Please tick the box to continue:

Page 1: Frank Bunker Gilbreth: Building Contractor, Inventor and Pioneer ...

Consmrctiun History Vol. 9 . 1993

Frank Bunker Gilbreth: Building Contractor, Inventor and Pioneer Industrial Engineer


Innovation in method!, of construction has occurred throughout history; mctl~ods o f managcmenl. theories and principles have evolved since the industrial revolution. The Scienliiic Munagemcnt lnoveinenl had consider,ablc political and social impact du r i n~ thu early years of the twenlieth century. W11:tt is rarely appreciated is that one o f the pioneers of Scientitic Manngcmcnt, Frilnk Bunker Gilhretb had carlicr achieved considerable success as a building contractur anil inventor. His idcns of moliun study and Scier~tihc Management clevelopecl from his observatio~~s white a bi-icklayinz appi.cntice and his subsetluent experience ; ~ c con~tructio~r superintenden1 in the USA. He :lpplied 11is ideas when runnirig his ow11 tirlns. I-lis wife. Lill~an, n noted psycl~ologist, beci~rne the [il'<t profe~sor of 1nall;lgernent at Purdue Ur!ir.ersity. ' f l l i s paper describe.: both hlc early c:lrecr ns a conti-aclor and inventor, and his second career a\ il pior~ccr industrid engineer and management consulta~~t. I-lis ch;~nging relationsl~ip wit11 F W Taylor i s docunjented. Tile relevai~ce of hi.; work m precent d q construction mi\nilgemenr ih conhitle~,ed.

Frontier Society to Industrial Power

'Tl~e last two rlecades of the ni~lctecntl~ century were cocially and econon~ically il turbulent and Fast chiillgin; era of American l~istury. The frontier had only recently been tamed and Frank Gilbreth was a schoolboy when George Armstrung Custer and his cntire command were "w~ped out by Indian tl-ibes led by Crazy tlnrre" at tljc Battle of Little Big Horn during the Sioux Uprising o i 1x76. The rapid pace or chilnpe in America cnn be judged From [he Facl thal Gilb[,ctl~'s wife Lilltan waf borr~ only two ycal,s Iltter, yet livccl iu sec u man walk on the moon. The Un~lerl Stntcs was urbnnisi~~g uncl industri;lli\ing at an unpreccdcnted pilce, and with nH the hectic u~ ld untlisciplined recklevhness that otle would expect with the upenit~g of vast new territories, huge new markets itnd a super-abundance of unhpped natural resources.

It was onto this Ii:tsccn? inclustri;tl structure that the exponents of Scienl~lic Management :~ttcmptcrl hi impnce orde~,. As America sti-ived tu mode Irot i~ n frontier socie~y lo a modern indust~.inl power there was an ideal opporturiit!. no tly new methutls, new 1dea5. nrld make H Fresh hrsali From the i~tdu'itriul pri~ctice of the Old Wurld. Frederick 'Taylor, the pioneer uf Scientiiic hllunnnSe~nent, detinetl i~ as "knuwlng rxiictly what you want men tu (10, and then aeeil~g that they do i t the best anrl chcilpcsr way". ; u ~ l i r wus this definitior~ ttl:\t Gilbl,ctli was to quote hen he htartcrl writing on the vubjec~ himuell.' The nim w:ls to get any given piece of work done as quickly, a c clleaply, and ;ks efficiently a.: po\.;ible. nrtd ~o to increase the rate or pay for thc workers and the prulit tor eniployers.

Apprentice and Construction Superintendent

Gilbreth did no1 <till? out w~t l l rhe iden of becoming an ellicier~cy expert as no such profession existed when lie started work in I R K S at the age of seventeen. Although he bad passed the

Page 2: Frank Bunker Gilbreth: Building Contractor, Inventor and Pioneer ...

E.B. Gilheth: Building Conaactm, Inventor and Pioneer Indusrrial Engineer M J S ~ e e l and D W Cheetham

Fig 1: Por;itions of m o m Iraya and palletised brickr on ;I non-xtnpping scaffold (Bortl Appliedldudon Sludy, 191i)

entrance exam for MIT he wished to stmt practical work as soon as possible, and so worked as a bricklayer's apprentice during the day, whilst receiving his technical and engineering education by studying at night.'

I.Ie was to stay with the firm he ,was originally apprenticed to, the Whidden Construction Company in Ruston, for a full ten yems. This gave him the opportunity to study rhe construction business from virtually every angle. He not only learned about cost estimation and accounting, hut was able to branch out inlo such fields as railway construction. I-lis time spenl with the firm, and the rapid series of promotions his hard work and study earned him, m u n t that he was able to work his way -'through trade after trade until he harl mastered all the a n s of con~truction."' It was during Gilbreth's very first weeks witb the firm that he had made an observation that was to help see him on a train of thought which determined his whole approach to construction and indeed his whole lifc. Whilst learning the art of bricklr~ying from a time-servd bricklayer he noticed that his instructor had used three dilferent sets of motions, one for working quickly, one Tor working slowly, and yet another one for teaching apprentices. Gilbreth's curiosity was sroused, and it was through the devdopment of motion study rhat he was to make his n m e and secure his long standing reputation; it was an event that was to influence industry and management ideology the world aver. h o r n the day he questioned why his bricklaying instructor used these methods to perform the same, supposedly simple task, he was determined t[) 6nd out which was the most effeclive and efficient, and which of them - in a phrase which was to become the Gilbreths' trademark - was "the one: best way".'

The rapid series of promotions that Gilbreth earned meant that ten years after smrting as an apprentice with the Whidden Company he was chief superintendent witb responsibility for

Fig 2: The nnn-ntoppmp rcoffolold For handling packs of hnckr with the fcwest and rhortest rnutlons (from ApplicdMolion ,7lrff/y, 19[7)

oversccing projects carried out away from the company headquarters. He had also won a prize from MTT for designing a new ~ c a l l n l d . ~ Ir was a "prototype" Gilbreth invention thal chamcterised the work and ideas that were to follow, its chief characteristic being that it reduced the amounl of bending and reaching thal users had to perfom. It hecame known ns the Gilhreth Scaffold, and it fer~tured in his later books (Figs 1, 2) as part of an integrated, holistic system. In the system Gilbrcth's views on construction method were firmly linked to, and integrated with, the technological improvements he developed. Chief superintendent was as high as GiIhreth could reach without having to wait increasingly [nng periods for ench successive promotion and this coupled with his oivn naiuml drive prompted him, despite an understandable nervousness, to go into business for himself.

General Contractor

In April 1895 at the age of twcnty x v c n he set up on his own as a general contractor in Boston. His early speciality was in walerprooling cellars and in developing a reputation for "speed work" which reflected the talents and interests that he had developed whilst working his way up the ladder. He advertised by circulating a calendar showiqg the high tide dates Fur Boston and carrying the slogan "High Tides Makc Cellars Wet - We Make them ~ r y " . ~ Be studicd advertising and carried nn an advertising campaign thal increased as the business grew. (Fig 3). He so011 began to take on larger pmjccts. Hc determined to adhc~e to his practice as apprentice, foreman ant1 superintendenl, lo Iumish always absolutely the best materials and-workmanship; to allow no job to pass his inspection that was not the very best he could make it in every pssib le respect. HE was very successful. The high standard that he set for himself began to bring results, not only in repent orders fiwm former customers, but for work of evcly kind all ovcr the country.

In order to make sure [hat the cost would be satisfactory to both owner and contractor, a Cost- Phs-A-Fixed-Sum rantract wns designed. This took the qucstion of cost entirely out of the held of discussion, alter it was once definitely a w e d and the contract was signed. From that time on the contractor became to all intents and purposes the rcprcsentative of the owner.' The firm moved oCfices to New York City in 1904 and began to obtain contracts for work along the east coast and north to Montreal, Canada, as well as throughout the south. It obtained work in

Page 3: Frank Bunker Gilbreth: Building Contractor, Inventor and Pioneer ...

F.B. Gilbreth: Rtrilding Contructur, lnventor and Pirmeer Industrial Engineer ,M J Steel und D 1V Cl~cesham








OF C O N C R E T E M A C H l N E A Y .

California, over lhree Ihuusi~nd miles away. on large c o ~ ~ t ~ i c t s follow in^ the ea~,tIlqunkc. of IYM. The type o f work undrrt:lken increased in v ~ l r i e ~ y ant1 nwltrplic~r: and inclutlerl dains, canuls. huu5ec. kiclnry buildings and industrial e.rmblisl~n~ct~ts. Wbole torvns such as WoodCnnd. M;urre were construcred. ?'he 61,n1 built i n hlrjnc, brick n i~ t l re i~ lhrcet l concrcle. l ielpi~ig to create the nod ern industrrnl l:lndscnpe. The f r ~ n ever\ expanded abroad. Ihi~ving offces :lt 7'3 Vivtoriil Strcet. London. Gilbretll developed cotlmcra I r l high places :lilt1 rvxc 011 the IIYI c~T:bpproverl cunrractors of both the Brilish War Oilice illid the .4dnliralty. ,IS well as :ictin:_ u s a consultn~tt to tllc t\i~lcricarl army in tlte develop~nent OF constill lor t i l ica~i r~ i~s in New Euglnrid.

