in the United States in which any scientific standards of man and machine efficiency exist. P.111

The legal counselor does not, cannot know all the laws and proper legal formalities in every state, and he therefore employs junior and often senior counsel. Similarly a counselor as to efficiency, would not pretend to be expert as to all efficiency, but it would be his duty to be in touch both as to men and scientific reports with all that was latest and best and make it all available for his employer whether individual or corporation. P.129

There is nothing men will not attempt when great enterprises hold out the promise of great rewards. - Livy

Out of eighteen items of operating costs, as distinguished from selling costs, only one is directly influenced by the worker, that is time-quality of the work. P.355

Efficiency reward is not a money payment, this is only one of its myriad forms. Men have been willing to die for a smile.  P.365-66

The ideal that inspires the formulation of the principles of efficiency is elimination of waste, of wastes of all kinds resulting finally in wastes of the collective soul. P.371

The ideal that inspires the formulation of the principles of efficiency is elimination of waste, of wastes of all kinds resulting finally in wastes of the collective soul. P.371

The ideals of United States Steel Corporation

The ideals of the corporation seem to have been
(1) Law abidence
(2) Rational publicity
(3) Steady prices at a high level
(4) maximum tonnage
(5) Permanence for its own business by the purchase of large ore and coal reserves
(6) Rapid improvement of the properties so as to make them worth the capitalized value
(7) Maintenance of a high level of wages
(8) Identification of the worker with the profits of his work, thus increasing his interesting in his occupation.

Does the Steel Corporation know as to every detail what ought to be as well as it knows what has been? P.391

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