FW Taylor

Taylor was fascinated early on by the possibilities of more efficient work processes. By the time he takes over as director of a paper factory in 1890, he has already drawn up studies in time and movement and developed performance guidelines for lathe operators. Afterwards Taylor serves as advisor for the Bethlehem Steel Company until 1901. The company employs more than 80,000 people. Starting in 1901, Taylor dedicates himself mainly to researching work organization. His findings appear in 1903 under the title “Shop Management”.  Taylor formulates his ideas in detail in his main work, “The Principles of Scientific Management”. Written in 1911, his ideas are just as effective today.

In order to work efficiently, according to Taylor’s writings, the job tasks must be precisely determined, the most effective work method defined, and the necessary time allowed. Here Taylor had recognized the importance of optimised work methods and the necessity of time studies. To the latter Taylor dedicates special attention: A multitude of measurements should provide objective production times for accurately defined work processes. Taylor considers this required time to be a graduator for a worker’s performance. He finds the accepted performance guidelines to be insufficient and the wages too high. He then suggests a system, which only rewards the actual output of the worker.

The unions are up in arms. A fierce conflict erupts around “Taylorism“, as his ideas are called. It culminates in a hearing before the special committee of the House of Representatives. Here the business management practices of Taylor – who has since been named president of the Association of Engineers – are interpreted according to political preferences, a fact no less true of today. Some hold him responsible for reducing work to a few movements, for pre-decided tasks, for exploitation and mass unemployment through the effects of rationalization. Others point out Taylor’s efforts for a fair, performance-dependent wage and his appeals to workers and company owners to cooperate in the interest of a healthy business. Taylor suggests passing on the profits reaped by increased productivity to the workers, a suggestion, met by many businesses with little approval.

However you judge Taylor’s work, two things remain indisputable: The first is his importance as an inventor to the method for manufacturing inexpensive high-speed steel and the development of many machines and tools. The second is the honour he is due as the first to have developed a comprehensive theory of business science. When Frederick Winslow Taylor dies in 1915 of complications from a severe cold, he is rightly called “the father of scientific business management“.


At the age of 16, Frank Bunker Gilbreth shows an unusual talent for observation. While watching bricklayers at work, it occurs to him that each of the men moves differently and wastes energy as a result. This observation triggers his search for the ideal work method, a method that leads him to revolutionary results.

First, however, he learns the bricklaying trade. From apprentice he ascends to foreman and finally to management. He additionally begins optimisation of the work process. Gilbreth reduces the usual 18 motions of a bricklayer to five, develops an adjustable scaffold so the bricklayers do not have to bend so much, modifies the way bricks are stacked and passed, improves further work steps and invents new hand tools. These measures triple the bricklayer’s productivity without them fatiguing more quickly. The result brings Gilbreth his first distinction.

At 27 Gilbreth founds a construction company. He continues his studies, which he publishes in various works. In 1912 he gives up his prospering business to dedicate himself fully to his research. Like Taylor, with whom he is familiar, Gilbreth is also fascinated by a systematic study of work. The two never worked together, though Taylor picks up many suggestions from him. In the end their views on methodology and purposes for studying work are too diverse.

Gilbreth’s main published works are “Motion Study“ (1911) and, co-written in 1916 with his wife, Dr. Lillian Moeller Gilbreth, “Fatigue Study” – as well as “Applied Motion Study” in 1917. In this he clearly sets himself apart from Taylor. More than increasing work performance, Gilbreth is interested in the optimum work method and work plan design. Moreover, he focuses his research on low-fatigue work, proper instruction for the worker, selection of the right work clothes and similar concepts.