The direction o f a large butly of nlen o f vi~rious deprees o f ability, workillg i n r l i f f c~ .e~~ t localities far ~ernvved from headqu:l[,tc~,a. requ~rcd cxpcrlence, il~telligc.r~ce o ~ l d expertise in [he art of h i~ndl i r~g men. The contrd anrl co-orditlatiun o f many colltlacts sirnultilneo~tsly, each differen! i n pirrpose. size and constr~~ct ior~ irlcthod. [.equired ctcilr i~~struct ic>~ls or1 ~ lan~ l ; l~ -ds of worktl~i~nship. and systernised inslructiona lo sire Inanagenten1 on colnpan) methods. ;IS wcll as a simple and co~nprel~ensive system for ~ , c p o ~ ~ i u g to Ilenrl ofhcc nII costs incurred ark1 prupre\s u f works on site. Gilbreth encouraged r l ~ e use o f photo_e~-aphs fol- :ldvertising, reco~ ,d i [~g coi~(lirivns of adjoining buildings iuld i n case o f laws~tits and o f conditions at the time or iin accident.

The F ie ld ~ y s t e r n ' containcd the d is l i l la t lun o f G i l l ~ re th ' s twenty rhree years i n the const~.uctio~l industry nnrl gave mrthotlologicnl advice on record keeping. accou~ltitlg, c o ~ t estirni~tion and site rnailikgcrnent. I t sl~owed ttuw loose-lear rcpnl,t? t r o ~ n the lietd %ere made to serve thc place uf an elaborate set o f books anct eliininoted the need to erllploy book kcepers. I t

also presenled Gilbrel l i 's systeru o f eluployuc ~,eco~,ds w l ~ i c h in s ~ ~ c h a tranqient tield as the cor~structiun industry provitled a basis for co~~tinualty selecting the men who hud the best

work records In the past. This worked both ways. I t ensured that 11is tirm only hired good men. snd nt the same time ensured that hi~rdworklng nr~d reliable crdtsrnen and 1:ibourers always had u good c h a r m o f being i ~ b l e to find work. On reading the Field Sys len~ today we may lind i t curiously dated. His suggestion of competing g;ings of men against euch other to apced up production on the i~ssurnption thnt men woulrl (lo their work "with the sanlc spirit of rivalry as a college [rained team" seems a little naive i f not physically dangerous, and 111s idca o f dividing the gnngs by race or national origin posiiivkly harmful to a cordial working atmosphere on site.

Similnrly, those ideas that do seem acceptable toduy appear alnlost painfully self evldcnt and we nlny wonder why !hey needed l o be published In book form. This ?imply sl~ow.; (he inimense influence o f Gilbret11's innovations in the co~lstruclifln Industry. Priur l u ~ t s publicatio~l, copies of the Field Syslen! were kcpt locker1 in G~Ebrctll's office, and otlly trusted employees were givcn acccss to is, a i ~ d even they had to Ic:lve a cash deposit should they wke i t off the premises. Rivat cc~ntractinz fi[,!ns even wen! so lar ac to bribe Gilbreth e~nployees for access lo i t

and publlcat~on only added lo Gilhreth's reputniion in hih hdd . One simple example s l~ould suffice to R ~ U W t t~a t what are now accepter1 as the most ohviouh methods of s11e practice were considered as innovations when the Ficld System was pubtished. C'ntrl Gilbreth's time bricks hat1 simply been delivered to site i n i~ cart a ~ l d dumper! In a hcnp :kt the feel r>K the bricklayers, forcing lhem to surl It\rou_eh the pile every lime they coliected a new batch of bricks. I t was Gilbreth who begnr~ tllc practice uf hav~ng hrrcks deliveretl on n pallet. and thus in a neat anrl ordcrly stack.

Cunccrn with Methods o f Work

His Rrst years as ;In independent contractor allowetl him to ful-thcr develr~j) an lntcrcst in concrete technology which had begun whilsl he was stil l an apprentice at Wllidden. Despile the h c t thar hrs name is more comr~nonly associated with the ~echnology of brickwork, i t was in the held of concrele lechnology that he enjoyed much of his initial success. lndeed his Conl,~c,te ~~sr r ,n r ' "

wac publishett the year before I ~ i s perhapv more tarnuus B r i r k l a y i l ~ ~ .~!stcm,"' and his very first article lo Ix. publisbetl in !he TI u/l.srrc.~im~~s o f r h ~ rlnlcl i r . r r ~ l Sot iptv c,fMe<,hu~~i<,ol t.;nxintc~:r was on '-31-escec in Reir~Cnrccd Concrete ~earns". " His Crnnr,,-~tr .Y! , t /~nt was innovative Cur i n thc lirst decade of this century conc1,cte technolugy wns rc[ntively new, and Gilbrclh's wo[,k provided n ucel-ul tecllnic:~l guide. Hi* patents i n concrete tecllnolo_py also secured him a reputation in the tield. The work was comprchenstve, including for exarr~ple over 50 instructions ilnd procedures for the mis ins o f concretes, ranglng From the safe bracing ul equipment to the best wxy lo heill and pr-epal-e a_rgrcgaks. As usual. Gilhreth'u Yystunl wlks an inte~rared cme and specitizrl ]low to use tllc Gilbreth Portable Gr:~vitp ~ i x e r . " T t ~ e systems described by Gilbret l~ are rletarled lists or practical procerlt~res For u9.e In contbin:ltion with his own patented inventionh. They were prepared by h im a1 1wad office itntl riislrihuted to the ~rldividunl p~oject silts. They are olmost a repor1 OF w11i1t a succevstul tolltractor said to his site fr~reman nntl workmen un the munugeIncrlf o f sites ant1 the productior~ o f concrete work artd brickwork. They contaitl his lnanttatory order\, his cnutio~ls, his instructions on rnetllods of work 10 achieve beys qkralily and best speed o f outp~lt . When a certain way of doing ;I rhing was fixed as the company srnridard then 21 ~v r i l t en in5truction would be issued. The rules gradually accurnulate~l.

Employees were encuu~,agcrl. paid money and given public recognition tor wggestions that would improve the systems. They were requircd to follow tbe rules to the letter u11Iess they hat1 reccivcd written permi~sion to suspend them; eniployccs who h i le t l lo abide by the rules \are[= warned thnt they would not receive promotion.

Page 4: Frank Bunker Gilbreth: Building Contractor, Inventor and Pioneer ...

F.B. Gilbreth; BuiEding Conmacror, Inventor and Pioneer IndusrinE Engineer M J Swel and D W Cl~eerham

Pigs 1-5: Different woyn ot using thc G~lbwth Pnrtoble Grav~ty M ~ x c r (Fmm Jonc Murlty i~lCunt'~-err Inlar'nntiorrul, 19%)

Inventor of Construction Equipment

As his wife wrote in her biography of him: "He invented concrete mixers, conveyors, re~nforcement - everyth~ng that had to do with making concrete construction both a science and an art". All in all Ghbreth filed 14 construction related pntents, the subject r~i' recent research by Jnne ~ o r l e ~ . " Perhnps the most nolable of his early ones was his Portable Gravity Mixer, lor whrch he filed n parent in 1899. Capable of continuous, rather than batch mixing, the G~Ibreth

Portable Gravity Mixer was an ingenious variation of hand-mixing methods in which a line of men shovelIed materials together along the length of a board, tunling md mixing the concrete as it ~noved towards the desired area o n the site. The mixer consisted of a vertical chute of variable length made of wood or sheet metal wit11 a hopper at the top to receive the dry cement, sand and aggregntc. A pipe, perrorated on its underside ant1 running acrvss the front of the chute under the hopper, sprayed water on the nlnterials after they had entered the body of the chute, more or less prc-mixed. The we1 materials were mixed by inclined pins or rods protruding from the inside back of the chute and akached to crossbars running at intervals down its front. These pins divided the materink, repeatedly throwing them against each other and into the hack o r rhe chute as they travelled down its length; the back of thd chutc was curved to foim a trough to better catch and hold the malerials as they moved. Fur best results, the mixer was to remain as horizontal as possible so that mnterials flowed slowly yet freely. The mixer ' s front pancl was Left essentially open s o rhe qunlity o r the mix could be monitorcd, thc vicw of the interior obstructed only by rhe crossbars that held the ends of mixing pins. With an open front and removable mixing pins, the mixer was ensily cleaned (Figs 4,s)

Gilbreth introduced several improvements in a second patent filed in 190I. The contiguous chute was replaced by n series or sections filstened together thnt couM be added or removed dcpenditlg upon the length required for adequate mixing and a second water pipe was added for the lower sections. The mixing pins were secured to [he front crossbars in a way that allowed them to vibwte, and vibraling inlemal deflectors helped to throw the mnterials to the back of the chute. At the bottom of the chute, a swinging door held ihe concrete in ,the mixer prior to release. In this sccond model, the vibraling pins and deflectors improved the mixing of the mnterials and vibralion was increased rurther when the entire mixer was shaken by workmen or by a stationary strain engine. It was used in projects ns diverse as Ihe New York Subway system, the London and India Docks nnd the Ruenws Aires sewage system.

