Manufacturing Systems Design is the art and science of developing, building, and implementing the methods by which products are manufactured. Manufacturing Systems Design is a broad field that involves a variety of different disciplines, including engineering, design, technology development, labor relations, organizational behavior, marketing, and business development. The history of modern Manufacturing Systems Design has its roots in the quest to develop a system for manufacturing guns using a series of interchangeable parts that was pursued by Eli Whitney and other American inventors and manufacturers in the late 1700s and early 1800s. In the early 1900s, the American engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor developed and promoted a popular theory of Manufacturing Systems Design called Scientific Management. The Scientific Management system sought to maximize productivity and profitability in factories by using scientific methods to determine how each step in the manufacturing process could be performed at maximum efficiency. Modern-day Manufacturing Systems Design continues to employ some of the theories developed by Taylor, but more frequently focuses on the development and implementation of Lean Manufacturing Techniques, “greener” methods which emphasize speed, versatility, and the elimination of all waste in the production process. Lean Manufacturing methods were primarily developed and refined by the Toyota Motor Company in Japan. The recent application of Lean methods to American-based industries has helped to strengthen and diversify the country's manufacturing base, and has paid dividends in both economic and environmental terms.
Keywords: American System of Manufacture; Interchangeable Parts; Just-In-Time Production; Lean Manufacturing; Scientific Management; Toyota Production System; Value Stream Mapping
Manufacturing: Manufacturing Systems Design
Eli Whitney, John Hall,
Up until the beginning of the 19th century, most products were made on a small scale by skilled craftsmen following their own individual systems and standards. This method of manufacturing called for specialized workers who were often trained through apprenticeships with accomplished craftsmen. It was not a system that was designed to manufacture products on a large scale, or to a consistent standard.
Since individual goods were handmade, the craftsmen system made it difficult to repair broken products, as replacement pieces had to be hand-crafted specifically to match the piece that was broken. This was an expensive, difficult and time-consuming process.
The history of modern Manufacturing Systems Design is often linked to efforts of American inventor Eli Whitney and other industrialists to create a system of manufacturing guns using interchangeable parts in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The thinking of Whitney and others was that if guns were all made to the same set of standards, then it would be possible to produce identical replacement parts, thus making it easier to repair a broken gun.
Most historians agree that the idea of creating products with interchangeable parts dates far back beyond Whitney, however. The French gunsmith Honoré Leblanc is credited with presenting the same idea to the French court years before Whitney brought the idea to American government officials. In fact, it is thought that Thomas Jefferson saw a presentation by Leblanc while he was in France and brought the idea back with him to the United States.
Though Whitney was attempting to build guns with a standardized process as early as 1798, his early attempts produced mixed results. The inventor John H. Hall is credited with creating the first truly successful interchangeable system at the Harper's Ferry armory in Virginia between 1820 and 1840. Over this 20-year period, Hall developed a series of machines that were able to create metal parts to match exact specifications.
The advances that Hall, Whitney, and other manufacturers made in the early 1800s helped to usher in the American System of Manufacture, a system in which most products went from being made by hand in small, individual batches to being made in larger batches by using a series of machines.
The Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution of the 1800s and early 1900s produced another significant change in the manufacturing process, in which products went from being produced by machines on a relatively small scale to being produced by machines on a much larger scale using large machines powered by new sources of energy such as iron, steel, electricity, coal, and gasoline.
According to an article by Gerhard Rempel on the Ecology.com website, the Industrial Revolution also led to new developments in transportation and communication, including the invention and use of the steam locomotive, the steamship, and later the automobile, airplane, telegraph, and radio.
The Industrial Revolution created changes in the social fabric as well. According to Rempel, it helped to usher in the development of new cities, created a new middle class of factory workers, devalued the skilled work of artisans, and led to the creation of large industrial complexes around large centers of resources.
Perhaps the first prominent thinker to approach the manufacturing process as a science was Frederick Winslow Taylor, who published his theories in the book Principles of Scientific Management in 1911. In this book, Taylor set out to prove that the country's workplaces were suffering a great loss through worker inefficiency (both intentional and unintentional) in almost every daily task. Taylor also argued that the remedy for this inefficiency could be found in the systematic or scientific management of workers, rather than trying to locate or create workers with superhuman abilities.
As outlined by Taylor in his book, the theory of Scientific Management contends that there is a scientifically correct method to perform nearly any task to the greatest level of efficiency, and that this method can be determined through careful scientific analysis of worker practices. The theory further states that these scientifically determined methods should be used to replace the traditional "rule of thumb" work methods that employees have learned through on-the-job training and observing their co-workers.
Taylor claimed that his principles of Scientific Management would be able to significantly increase worker output while at the same time make workers happier. This idea is based on the assumption that working more efficiently will lead to an increase in production, which will in turn make the factory more profitable. With production and profitability up, factory managers can afford to pay workers more money, which makes them happier, and helps to encourage them to continue working at maximum efficiency.
Taylor felt that such a large improvement in productivity was possible due to the "systematic soldiering" that he identified as endemic among American workers. Taylor defined soldiering as the practice of doing just enough work to get by, without actually working anywhere near full capacity. It is a practice, Taylor wrote, that is heavily encouraged by peer-pressure from co-workers.
When it comes to sporting events such as baseball or cricket, Taylor noted, it is fully expected for a man to give his best effort at all times. If he gave only a half-hearted effort, Taylor noted, then he would likely be criticized by his teammates.
Taylor said that when a man is working, however, he does as little as he possibly can over the course of the day. If he tried too hard, he would be abused by his fellow workers for making them look bad, and he would also be worried that his increase in productivity might lead to others losing their jobs.
To correct this practice of soldiering, Taylor's theory called for a harmonious relationship between workers and management, one where managers select and train the right workers for the right jobs, and then help them achieve their goals by setting out tasks for them to complete each day, and directing them to use scientifically proven methods to complete the work at each step in the process.
In an effort to validate his theories on Scientific Management, Taylor spent time working with the pig iron handlers at the Bethlehem Steel Company in Bethlehem, Penn. He writes about his experiences in his book.
When Taylor and his team first arrived at the steel company, he writes, they found a gang of 75 workers who were loading 90 pound pieces of pig iron at a rate of 12 tons per man per day.
Taylor attempted to prove through his theories of scientific management that a first-class pig iron handler should be able to handle much more than that — between 47 and 48 tons of iron per day — without becoming exhausted or burnt out.
Taylor arrived at this ideal loading rate through an extensive series of tests that were designed to determine how long a man could reasonably be expected to bear weight during the course of the workday. The Taylor team determined that it was possible for men to increase their lifting capacity if they correctly balanced periods of rest with periods of exertion.
Taylor's first step was to observe the workmen in action to determine which of the crew members were physically capable of increasing their workload to 47-48 tons per day. Then he talked to each man separately.
The first subject was told that he would earn more money if he did exactly what he was told to do by one of Taylor's team members, exactly when he was told to do it.
A member of Taylor's team then directed the man through a day's work, telling him when to work and when to rest. The result was that the man was able to lift 47 1/2 tons per day. Several other members of the team were subsequently approached by the Taylor team, and they each agreed to...
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