US engineer, management consultant, and the founder of scientific management. His ideas, published in Principles of Scientific Management (1911), were based on the breakdown of work to the simplest tasks, the separation of planning from the execution of tasks, and the introduction of time-and-motion studies.
By turning work into a measurable activity, Taylor created the notion of management as a science. His methods were clearly reflected in the factory assembly line, developed notably by US automobile manufacturer Henry Ford, but they have been criticized for degrading and alienating workers and producing managerial dictatorship.
Taylor was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, into a Quaker family. His father was a Princeton graduate and lawyer, and his mother was a feminist and abolitionist. Taylor passed the entrance examination to Harvard but was unable to attend because his eyesight was impaired. Instead, he became an apprentice at the Enterprise Hydraulic Works, a manufacturer of steam pumps.
In 1878 he moved on to the Midvale Steel Company, where he became foreman of the steel plant. Within six years he advanced to research director, then chief engineer. During that time he graduated with an engineering degree from the newly established Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey in 1883. Taylor applied himself to studies in the measurement of industrial productivity and developed detailed systems intended to gain maximum efficiency from both workers and machines in the factory. He used time studies to set daily production quotas. Incentives would be paid to those reaching their daily goal; those who did not reach their goal would receive much lower pay.
From 1890 he was general manager at the Manufacturing Investment Company's paper mills in Maine before moving to New York in 1893 where he went into business as a consulting engineer. One of his most important clients was the Bethlehem Steel Company, where he successfully implemented cost-saving techniques, despite adding new positions at a supervisory level, including time-study engineers. Despite his achievements, Taylor made enemies. Employers used his studies to extract more work from employees for less pay and trades unions condemned the ‘robotic status’ given to workers. When Taylor retired in 1901, he gave talks about everything he had learned from applying different techniques at various companies, collecting the transcripts together to publish Principles of Scientific Management.
In 1902 he became joint discoverer of the Taylor-White process, a method of tempering steel, which won him the Elliott Cresson Medal from the Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania. He was also US Lawn Tennis Association doubles champion in 1881 using a patented spoon-shaped racket that he designed himself.
Taylor, Frederick W: ‘Taylorism’
Frederick W Taylor: ‘The Principles of Scientific Management’