Gilbreth advertised thnt the mixer could bc set up in less Lhnn eight ~ninuks and pay For ilwlf in eight months. Costing under $500 i t was one of the cheilper mixers on the market at the time, but in an independen1 review in Engi?;cerirt.q News in 1903 it came in next to last out of I2 tested patent rnixe~s. Gilbreth wns obviously disappointed in this result. Gilbreth had one of his own engineers write articles in trade journals recomnlending the mixer. In 1907, Sanford Thompson, an sssociate of both Gilbreth and of Frederick Taylor, indeed he first introduced them in December of thal year. wrote Taylor a letter that included the FolIowing passage: -'He is n great bluffer md has n reputation of not always k i n g 'on the square'. He once told me just before we got our book on concrett: out that when it was published I would pmbably receive suggestions from manufacturcrs of niixing machines for making a test of their machines and if in a competitive test his mixer came out ahend he would give me $1000."" Clearly he was not a man to accept defeat easily! I The Portable Gravity Mixer however represented only a small part of the growing Gilbreth empire. Apart from the original contracting company set up in 1895 there existed a number of subsidiary companies with respoilsibility for different a s p c t s of the construction business. The Underwriters Engineering and Construction Company, for instance, was an "in house" engineering consultancy mainly responsible for concrete work, and the Corrugated Concrete Pile Cornp:tnv specialised in concrete piIe foundations work.15 This represented yet another Gilbrcth innovation and one lhat was universally praised by thc contemporary technical. press. His patented concrete pile systein wns an in~provemenl on existing metho~ls in that it could be cast on site, manufactured above ground, and thus tested and inspected before driving. Gilbreth filed lhis palent in 1905, exactly ten years after starting his own business. He had been very successful.

Page 5: Frank Bunker Gilbreth: Building Contractor, Inventor and Pioneer ...

F.B. Gilhrcrh: Ruildirtg Crmrrrutur, Inwntor and Piortcer lrtduscrial En@neer

Meeting with Frederick W Taylor

Filbrelh's interesrs in motion nntl cfhciency which had begun twenty years earlier had not diminished, and whe~l Sanford Thompson introduced him to Frederick 'l'aylor in the Engineering Societies Building in New York in Decernkr 1907, it acted as n spur to his enthu.;iasm." Both were aware of the other's work. Gilhreth had read Taylor's pioneering work on what was to llccome k t row~~ as "Scientitic Man;tgementW (the term was coined in t910) and had relirred to it as a "work of genius". Titylor for his part had wrilten a text on pltiin and reilrforcetl concrete1' in 1906 which had referred to Gilhrerh's expertise in the fiel~l. This mndc for an itritially crrrdial relationship. Taylor saw Gilbreth as a useful addition trr his grorvlng circle o l business experts, and Cilbreth saw Taylor as a leltc)w lr~vellcr on the road to industrial cffic~ency. Taylor's methud of timing how long it look to do work was new to Gilhreth while Gilhreth's method of stlrdying motions as part of bettcr rr~ethods leading to "The One Best Way to Do Work" was n e n to Tnylnr. Each was znthusiaslic about what the other bad to offer. Indeed Taylur hid devoted eight pages of his nlagntlm opus 711e PI int,il)lrs qfSricnf~fir, Man~7:r1ncnr entircly to Gilbrcth's syslem of b r i c k ~ a y i n ~ . ~ k i l h r e t h ' s initial meetings wirh Tnylor coon convinced lhim 10 intrntluce Taylor's no i~ons of business efficiency b:md upon time stutly and incentive payments into his own contracting conrpnny. They coincided so closely with his own ideas that it seemed only n;~tur;~l thar they shoulrl work in the construction industry.

Introdirctiun uf Time Study tn Gill)relh's Firm

In November I907 Gilbrelli allowed Tharnpson lo make time slurlies o r his employees and was pleased r t ~ o t ~ g l ~ with thc resulis to irisliill selecied parts of Taylor's i~lcct~tivc wiljiu scl~erne un a E~ctory he was constructrng in Gardncr. Massachusetts, in the fullowing Thel-e were irnmediale problcnls however. Delily9 and confusion over Ihe new system, altd especia[ly over the incetltivc pay scheme, meant t h ;~ t thc u~lior>iscd bricklayers were soon voicing their discontent. By May they went OII strike ;mtl Gilbrett~ was forced t r ? withdril~v the systeln.l'' Fluwevcr by Novcn~bcr he was re:~dy In introtluce a similar system to nrrothcr of his cons[ruclion pto.jccts, n t'actury in Chelsea near Boston. This time he tlnd heen lnvrdvzd in prior cnnsult;~tio~~s with !he unions, and the incentive wage scheme went ahead without ;tny trouble. 'Tllc tr~ain bone of contention had been the use trl'T;~ylor's system of timing en~ployeeh with ;I .ilopwatcl~. Once Gilhrrih agreed to drop the idea the unlonk we]-e fairly co- operative. Quitc possibly Gilbretti'c ye:lrs of experience ns i~ bricklayer himself had helped him to we rhlnpc irtlnl br-rlh sides of the fence - certainly he tho~tght so IlitnsclL An entry in his diary when he insmlled the new systcrr~ at Che[se,r r,eveals [ l~al he tnld his W O ~ ~ C N that '-1 have bee11 n mion ox111 and 1 know what is good for you". He was clet~i-ly was nut plcuwd wirh the kict th;i~ he hiid llad to concede part of 11is system to get the rpst accepted by Ihe uniotrs. An cntry for he same day nixes his dele]-mination to "l.aise the ply oI' the bricklayin$ n~ect~nnics throughout the United States in spire uf the ignorant pig-headed rtlen in ~ a r d l ~ e t " ! " '

Despite his fruhlration with his ~ n ~ p l o y e e s Gilbreth'a attitude towards unions was relntlvely liberal fur his time. Cerrainly he Itad u n~ucll more tolerant attitude tharr l'aylor who had servetl his opprcnticcsl~ip in the tuugll wurid of the steel mills of the lt170c anrl cnllsequently considered hard work in harsh conditior~s to be the nuin1. and had little s y ~ i ~ p i ~ t l ~ y for anyone who thought otberw~se T ~ y l n r went sn far , ~ s to reco~nmend a l l collepr prnd~r~itef, w1~1tevt.r thew v o c a t ~ o ~ ~ . to spend at least twelve moutlls at the end rh' their Freshm~n ye;lr "in actual Irard work ... under careful and constan1 supen,isionV. The articte in which thih nclvice nppe:lred was brtisquely entilled ''lVhy M;~nuf;lcturers Wislikc Corlege ~raduates" ." In spite of these hiccoughs the installation of n cornbirlation of his own iind Taylor's cfhcier~cy systrms seemerl to he going well

enough, and Gilbreth's increasing successes ant1 growing reputtation mcant that in the srtme year he was able to publish his first two hooks, the Field Systetrr and Cor~r.r.rte System. They both extolled the virtues of efficiency, rationalisation and systenrntic prilcedure.

Recugnition uf Motion Study

It was the publication n l Gilbreth's R ~ . i c k l n y i t ~ ~ System in 1909 thar set the seal on his reputation. Bricklaying had, after all, been the field in which Gilhreth originally devised and developed his theories and systenls of motion study. His studies of bricklityers and theif moveltlents and nol lions cunvinced him thnt cvrrt this oldest, mnst traditional of craKts could ~ l i l l he open to ionov:ttion and improverner~~. In laying exterior bl-icks For exilmple he reduced the number of motions employed from 18 to four-nod-a-hall' per brick laid, anrl on interior bncks lrom 18 to two. This itsultcd in an increase from 120 to 350 bricks per nlan per llour!?' I.Ie described the rnett~orls of work orpi~nisntion to achieve these staggering improvements. They inclu(iec1 ihe delivery to site of bricks on small pallets, the use of conveyor rollers for off-loading from wagons and well balanced hand harrows forn~oving bricks ikhaul the site. (Fig h)

, . . ,

Fig h: The two-whcclcd lruckct tur cal~ylng 12 I>rick pdcks, l ' l ~ i ~ l~t~cket ia ho ~>ell'ccrl? b:rl;u~ed that couscr less htrpuc than an ordlnory w l ~ e e l l x ~ f ~ o w (from ..t(>,>l,cd Mrn>un S~>rtlr. 1Y17j

It was in this work tl~at Gilbreth firs[ puhlisbcd his ideas on the concept of motion study. He predicted thnt "the rnotiol~ study in this book is but the bcgianing of an ern of rr~ntion sturly" and

' provided 11 series of charts and t a b b rhowing the method by which he expected to reduce the numbcr of rnolir~ns thal bricklayers used. Hc was careful to emp11:ksize thab the inlention of his system was not only to increu~e the prodr~ciivity and profit of the employer; his experience nl Gardner nrld Clielsea had (aught him i t was ncccssaly to sccurc the co-operation -o r at least to avoid the hostility - of thc labour unions. "It is oui- intention", he stated. "to increase thc wages of those men w11o lay brick in the tnanncr described in this system"."

