The Hovey and Beard Co. manufactured wooden toys of various kinds: animals, pull toys, and the like. One part of the manufacturing process involved spraying paint on the partially assembled toys. This operation was staffed entirely by women.
The toys were cut, sanded, and partially assembled in the wood room. Then they were dipped into shellac, and afterwards painted. The toys were predominantly two coloured: a few were made in more then two colours. Each colour required an additional trip through the paint room.
For a number of years, these toys had been produced entirely by hand. However, to meet tremendously increased demand, the painting operation had recently been re-engineered so that eight woman who did the painting sat in a line by an endless chain of hooks. These hooks moved continuously past the line of women and into a long horizontal oven. Each woman sat at her own painting booth, specially designed to carry away fumes and to backstop excess paint. The woman would take a toy from the tray beside her, position it in a jig inside the painting cubicle, spray on the colour according to a pattern, then release the toy and hang it on the hook passing by. The rate at which the hooks moved had been calculated by the engineers so that each woman, when fully trained, would be able to hang a painted toy on each hook before it passed beyond her reach.
The woman working in the paint room were on a group bonus plan. Since the operation was new to them, they were receiving a learning bonus that decreased by regular amounts each month. The learning bonus was scheduled to vanish in six months, by which time it was expected that they would be on their own – that is, able to meet the standard and to earn a group bonus when they exceeded it.
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