Does the closure of Volvo’s Uddevalla manufacturing plant, together with the takeover of the company by Ford, indicate that Taylorism is indeed the ‘one best way’?
‘Taylorism’ or ‘Scientific Management’ has been a prevalent idea in business theory since Frederick Winslow Taylor produced his “Principles of Scientific Management’ in 1911. The book was written in response to then President Theodore Roosevelt’s challenge to the American people to introduce new methods to create greater efficiency in the American workplace. Taylor’s idea was to ‘secure maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with maximum prosperity for the employee’1. Meaning companies could not gain high levels of production without an initiative for the work force, however as time has passed this initiative process although implemented has been used as a tool just to get the workers to be more efficient whilst still treating them as single-purpose machine tools. Volvo’s, Uddevalla, manufacturing plant, however, set about to re-humanise the production process giving the workers a sense of value and not just a tool in production. It also tried to give management responsibilities to the production line so processes could be handled more efficiently by giving more power to the workers themselves. Despite this humanitarian approach the Uddevalla factory was closed and bought by the Taylorism giant of Ford tending to suggest that Taylorism is the one best way to run a production company. A key facet in management is the ability to continually assess and adapt to any situation and in modern management, managers have to use systematic processes and be human-centred in their approaches to keep both employees and efficiency at a high standard. Taylor set four general priniciples that he believed were key to management. First, Taylor thought that workers were the key and believed that workers shouldn’t just be selected based on how cheap their work could be bought for, instead he believed they should by scientifically selected and each worker should have the correct attributes that are relevant to the job. With this style of approach to employment it allows companies to forgo their rigour of training. His second principle was to make the process of production into a science. This meant a team of skilled workers attempting many different production methods until the most proficient procedure is found and easily repeated. This process is used for every facet of production and ensures that the company is using the most efficient techniques possible and therefore being as efficient and effective as it can be. Thirdly, he wanted the workers to be trained in this scientific way and offered incentives to act in this scientific approach. To do this a skilled supervisor would be taught the most effective production technique, then, to save cost would be used to implement the technique by teaching the other workers about the technique themselves thus allowing the workers to just concentrate on the production itself. Finally and perhaps the most relevant principle that can be seen in modern day management and why Taylorism is considered the ‘one best way’ is his principle to divide work. ‘Division of work meaning managers should handle the designing, directing and supervision of the work, and the workers should perform the given work as instructed while maintaining intimate and friendly co-operation between the management and the workforce’2 Taylor believed that ‘these principles would be effective if they were all applied concurrently’3 and summarised his own scientific management philosophy by stating “Science, not rule of thumb. Harmony not discord. Cooperation, not individualism. Maximum output, in place of restricted output.”4. So he believes that if companies took a scientific approach to production and worked as a team they could become the most efficient unit possible. These ideals can be seen throughout modern production now and is the key basis for most...
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