Once again the concept was rrl' an integraled rind interiockir~g system. Br.ickluyin,q .Syst~m. Ficlrl ,Sy.ttmr and Cuncl.ere S ? ~ r e r ) ~ were all designed to he inter-related, and lo integrate with Gilbrettl's own innovations. BI-ir;kluying Sysren~ specifically referred to the use of thc Gilhreth's Scaffold and the Gilhreih Packet System of brick dclivcry in thc same way tl~nt Concrere Sptcm had rerewed to the use of thc Gilbreth Gravity ~ i x e r . "

Page 6: Frank Bunker Gilbreth: Building Contractor, Inventor and Pioneer ...

t;, 8 , G i h th: Building Contractm, Inventor and Pim~ecr Indzasninl Engrneer

~ i l b ~ t h ' ~ success with his publications and his very enthusiasm for developing Scientific Mnnngcment were howcver beginning to Iw: seen ns a potential threat by Taylor and his circle of close friends. Gilbreth was only a wcent adrlitiob~ to the clique, and it appears that Taylor did nut fulIy trust him. Taylor's private corrcspvndence during Novemher 1908 (the time when Gilbreth was installing pnrt of The Taylor System irl his job at Chclsed) indicates a concern that Cilbre~h was out lu mnkc "a Further reputalion for hirnselr' and that he was therefore '.not a man whom it would be well tu place a good deal o i dependence upon".2s Despite such misgivings the two men seem to have co-opcrated we11 enough. Although some degree of mutual mistrust did exist it was not enough to sour a close working pmjnership.

A Working Partnership with F W Taylor

In 1910 both men were pan of a delegation fmrn the Arneric'm Sociey of Mechanical Engineers which convened in Binningham (EngIand). Taylor lectured on both his own and Gilbreth's innovations in time study and motion study, but was met with a lack of c n t h u ~ i a s m . ~ h r i r i t h busincssmm seem to have been initially slow to realise the importance of Gilbreth's and Taylor's work.-The July 191 I edition or the Review 4 ~ e v 1 e w ~ " s e e m m havc been onc of the first journals outside those speciRcalIy confioed to engineering to chnrt the growing awareness of the potenlial of Sc~entific Management (as it was by then cadled). Even hen the review consisted oi'unly 150 words.

The two men were also called a consultants on the "Eastern Rates" case in 1911). The malter at issue was the right of the railroads to pass on wagc increases direct to the consumer in lhe form of higher freight rates. The Iawyer who cuntestcd their right to do so, one Louis D Brandcis, did so or! the grounds that the railroads were inelficient, and that i i they I~ad used the Taylor aystcm. could have easily saved more t l i the money they had Los~ in paying higher ~alarics.~' Brantleis won the case, which had caughl lhe populi~r imagination. and helped gct Tdylor's and Gilbreth's ideas noticed. The tcrm "Scientific Maongement" itfclf had been coined during the case in order tu give a memorable title 10 the series of principles il~voIved. The press picked up the title, and Gilbreth was rully aware that the case was "going to put Scientific Management 011 the map"." He became one of [he prime organisers in consolidtctiog the grounrl that Scientitic Management had won through the case, and in Novembet 1910 he met five othcr enrhusia~lic lnen in N e w York to form a permanenr society, to promote the movement. This initialIy consisted ol. an informal group with no name xnd no meeting hill, but in Decenlher 191 1 the "Society to Promote The Science of Managerncnl" was formally i n a ~ ~ u r a t e d . ' ~ SurprisingIy Taylor was againsl it, even though Gilbreth wanted to cnll i t T a y l o r Society'. (which it was arter Taylor's death in 1915). Taylor belicved that a sociely within thc American Society or Mechanical Engineers should be fonned, and dlat a scparate one might conceivably fall into thc "wrong hands" and go its own separate wity.''

Tn the meantime, despite lectulr tours, legul tcsrimonics and forming the Society, Gilbreth still had his ever-growing contracting business ru run. AlthougI~ his business was comfortably prolitable he was still having union problems wllcn i t came to applying either his own or Taylor's work methods. In early 1911 he had taken on a conuact 10 buitd a paper mill for the Union Bay Company at Hudson Falls, New York. He had implemented his fill1 arsenal of rnanacgement and production techniques, but it was hi.? p~oduction-related pay scheme that this time caused the problem. Union leaders argued thal pay varied from 55 cents to 75 cents an hour, and that this was divisive, and should be scrapped in favour of a srandrtrd 65 cents an hour per man. Once again Gilbrerh was forced to back down and drop his beloved bonus pay system. This lime however, due to the recent publicity of the "Eastern Rates" case he enjoyed a good deal or public support m d The New York Times went so Fir as to give h i ~ n hunt page billing, and in the same week devoted their weekend sr~pplemcnl to his innovations and ideas.j2


This seems to have been a turning point. Faced with continued opposition from the very Anions from which he felt he should be getting the most support and with nstionaI publicity for his work on business efficiency and productivity at the maximum, he withdrew from his construction business. By the end of 191 1 he had been happily married for seven years to a wire whose interests compIemented his awn, and was b e g i ~ i n g tu r a i n a young family. We do not know how he disposed of his substantial business or his reasons. His wife in her biugraphy of him suggests a combination of: the dent11 of a daughter; (he desire o move house; hcr desire to study lor a PhD; n realisation that their best work lay in the field of handling the human element, and feeling thnt contracting was failing to hold its own on the professional scale while management engineering was bound to rise in importance and dignity. At any event,,he took the momentous decision lo leave the contracting business altogether and become a iull-time management consultant. Thnt same year had seen the publicalion of his most famous book to date, Motion Study, in which he surnrnarised and consolidated his ideas on improving productivity by careful analysis of the motions invoIved in a given task. Such was the growing popularity and potential of Scientihc Management that h e must have considered himsei l sufficientIy we11 placed to turn what had been an interesl into a pmf'eession.

Pioneer Industrial Engineer and Management Consultant

Gilbreth's first large scale job was ironically both a resounding success and consequently the cause of a good deal of troublc. In May of 19 I 2 he began a contract ns an efficiency consultant to the New England Butt Company of Rhorle Island. He was assisted by other nssocintes of Taylor who were tllemselvcs keen to further the cause of Scientific Managemenl, ilnd the project was completed by June or the lollorving year, considerably ahead of ~ c h e d u l e . ~ ' Gikbreth was delighted. Taylor and his associates had mixed feelings. Although they admired Gilbmth's work on bricklaying they had become i~lcrcuingiy concerned that Gilbreth was out to make a narne for himself. Taylor's persunal correapuntlence reveals a doubt a to Gilbreth's commitmeot to the 'Taylor System'' of Scientific Management, and n belief thnt Gilbreth might seek lo lake more than his fair share of credi~.'''

This distrust came to a head on Gilbrcth's next large contract as a Scien~ilic Management consultan1, For the Hennann Aukum company oF New York who ~nanufilctured handkerchiefs. In Much of 1814 Milton Hemr lm visited Taylor to complain lhal Gilbreth was overcharging him for his advice, which in any case was doing the company vory little good. Gilbreth disagreed, q u i n g that he hnd reduced the motions necessary to fold and pack handkerchiefs from 150 to 16, and that Hermann was simply unwilling to give increased pny for increased output. Taylor sided with Bermrnn and Gilbreth was replnced by Horace Hayhaway, an associate of Taylor of longer standing than Gilbreth. GiIbreth was naturally furious, and although he and Taylor mnintaincd an outward show of loyalty (simply fur the sake of not publicly discrediting the whole Scientific ,Management movement) it was the end of any further friendly contact hetween the two

The incidenL at the Hemam Aukurn Company, however, had simply served to highlight the poinls of departure of Gilbreth's work from that of Taylor. Taylor, wilh justification, considered himself the pioneer or Scientific Management. I t was he who had laid the foundations that Gilbrcth and others were to build upon. The problem was that this view of himself as the lcader of the GeId rnranl that Taylor was unsympathetic to those who developed his work (Gilbrelh was by no means the only man who started from Taylor's original premises but evenrualIy found them too arrow).^" Taylor's work had consisted simply O F timing how long it took a man to do a particular task. Gilbreth went a crucial step further. I-Ie sought to time [he individual motions that wen! into a task, and thus pmvide an infinitely more detailed and precise guide to how a given task was performed and consequently how it could be improved upcm

Page 7: Frank Bunker Gilbreth: Building Contractor, Inventor and Pioneer ...

