Manufacturing Rationality: The Engineering Foundations of the Managerial Revolution

By Yehouda Shenhav | Go to book overview

corporations can function efficiently, acknowledged the relevance of standardization and systematization to their performance. Smith argued, 'The only trades which seem possible for a joint stock company to carry on successfully, without an exclusive privilege, are those . . . Capable of being reduced to what is called a routine, or to such a uniformity of method as admits of little or no variation' ( Smith 1937: 713). Smith's prophecy proved to be a self-fulfilling one. The engineers, who pioneered the standardization of instruments, gradually extended their expertise to the standardization of workers. The following chapter examines in detail the extension of systematization and standardization into the management of organizations. Within the Constructivist framework this is termed 'translation': elements distinct from one another -- technical and organizational systems -- are made homologous. I posit that mechanical engineers 'translated' elements from the distinct realm of the technical to the uniquely different sphere of the social and organizational (see Callon 1980; Latour 1987).


Notes
1
A similar argument was made regarding scientists. See Hounshell 1996.
2
The four societies -- American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), and American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (AIMM) -- established an organizing conference to which 110 engineering and allied technical organizations and societies were invited. Humphrey reported that 60 percent of those invited attended and they represented an aggregate membership of over 100,000 individuals, or 83 percent of the membership of all organizations and societies invited. See American Machinist, 17 June 1920: 1320.
3
See Hounshell 1984: Appendix 1 for the evolution of the expression 'The American System of Manufactures'. See also Mayr and Post 1982; Hughes 1989a.
4
Charles E Scribner observed in 1913 that 'the first application of the principles of interchangeable manufacturing can be traced to the making of firearms by Eli Whitney, at the beginning of the Civil War' ( American Machinist, 4 September 1913: 399). Whatever version we take for the origin of production based on interchangeable parts, it belonged to the armament industry in the United States.
5
This series resulted in a book by Horace Lucien Arnold and Fay Leone Faurote, Ford Methods and the FordShops ( 1915). See Hounshell 1984: 228, 260; See also the editorial in Engineering Magazine, March 1913: 961.
6
Hounshell based his account on Steven Walter Usselman's Ph.D. dissertation ' Running the Machine: The Management of Technological Innovation on American Railroads, 1860-1910' ( 1985).
7
The full statement was 'when one well done calculation or experiment shall replace a thousand half done, and system shall replace chaos' ( Calvert 1967: 171).
8
Again, there was opposition to the publication of the code. For example, John Clinton Parker protested against 'further backing of the propaganda for state control of boiler design'. See Sinclair 1980: 177.

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