Above all, however, Gilbreth turns against Taylor’s time studies. He rejects the sole use of the stopwatch for quick, successive movements as inexact. Gilbreth instead establishes the study of movement. For this purpose, he turns to a new medium: film. In order to make a quick series of movements visible in detail, he fastens small lamps to the arms and legs of workers, which leave clear light trails on the film. An accompanying time gauge measures movement series exactly to the tenth of a second. Gilbreth develops a new theory: All human movements, according to his research, can be reduced to 17 basic elements of movement. Not without a little humour did he name these Therbligs, a small twist on his name spelled backward. “Therbligs” later give the essential impetus for the development of the basic MTM-1 motions. In order to achieve optimum work methods regarding execution, productivity and performance, Gilbreth now begins to eliminate every Therblig that hinders work. Undoubtedly, this was the first step in developing predetermined motion-time systems.

The search for ideal methods is for Gilbreth a philosophy, which he also follows in his private life. Even with daily tasks, efficiency was his measure of all things. A loving monument was dedicated to him later by two of his 12 children in the humorous book “Cheaper by the Dozen“, which was eventually made into a successful movie film.

Birth of PMTS

Taylor’s proposals for scientific management spread rapidly among North American businesses; however, not always in the manner he intended: “Scientifically based management and work methods demand a comprehensive change in the concepts of duty, work and responsibility by both the workers and management”, he wrote this in 1911.

In many places, the reality was different. The stopwatch governed the workers, treating them like children with deadlines that are often difficult to meet. Many employees also complain about the monotonous workday, which demands from them nothing more than repetitive, mindless movements. Once again Taylor’s strict-interpreted ideas fall under serious criticism.

This criticism does not escape the US Congress either. It arranges a commission to inspect the activities in American industrial businesses. During the war in 1914, the commission sets to work with the economist Robert Franklin Hoxie as chair. After investigating 35 industrial companies, the commission hands down a crushing judgement: The rationalization brought about by scientific management leads to an excessive burden on the workers, fails to preserve a humaneness in work and has a demotivational effect on the workforce – the final report concludes in its findings. Even though the commission’s study is criticized both in content and procedure from many sides, Congress enacts as a result a law prohibiting stopwatch time studies in all public businesses. This law attracts many researchers to movement studies. Under the term ‘movement economy’, numerous experiments occur in the 1920s to determine fixed rules for the most efficient movements.

The studies already designed by Frank B. Gilbreth serve as a guide. His co-worker, Asa B. Segur, builds upon Gilbreth’s research in basic elements of movement, which make up all human movements. Segur also builds upon a symbolic language, developed by him, with which work methods could be clearly described for the first time. After many years of research he succeeds in assigning time values to the movement elements. Movement series can now also be evaluated quantitatively.

When Segur publishes his work in 1926 under the title “Motion Time Analysis” (MTA), he developed the first Predetermined Time System (PTS). It was used extensively in US industry into the 1930s.

Segur is able to prove with his PTS that the execution time required by people with the same skills, abilities and physical stress to carry out a task depends on the method used. Logically, the focus of this research shifts to the field of ergonomics. “Time and Motion Studies” remain at the forefront until 1928, when many other professional reports emerge about ” Time and Motion Study”.

Following this, of further series PTS such as MTS emerge (Motion Time Survey), commissioned by General Electric.  The most well known PTS during this period is Work Factor (WF), a process established in 1934 by Joseph H. Quick.

America’s entry into the Second World War means an unprecedented challenge for its industries. Productivity has to be quadrupled within a short amount of time without endangering the harmonious work climate by overtaxing the workforce.

Methods-Time Measurement

The predetermined time systems developed up until now had shown how the work method influences productivity, and businesses were taking greater interest in designing optimised work methods. In 1940 the Westinghouse Electric Corporation gave Harold B. Maynard of Methods Engineering Council just such a contract. He must research complicated work processes for drills. Together with John L. Schwab and Gustave J. Stegemerten he designed the basics for a system that later becomes the most successful process for optimising work processes worldwide: Methods Time Measurement.   From the beginning they want to develop an internationally recognized process to be used in all branches of industry. A strictly scientifically proven process is the highest order.