'pna hnssasau r! sl! isaq II! ruaq 4u1pr4al 'suolun apcJi .IOJ a3ul:laIol aIu!l dlan pet1 Xllr~a~lhasuos au ,,,~a~sere~p suy qs11[~ pu!12 snouolouoal 1ea.r a41., palnadsx arl plre 'lualuuo.l!nu> plnq e u! ualu pnq ilq 7.10~ p~vq jo au!~13op P paqwa~d ~olXn~ ,Iunp!n!pu! rlv se dayma ayl p~cd iaq~ 13d~3J aq! u! S,JO@EL unrl pau~?dap hnua!agja ssarl!snq pup Xpnlq uo!lolu 10 sa!Joaql ~~yucr.~

',fin1 U! pag!pos r! pue a3!1oeld Ic!llsnpu! prr?pu~?ls jo ]led SLUIO~ MOII

lnq 'aru!i s!41 u! Bu!iaauo!d sem ax[dy~om aql u! Xlajss uo s!seqdlua >?aql 'Xpel!ru!s ,sqlaJql!g aql Lq palsa%ns is~y X?M Inq 'hnpo~ pajrlel2 301 ayw am Su!r]l3uros 'sial11:d ucl payonls syo~lq >Y!I an 'sa!l!ptrj suods Xutdlun3 pun srlaauns HEIS ql!~ sa3rqdy~om pa~sl!iurr~ 1Iam pw 1!1 !lam ',(q11eaq 'uval3 .iCcpoi ly~110ql 1ua~ua3eu1!w uIsailsu!*w srrunjrl! 11!1s icgi sa!Zoloap! JO s!saylu.~s c asnpo.rd 01 ycnp!h!pu! aql ~oj uJamo3 pul? rus!ul:u~nq I? 41!m a3sldylo~ arll u! hua!syja papualcl peq pun 'Xi!s~ah!un anplnj tr! lua111a4errep~ jo .lossajord awooaq psq unyT!7 cCiI 68 '148!1 umn r!atIl u! a3rlaldamc pau1c3 K13u!s1!ar3u! Laqi inq '~I!M rlrSaq 01 ,,SI!FI j1?02 s,yueq uo*, u! paddys a~v4 01 ruaas sttap! lay blu!r1~a3 -amq ~ou as!m.raqlo ~q%!w Jaq~ lnrll a~llsotlxa laS oi aIqt: alaM syu~oufiha ptm i~8o~Aya~sd y.rom olu! siq4!su! s,ustll!~ lnr11 ~rrcaur .IOI~RJILIO~

4u!pl!nq asuasuou-ou put 'uuw apcar-jlaq 'laau!Zria lIo!lsnJlsuos paqouprnt n st ~~!lglnda~ palqnopun pua lsqpeats s,ylrwj ,(~lh 1 u! lqS!.r u~o TI! u! paqs!lqnd n'llenlrlana) cGluau~aZcucly j~ ddolorlailsd ay~.. uo aqd mq ~U!I!JM yi!m \raJpl!qJ l!aql SU!S!RJ pau!quoa u~!ll!q ,,',,s>!~n~ aql 10 ~uans!u!u!a~,~ sr! d~r~suo!is~a.i .113rli saq!rxap 'ue!lols?q ltiarua2nusu1 inau!ruo.rd t! 'ual~ ]a!usa 'IlaM os pay!l!)anop sjuayal put isatalui ,sqla,rqll3 >I[] i~i11 aleunllq s! 2[OqM r! sr! ilpnis ~uartra4cuew jo play aql paapul -sawnu J!arll yloq Japun paqqqnd aJam syooq lulnbssqns 11" l[h[ U! parlsyqltd ~~auraXo~nllnfi~ .nr/:t~uar.?~jo .rallJ!.rd aqr runq ~lcde puc 'ylom s4puaqsnq 1x1 u! IS~I~~U! ~al~a14 I? aytl 01 aj!~ ~!q pa~o[~u 113u~llns1103 01 QU!I~CJ~UO~ UIOJJ ;IAOIU s,y~aql!~

'.(1!1!qmgo~d pu~ Xl!l~qr!l;*l 'n'3ua!~yja .IOJ uo!ll!~ndal alqrmadru! m put1 put 'adom2 sv [Ian$ sn salel~ pal!u,q aql lano [TI? v'l"r~iu03 traasJanu purl urrg s!11 'p!~os 1301 sem hlsnptr IIOII~IIJISUO~

aql U! un!~nlnda.r s!y larll mm os op 01 aTqB sew qlXq1!9 YII~JJ lerli uoseal aqL ,ssulnr! aBrrrsaw j!aql

%u!11a3 u! papaamns La41 iurp sqiatq[!g aql ol alnq!n r: s! I! pun 'sraylrl~ I!ayl J~J o!snrlI 3r1oqdorllelS Inoql! ~m!~daos amm uauIssau!snq papcar1 prey 'urrou aql aJaM syam Asp xis pup ~LEC) rnnq ual rlqm u! luauluor!hua 8ug.10~ u UI .slr~auruadxa sno!luaa~d put: lua41nl)u! Jaqlrrr aq 01 pa~ap!s~o~ put? 'apii?E-~uanr! n'llxr!ls!p aJam Xaq~ 2161 rl! 11)q '.lal)oi paiur.18 JOJ rlaye~ xi: sdolnrj asaqj 11~ ,,;,,imjja Su!lclnw!~s put Su!~!d~u!., s11 IOJ -nlu! yuo~ 01 s.lai(oldwa do1 Bu!qlauos aq 01 p!vs SRM

y~om P. 3!snm waAg .,,IIO~UIOS S<UBUI~JOM ~qi asnarxt! 41~a4,, ~11103 qsrra IIT~I pas!sl?qdma sem 11 pus 'passnmp [lr: araM uo!lVT!lUaA pul? S'u!i~ay 'Bu11r19!~ .srlJmw uodn ,,lJaUa B~~!lnlnu~!ls,, sl! JOJ osle lnq 'S[DOI jo Br~!qlaqal lua!uanuocl arp JOJ Lluo lou 'pas!scqdma sc~ luau~uor!hua $u!y~om arll U! 'no103 jo a3u"~odw! aqL 'y~oq aql 01 sno!lnq!Jirlos luelrodm! apcru ur!l[!l ieql suoFzen!pul ma13 ale =at11 Inq 'paXoldap aq plnoqs ~)~o~je" q1alq1!3 runnd ayl moq pup 'XI:I~ nvoru at11 01 uo!l~:~a~ u! purls Iqnoqs la,Cqyn!~q r! aaqm jo suo!iellsuorrral) u! aldurnxa JOJ 'alaql ~I!JS aram suo!lanJlsI1! as!>uos s,yuey .1uatua3sm~ sy!luapS~o plalj ar~l 01 3.10~ s*ua!(lq aj!M srq lo a3u~rrodurl $u!s~?a~su! ayl pantoys osla puc 'warsis fa~a.~.7iio~ put III>I~~S ppj sr! qnnq syrom sno!haid s,qta~ql!~ lo IFUIJOJ ~!IS!I~S as!sa~d pur inaJ!p aql 01 73~1s y~oq ipnl~ MU?IO~~:

h,.c~s~mj aq~ put sploqasnoy ayl 'saSallfi3 aqi 'spoq?s aqi 'saqjo ay~ ~oj xr: Kay] ',lluo sapmi aql lo4 iou ar! Lay] 'sseis arlo JOJ lou,, 3~3~

scap! s!y !s!yl paw~yuo3 i(l!l)rar qjalql!r) '.,hsnpu! puu ape4 ,kana 03 >fqexlddt! amm umop p!Pl sald!au!ld aqa,, un!~onpoJru! s,~ooq aqi u! ~IOJM !au!ze$cm D"u!.taarr!Xuj /o!.r]s~ipu{ jo ~nl!pa) lrlay 1Jaqo.d ST lnq '%u!dn1y3pq jo ile aqz 01 pau!nirad ~lr ipni~ uu!~o~: rr! uan!X sa~diuexa a41

.suo!tour Isa!u!l r!aql anduo> pun ~ssss!p 01 pua s~aqlo put salajrllc rl!eli 01 asn u! I~IS $1 anb!uym~ s!sXlcuc ruly s+yla.rql!D lalei sleaL (148!3 'iunnaTar.r! seM suoyow alnup

cuulloCy -paplrl;lal aq p[non sluauraholu lcL[l 0s 'sluqll~ds 3!qdi!~S JO ,q~slnqr.~un al!lua ul: paslhap aj!M s!q pu~! aH ,(L Y!J) sasodlnd ~~r;lrua~nqealu ~oj punol5y31:q papp!~: I? Sysn u!c31: 'iusttrano~u 1i?n15 n ju aol~nlulopad all] u! MOI~OJ ~$!III ladrrg JO prlnq r! u~allnd all) pui! siua~uahoiu uan!3 10 slal)otu a-{ aym ol surlg s!~[ pasn y~arql!g .,,qdr:18flyn,(snun~q~oala]~.. ar[l o~u! Llsnoar~eiln~r~i\ pasn sv,i,lau11!3 payrr!~ r>rnl~o sunam kq padolamp mn ~,qde.iSolX3ouo.1rls,, srrll .luauanow ua~!S LUI: JOJ uayrl auy ayl jo s~~rau~a~nseam alnrnsnl: Llauralixa pappo~d s!qi JaiaulouolrlJuln!Lu pur! p11nol8y~rq pappy% ayl JO p!~! aql yl~nz pur! 'alw uan!;i n ~r! 1~0 pun uo 4s" 01

i! pasnes I~!IIM qlnq yxa un l!nm!J laldr~ua~r~! ue E~r!illld iCq p3no1dru! snrd 11 ~[y ,,

pro u! '.laSr~q tlnsa ol paqnnllt! <qlnq)q3![ 3!~13313 alnrl!ui per1 pu~ pulio~Sy3sq palnns llal>p?.18 n ~0 ~UOJJ U! panyd a.lam parpms Su~oq s~qlo~ 'alnu!ur P jo qyipr~esnoqi-OMI auo 01 Ou!p~ozal ju alqndn3 auunlj anpd aqi u!ql!~ paqd yon[> T? ',,la~awnuo1qx112!Lu,, aql [)adolahap 1113~ql!f) sclaures pay.rompriuq dl~ra 40 paads alqv!rsn aqt aulos.raAo o~ .atunq ilq altIsJj pup u!n81? pun 1r!n8~ palpnls aq Iynom L]>!~M p~om~ luar~vuulad r! pall!hoJd n'llt~nlleu 11 's!si(~~?u~ '!o!iortI JO 1001 I: sv 813~183 I?IU~UI~ U~IIOU IURJU! uaq~ 2q1 JO sxwohppe lsa!l.lns XJ~A 3~1 jo auo svm aH ,pu!rlaq .IT?J sa!pnis qn~i?mdo~s aldru!s s,~olil~~ aheal 01 I)allalr; pq 4p.1emu0 1 161 UIO~ ?IJOM s,rllx~q~!q!pii~s yio~ jo S!SK]WUC 3~!1113!3~ 'papclap 01 Lay aqi plaq ,,suo!)our jo e!llw!ril,> asarli leql pur! 'ilal!wa ~r~!od a111 pacs!uj pnq dol,h?~ ley] paharpq qlalql~f) 'srshlnuc .lorla!o!l~a L,ladnrd.. 01 asucnalar a113!1 p~:q ,,uo!lout 40 c!lnu!u ayl Bu!~eB!~sa,$u! sv~ >uo aJarlm poo2., a.lam Lay1 ~~~OLI~II?

pun umo s!q JO uo!sualx3 Jori!tu n alam daql pmlt?"~ "dldw~s I)PLI iuaullu!oddrs!p s,qlarq1!9 01 rpuul p11r 'suo!Ie.+uuu! >say1 r[l!.lz passardru!un i(l~cln?u!s rraaq prq ~o~hr!~

Page 8: Frank Bunker Gilbreth: Building Contractor, Inventor and Pioneer ...

F. B. Giherh: Burlding Contractor, Inventor and Pioneer ldwstnal Engmet-r

and more conlmonly as an institution that did nothing but disrupt his plans. Gilbreth had often locked horns with unions himself whilst still a contractor, but was not xs absolute in his conviction that they werc nothing hut a hindrance. I.Iis atlitude to unions seems to have been ambivalenl- on the one hand he had been a union man himself whilst a bricklayer, yet on the other had found lhat unions were often reluctant to embrace the new systems of management he d ~ o c a t e d . ' ~ His stance seems to have been thit it was perfectly right that unions should exisr for the purposes oT collective b~lrgaining, but that such negotialion should slop short of being able to interfere with the implementation of Scientific Mmagemenl techniques, ant1 lhat no one coulcl "install Scientific Mnnagement and similarly piirticipaie in n debuting soc ic ty" . "~he whole point of Scientific Management, argued Gilbreth, rvm that it set pay rates and productivity bonuses on s scientific and logicill basis (the result of motion studies) and that workers would the.reforc be asked to work (and lx paid) on a Fair, reasonable and straightforwxcl basis. If this was interrered with by unions it woulrl sinlpIy disrupt the "square deal" that "does ,and nlusr exist" under his system. Mnnagen were warned as strictly as unions that their interi"crence in the system would only be detrin1ental;and labour leaders were advised not lu oppose Scientific Mana~cment . Rathcr, they were to study il themselves to make sure they were getting the bcst they could and that managers were implementing the system honestly and e~ficientiy."

It is perhaps ironic that a syslem of business efficiency developed by a sclf-made man wha believed firmly in the God-given right of every Alncrican tcl lurn an extra dollar should be enthusiastically received by the Communist party. By 19 IS even Lenin had read Gilbreth's work on motion stttdy and described it as "m ex cell en^ example of technical progress under capitalism toward

Frank and Lillian continucd to research and pubtish heir findings at a fast pace. Lillian's work on Management Psychology had provcd to be a success, and (he yem 19 16 and 1917 muU the publication of Futi,yue Sfil~7y and A p p k d Motion Sturiy which again primarily used exanlples from the construction industry to illuslrate their now the Gilbreths' work hnd becume a small library on construction, efficiency and managemellt, dealing with cveqthing h u m the effects of fire on vxious building materials to [he bcst w q to cope with the irliusyr~cnsieu of individual worker^.^' 11e centrdl message was h t Scientific Management was a precise science. "the 1,esult of accurntely recorded, exact investigation", and that it coultl be applied to any indust~y, and integrated with the Gilbreths' recommendations on alnioosl every aspect or husi~lcss, including the training of apprentices. systematic promotiun plqls, productivity chans, health and sifety initiatives, bon~rs pay schemes, employee motivation and management ~ r ~ a n i s a t i u n . ~ ~ bank ' s prodigious output on management theory did not prevent hirn from maintainins his interest in the conslruc{ion ;u~d engineering industry. Even after becoming a management consultant he submitted ovcr twenty published articles to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers ranging from the atanJardisntion of enginwring tot>fs to the tnanuracture olcenient."""

War Service

By 1917 IF massive output In conslructlon, engineering and management had secured him a nat~rrnnl and internatiorral reputation and when the USA loinetl the First World War Ile was comrnls~~oned into rhe drmy and put IT %kills Into the war etfo~t . These ~ncluded, for instance, uslng h ~ s mot~un-analyrrq film? to help speed up the rate that soldler~ could be wught to assemble rnachine guns More disturbingly perhaps they ~ncluded the u ~ c of Gilhreth'~ film expert~se lo produce military propaganda hlms designed to tr'im recrults to hdte the encmy.

HI% posting aq a nifijot in the , h y Engrneerlng Gorp=, uamc about from hls rypically direct attitude 5' Tlle day Arnerrca e n t ~ r e d the war he sent a telegrrtrn to Preudci~t WiIson wh~ch read "Arriv~ng Washington, 7.03 prn tram. If you don't know how to use me I'll tcll you how" He was me1 off the t r i n and taken to the Wax Department! After pultlng much eflort Into efficient

machine-gun assembly Frank and Lillian undertook considerable research into time and motion studies o l what co~tld he done by war-injured veterans. The work by the Gilbreths did inean that veterans thereafter were able to choose a wider range of occupation than hefore and their rehabilitation programmes were systematic and rational. rather than ill-considered and piecenicat. Typically. thc Gilbreths did not cnntine ti~ert~seives to IialFhear~ted studies, but in 1920 published a sizeable and well-researched book on the subject. Sensibilities were not spared. They were. tor instance.'quitc sure that the work of'a dental assistance could bc performed "by a one-eyed, one- armed. legless cripple."

Family Man

'The Gilbreths' contribution to the construction industry, the engineering profession. the science of management and j~ldustrial productivity should not however blind us to the lact !hat they were real peoplc (Fig 8). It may he nssurned that such hardworking and dedicated professionals must have been quite dour, but this was far From the case. Two ol' their twelve childrcn coinbined 10

write two best selling horjks on Ihe necessarily bizarre lire of n h n ~ i l y of fourteen and both wcre made Inla popular comedy films." The problems lnvolved m taklng a dozen children on plcnbcs, of arranging a rorn syslem lor the hnthlnoln and or ol'len moving house can be easily injngined. Churts were sct up in the bathroom For each child to tick once they had b r ~ ~ h e d their teeth and jobs d o ~ l e For extra pocket motlcy had to be tendered for in ;I sealed bid! The whole family existed In n constant sr;~te of orgsnixed chuoc. and both books g v e a picture of a close-knit group in which only those wit11 a trumcndous sense uT hurnnur nnd a fondness for the ahsurd could survive?

Fig S: Thc G ~ l h w h l:;~rrbil? in c . lL)?l l (irnm QITC.\I {<I,- f l r r v~rc S('.rl Wuyi

Page 9: Frank Bunker Gilbreth: Building Contractor, Inventor and Pioneer ...