The researchers film workers all over the US in various fields of production. Since they use a camera with a constant recording speed of 16 frames per second, they do not need a time gauge. Finally the scientists evaluate massive amounts of film. In doing so, they decode all elemental hand and finger motions (reach, grasp, bring, move, release etc) as well as the visual functions. Later these elements are expanded to the basic body, leg and foot motions. All basic motions are defined and described using a symbolic language. Now entire work processes can be described. In analysing the film, the number of frames is simultaneously calculated, each showing a basic motion. The elemental motions also serve as time units. Their addition amounts to the length of a series of motions resulting in the total time for the process.

Maynard and his team orient their predetermined time system to the skills of an average trained worker. They must also judge the degree of performance. To do this they have the LMS process (named after its developers Lowry, Maynard, Stegemerten), which was published at the beginning of the 1930s. It could then be proved that the average performance degree is dependent upon the worker’s skills, his exertion in executing the task, the regularity in execution time and the work conditions. They can now assign every combination of movement elements to a corresponding set time based upon the determined actual time, the performance degree and mathematically technical statistics through use of calculation processes. For the first time, a human performance standard is defined – the ergonomic equivalent of the “standard metre“ is found. On the basis of these calculations, the MTM standard Data Card develops soon thereafter and is still valid today.

By 1943 Maynard, Schwab and Stegemerten have developed more effective work methods throughout their research by recombining the elemental motions. The operation time is a function of the “method” or “motion pattern”.  In 1948 they sketch the MTM system in the journal “Factory Management and Maintenance”. A little while later their book “Methods Time Measurement” appears – a work that immediately draws much attention.

In the US, industrial engineers quickly recognize the advantages of MTM. For the first time there is a system of predetermined time that considers entire business sectors and leads to Best Practice solutions at all levels. Analysing the work process, even before production begins can now substantially optimise work methods. At the same time they prevent overtaxing workers while reducing fatigue by observing the rules of motion economy.

The possibility to now pre-plan work processes in more detail facilitates more precise control of the business. Additionally, engineers and designers now have access to an instrument with which they can develop products that can be assembled faster and cheaper – and they can speak a common language to describe production processes. The inventors of the system do much on their part to make MTM known. Popular science articles in US magazines, such as the article “Timing a Fair Day’s Work” also bring the potential of the process closer to the general public. Maynard, Stegemerten and Schwab publish all of their data, which can still be accessed today at the University of Michigan.

Even research quickly saw the benefits in the new system. One of the first universities to work with the process is Cornell University in New York.

Numerous other research institutes follow in suit. Maynard and his team are also constantly occupied with continued research. This confirms their high level of scientific soundness in developing the MTM process: Although the original MTM standard time values are refined and expanded upon, with the exception of marginal modifications, subsequent research has not added anything new to the values, which to this day remain unchanged.

However, not everyone who uses the process works with the same diligence as the inventors of the MTM system. The more the Method Time Measurement spreads, the more errors slip into its application. Harold B. Maynard justly worries about his revolutionary process. That is why he founds the U.S. MTM Organization for Standards and Research in New York in 1951. This non-profit organization is given all copyrights of the three MTM developers. The work of this first MTM Organization, which is moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan two years later, ensures the quality of the process, which has now become a worldwide success. US consultant firms bring the MTM process to Europe at the beginning of the 1950. It is the Swedish industrial engineers who use the potential of MTM in their country’s businesses. The first national MTM Organization in Europe is already founded in Sweden by 1955 and by 1965 virtually all industrialised European countries had initiated National Associations, affiliated to the International MTM Directorate (IMD) and were all bound by a common vision and goals.

The years following 1965, in which the UK MTM Association was founded, has seen numerous second generation and higher-level systems being developed and validated by the IMD, prior to their release. However the Basic MTM system, now branded as MTM-1 and first published in 1947 still endures and is recommended, but not yet enforced as an essential pre-requisite for qualification in all IMD approved derivative MTM systems, such as MTM-2, MTM-3 and MTM-UAS.