F. 8 . GiIbreth: Ruildin~ Contractor, lnventor and Pioneer IttdusaiaI Engineer M J Steel and D W Cheerham

A Premature Death

Frank was not alloweri the rcward of seeing his family grow up; he died suddenly in 1924. At the time of his death lle was acknowledged as the first person to recognise the value of the moving tilrn camera as iln ald tu industryr5 and as ;t leading figure in the Aght to have management recogn~sed a? o major division oU engineering. '-His progressiveness was labelted dangerous rddicalism by sulne of the older me!nbc~s, hut it is worthy of note that things that were ratlical when he tirst ndvocated [hem are comn~onplace today." HI< obituary noted that "His earnestness in debate ill the professional sessions [of Spr,ing and Annual M e e t i ~ l ~ s of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers) was only equillletl by Ilis entertaining ren~iniscences and love uf h n ..." Alillough cxtcnsive publications on motion study ant1 Scientific Mnnngement and co-autl~onhip with Idillinn were noted, hlu early i~lvenLlons itre not mcntior~ed and his early busiriess success was dismissed i r ~ two sentences. I t would sccm thit the mechanical engineers' view uf the status of contracting has remained urkchanged in seventy years.

T h e Gilhreth i~pproach to business efficiency has had enormous effects. His work in the constructio~~ industry left him wilh over a dozen potenrs filed undcr his name, and he made a signihcnnt Individual contribution to concrete tech~lology, and especially t o the held of bricklaying. Betwcen thein the Gilbl-eths publislled over hO books find artictes, and thcir co~~tr jbut ion as catalysts lo the field of management, efhcietlcy and business orgartisation is incalculable. Their works were (ranslated into over n dozcn languages and the repercussions of theit. ideas were enormous. Even rhe design of lhe desk in your office is a result of the oftice efticienuy movement which p e w ~ t p from Scieiltihc ~n r j a~e rnen l . " ' Wllether it is a prototype desigr~ for firepro01 concrete, a better way to al-range scaffoldirlg, o r the model for Soviet Russia'h tirst Fivc Yenr plan, i f has sornethi~~g to do with Frurlk Gilbreth nr~d his search for "The One nest Way"'.

Relcvancc Today

G~lbrettj's research into bricklaying has provided the basis for a series or studies i r j [he UK which hiwe extended over eighty years, bolh at the Building Rese~zrcll ~tntion"-'" and at the Univc~sity of ~ i v c r ~ o n l . " " ~ " ' During the 1960s whc~l brickwork was perceived as being threatened by replacement by prefabricated components il brodlurew aimed a t reducing the cost of brickwork, based a[ ei~tirety on work study techri~ques deriving from Gilhrerh's work, was published but hr~d little p~,ncticnl impact on site works, 111 Iloltand the Stichring Arkidslechnisch Oorlder/.r>ek Buuwnijverhcid (Research Instit~ttc for Labour Economy i n the R u i l d i ~ ~ g Trnde) continues Gilbreth's w01.t i r~lo ;ill btlildlr~g operi~tions. In p:uticular il has shown. using work study tecllniq~~cs. that rur rnoderrl thin walled brickwork the use of profiles to locatc the-corners of br~ckwork p~nduccs s ig~~ihcant labour economies."'

A trend ill the U K over the past twenty years IS (or mimy buildlng contractors to reduce the size o f their employer1 opzrotivr labour force, prcfcrring to concentrate on Gnarlcia1 mlinagement linked tu the co-ordination of trade cuntractors or even separately cnipluyed individuals. The pel-ception (IT constructinn management by building contractors has changed Crvm a primary concern witb work orgonisntion nntl labour nlnnngement to a concern wit11 hnanclnl milnagemcnt a i ~ d the co-ordination of trades contractors. This undo~ibtedly reduces the risk i l l v:~riitbility uf perfornlance of individuals ~ ~ t d ir~itlally avoided lidhilily for Sclcctive Employment Tax. Althougl~ this tax is no longer levied, it prornpted a chnnge which has proved irreversible. The consequence or these changes is n lack of detailcd interest. on the part o f milin corltractors, in huw the ope ra t ives actual ly work ; the opt imuln workplace, devices and power la reduce their effort and overcome Fatigt~e, and lack of

~nterest in trarnlng fur production. Most trade and subcontractors Pack h e arganksation, resources and expertise to fill the management gap left by the withdrawal of larger contractors from responsibility Tor labour prhduceivity-, they simply "muddle through".

When studying the writings or the Gilbreths one is nware of their recognition of basic concepts concerning the mutual responsibilriy of the employer and employee: they would not have rccognised ihe piece work (labur-only) culture prevalent in Rri~i11 today. Thot~gh the irnpermhnent nature of employment has not changed they placed grcatcr ernpl~asis on "steady pay Inen" und apprenticeship training than do present day main corltractors. They recognised the importnnce of feelings, sentiments and emotions in the ~notikation of individual workers and while adapting the slogon "the one best way'' acknowletlged thut the best way may be different (01, different people. Frnnk r eco~n i sed that bricklayers, if in the habit of working inefficiently, bending, st~,ctching and using many movements, might not be able to modify their working prnctices. 1,Ie ernphhasised training apprentices in the best, scientilically anaiysed ilnri developer1 working methods and wa'; a researcher untl reacher who encouraged tllro~tgh publication and personal hnhit the starch for the one best way to perrnrm a task as a rneanv of greilter production.

Gilbreth's motivational tcchniqr~es of slrength and speed compctirions gruuping men and hoys by religious and naciunal origit~s might be regardcd as offensive by some today. Nevertheless, his ~rlt[~oductioo of bonus payments and his awarding 1001s as prizes and emphasis on simple mutions would he widcly nppreciaterl. His early work un concreting system showed cortcern for design with production in mind - Buildabll~ty. His field system for maintaining records provides a basis for what hiwe more reccntly become known as Qualily Management systcms. 'Chis, combiner1 with his recognition of the importance of the engineering dimension in building, provides a focus for the current dehntc "that building is nn engineering discipline".

Alunost nll of Gilbre~h's ideas on training, mechanisation, managemcnl, incentives, materials distribution, work orga~tisntion for rninimunl effort and pl~ysical movement remain valid. Hc always followed the ccientlhc n~etllod: select a topic tor investigation, ohscrve, record, develop a hypothesis, conduct an experimen~, nnalyse results, install and re-assess to improve Lhe efliciency and effectivenesh u l the proccss. He was fully aware of the literiiture and clearly stimulated by his wire's interest in psycholugy.

Authors' Footnote

The precise rea.;ons for Gilbretl~ 1.etiring from contrncti~?g to become a ma~lagement consulk~nl may well never be known. His early business success is evidcnt from his Conning hi? contracting company nnd its subsequent expansinn. The history of his company and whnt hiippened when he resigncd does not appear to bc documented. Most accounts concentrate nn his conflicts wilh Tuylor and his collabor:~tion with his wire.

T h e Gilhrekh papers arc now archive mater ia l at Purdue University. In the course of prep:kration the author? have received helpful corresportdence From M!, Jane hlorley. Deparimenl o r Histo~,y and Sociology OF Science, University 01- Pen~~sylvnnia. She comments that t l~c Gilbreth pilpers are ''A huge, rich, idiosyncratically arranged collectic>n". There would appear tu k scope for origillnl archive research into Gilb~zth's contractjng h1.m.

Cot', ~ s p o ~ ~ d r n r e n W Clleetham. School ot Arct~itecture and Build~rig Erig~ncerlng Un~vers~ty of Llverpwl, PO Dox 147. Liverpool t 69 3BX

Page 10: Frank Bunker Gilbreth: Building Contractor, Inventor and Pioneer ...

F.B. CiEbreth; Building Contnictur, lnventur and Pioneer lndwtrial Engirwer


1. Frederick W Taylor, "Shop klvlnnagemerlt". Paper presented to the American Society ol --Mechanical Engineers (ASME). I 9f1.7.

.; 2. Claude S George, Histmy oj Muncr.ycmen/ T / I U L I S ~ I (NEW Yurk. 1972). p99, 3. Leon Urw~ck, Maki~l,y o/ Srir~~rific h'rrnrrgemrnr (Yo1 1)- (19H7), p129. 4. Lillian M Gilbrelh. Quesf ~ O I . T / I P Ol?r &rsr M/ny (Ensmn. 'Y. 1973), p16. 5. Ibid., p14. 6. Ibid., p20. 7. Ibid., $1. 8. Frank R Gilhreth, FirldSy.~rem (Yew York. 1908). 9. Prank R Gilbrclh; Cmnrr-PIP Syslcm (New York, 1908)

10. Frank B Gilhreth. Rrickluvinfi S V S ~ P I ? ~ (New York, 19091, p7 1 . I I. Frnnk B Gilhi-eth. Srrr.~st..s i ~ i Rrrl!fol-r.rd Carrrrrlc Reavrs T r a n s n c ~ i ~ ~ ~ of the America!)

Socicty of Mechsnicdl Engineers. 3 1 ( 191)',1), p543. 12. Gilbreth, COIIC-FL'IP ,S~.sft~m. Directiye 22 I . 13. Jane Morley. 'FI-ank Bunker Cilbreih's Concrete Sy=;tem'. C ' U I I ~ I - ~ ~ ~ Inrernrrrionul (USA) N u

t I . Vol 12 (Nov 1490). p57. 14. Charles W 1Vrqe. I;'~,er/~t-ir.X W luy101-: T ~ P Puflrrl- (?fSricnr$r. 1Wr11lu.~~nren/ (Irwin. Illinois.

195'1). p212. 15. ~ . lc j r le~; .Fr:l~lk Bunkel Gilbrt.ih's3. 16. Dnilicl Nelson. Ft.~del-ir;(- W lil,ylo~, olio' iIrc Ri.w ofSc.tcnttfit. Mu/lri,yemmt (Madivan, 1980).

~ 1 3 1 . 17 brerederick W Taylor. P~-i~r<.iple~ .Yr.irntt/ic, ~Monu.<vmp~?t (Ncw York. 191 I ) . [ Y . Wrcge. Furllrt., p2 14. 20. Milron J Nadworny. S~-lcl~r$r 1l.Io1lrytnrr111 ~ f I d /hr Ij~?iurrs 19111)-I932 (Cambridge, Moss.

1'353, p22. 2 1 . Sanluel Haber. .FfifjSr,ierrt:1. rrr~d U/d(f'i: Sriellii/iim Monn~y~t)lcrrr in rhr Pt,o,,e D,u 1890-

1920 (Ch1c;lpo. 1964). ~ 7 . 22. Geoi-ge. I-lts/or:~ p49. 23. Gilbrett~. R~-ir,lku~fn~q Syurnt, p l h. 23. I h i ~ l . . p14. 25. Miltoll 1 Nadworny. -Frederick Taylol anti Frank Gilbrellu: Conlpe~i t ion in Scientifc

.Manil:e~nmt'. R~rsi~tr*r.i Hisror~ IIc~,id,n.. 3 1 { 1957). $3. 26. Urwick, Mtrbrr,q. pY4. 27. RPI'I'cM' o / ' R t * i ~ i ~ ~ ~ ~ . ~ . (July I91 1 ). p7 1. 28. Daniel T Rogers. Il'o~ b Dkit- ill I~trl~rsrr.,rrl Amrr-ir,o IHJO-IgZO !Chic:~:o. 148 i), p56. 29. Wrege. Farhcr-. p2 17. 30. Ibid.. p2 I X. 3 1, Narlwurny. Ul?in~ls, p47. 32. NPH. Yor-k TTinlcx (29 March. 2 April I91 I ) . 33. Edna Yost, Ftnnk u/?rl Lillilrn G~/JII.PIII: P ~ U / ~ P I , A ~ L I - Lifr (New Br,tlnswick, 1949). p2I7. 34. Nadworny. 'Frederick Taylor', U~rsi~lrss Hlr~or-x RFI.;PM,, p l 3 . 35, Wrege, Furllrr, p2 19. 36. Gerald A Cole. ~Vlur~ugrtl~rnt Ttrt,ot> rrtld P,nr,ric'r (G~re~nsey, 1982). p23. 37. Haber, Ejhcicrrr.~, p38. 38. Gilhl-etl~ chri~lenetl t l~es r motion ~tnlts "Tlierblip" (virtually '*Gi[hreth" reversecl). Sec Frnnk

B Gilbreth k Lil[iau M Gilbreth. Ap{)litxi1 ~Molicrr~ Srfrrlx (New Y ~ I - k , 1917). Chap. 3. 39. Tnrroduclion to F & L Gilbreth, MUI~OI I Si~tdy!!'.

40. Ib~d., Chap 3. 4 I. Danlel Wren, Ei~uluiiun uJ Manugemelir Thov~hi (New York, 19791, pI70. 42 Naduomy. Urrirjnr, p54. 43. F R Gilbreth, PrirnerofScrenti~~ Munog@menr (New Yerk). 1914. p85. 44. Ib~d. , p 87 L Ivl Gllb~cth. Psxcholgq~ oj Manugemen1 (New Yurk, 19 14), pl21. 45. Fur arl analysis of the dialogue between Amcrican Cornrnunislr and advocates of Scientific

Managmen1 see: Judith A Merkle, Manugemrnt rrnd Idrolo,:y: The Lqqac? qfrhc Internariwal Sr,~erttific Mana~emeni Mov~,rrttrtt (Berkky, 1980). The quotntion by Lenin is from t h ~ s work, p103. Gilbreth was even sent a presentailon copy of his own work (in Russian) by lhe Centml Lnstitute of Work in Mosct>w. Yost, Pa~qnes, p290, Also see Haber, &flcirncy, pp102-38.

46. F R & L M Gilbrcth. I:air,qlt~ Study (New York, 1'3 16). F I3 & L ,U Gilhrelh. ;I/~/?lied Motion Srltdy (New Yurk. 19 17).

47. 1. M Gilbreth, Psychulg~y, Chap 3. 48. F B $ L M Gilbreth. Applicd~l.lot~on, p3. 49. F B Gilbrcth, 'Sessioi~ un the Svundardisnrion of 'Cools', Jolavnnl u# the Amel-ircm Sur,iety of

Mechanical En<qinrcrr, 44 (1923) p727. 50. F B Gilbreth, 'Sympu?iium o n Cemetit Mani~facture'. Trnnsncriona qf fhf Americun Surtery of'

1Meuhunicul El~~qirrecr.~ 33 ( 19 1 1 ). p186. 51. 1' R Gilbreth (junior) & Erncstirlc Carcy (nee Gilbreth). Cheopc.1- h j rh' Do:err ( N e w York,

1948), p74. 52. Gi lhr~lh & Carey, Cheripcr, I: B Gilbreth & E Carey, Bells on Tjtc~r. Toes (1950). 54. Gilbreth B Cai-ey, Cheape~, p2, 24,27, 35-7. 55. Anon., 'Necrology: Prank Blinker Gilbreth'. TI-unsurrrona of'rhr An?r~ , i r ,u~~ Socirty r,l'

Mrchnnisal E I Z ~ ~ P I P P I J ( 1924'). pp1300-2. 56. Adrian Forty. O b j ~ c ~ s qf' Uesil-e: D e s i ~ n und Soctrry 1750-1 980 (19Xh), p 122-40. Thc

rarnifcaliun.: nf thc Gilbrcths' work were many and varied. As Forty points out the Scientific Management movernenl rostered an entire industry ger~red to eflicrent dcsigll of oftice space ;und office lumiturc. The r e s~~ l t s of Gilbl-eth's th inkrn~ evcntuatly spl-et~d al l over the wol-Id. See W A Lewchuck. 'The Role of the British Covernmenl in the Spread of Scientific Mmagernent and Fordism in the Interwar Years'. .lula~-nu/ nJ'Eco~inmir History (19X4), p355. Li[lintl Gilbreth even niarke~ed tht: rvclrld's hrs t tampon. Vern L Bulloph. Merchandising the Saniti~ry Napkin: Lillian Gilb~.cth's 1927 Survey, Si,y~is 10 (19841, phl5.

57. D G R Bonnell, D W hldretl B L W Raltlwir~. 'Mcthods of Bricklaying', Birilrlr,~. 167 ( 1944). p75-7.

58. W Kinrlihurgll k L 5 Villlance. '.4 Work Study in Bricklaying', Nnrionul BuiIlin<f S~~rrlirs Ttr-hnicnl Prrl~e, 1 ( 1948).

54. 1 F Nuttall, .Produc~iun experiments rn brick and blbck laying'. WOI-k Sfudy (9-20 Much 1968).

60. U J Molrlock Ilr B Whitehend, 'Productrvity in Brick and Btwk Cflnslruction - A litcl.atur.c survey'. B~rildirrg Srierlc'r 4 ( 1920, pp179-97.

61. B Whiteheltd. 'Prodr~ctivi~y in Bricklaying', Uuildir~: S c i c ~ i c ~ 8 ( I 973). ppl- 10. 62. R Whitehead, D J Mortlock. D W Hulluwny. M W Jcpson, D J Catt, developm men^ and

'Trials of an Alrernnrive Method of Bricklaying', Constl-ucrion lnd~rrrry Xeseurc,h and i~l fo~a~urion As.suciorio11 Rrporr 42 ( 1972).

63. D W Cheetham. 'Br~cklnying - the Problems of Translatir~g Resenrcll into Practice', Proc CIR 90 I~~rrrntrrior~ol S?rf~l~o.~irrm on Rltilrli17.q Er'onomics c:nd Constl-vction Mona<ycmer~t 6 (Sydney. 1990). pp 107- 18.

h4. C A Francis. 'Bricks and Efticiency', Nrrrronal Feclernriun of Cluy 1ndarrt1-l. (I9hbj. 65. C P Vershuren. P~,ivntc Conu~nunication and SAOB doculnentafion and data files.