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Scientific management at work: the Bedaux system, management consulting, and worker efficiency in British industry, 1914-48

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Title: Scientific management at work: the Bedaux system, management consulting, and worker efficiency in British industry, 1914-48
Author(s): Weatherburn, Michael
Item Type: Thesis or dissertation
Abstract: Building on scholarly research into the history of management, consultancies, the British state, trade unions, and industrial activism, this thesis uses a variety of private and public archives, printed materials, and private collections, to examine the inception, development, and large scale implementation of work measurement in Britain between 1914 and 1948. It explores work measurement's origins in the American scientific management movement, particularly F.W. Taylor's unit-times, and Charles E. Bedaux's development of Taylor's unit- times into a more effective work measurement unit: the Bedaux B. It elucidates on Bedaux's commercial career and his foundation of several successful industrial consultancies in the 1920s. It explores the activities of his consultancy in interwar Britain, including the installation of the B system at Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) and the negotiations conducted in order to introduce the B system. It also explores Charles Bedaux's demonisation by the US and British media from 1937-44. The thesis then provides case studies of the circle of managers based at the Rowntree Cocoa Works at York in the interwar period to demonstrate that, in contrast to existing historiographical claims, the Rowntree circle were important in developing, and using, additional work measurement units derived from the B such as the Rowntree Mark, the Mander Work Unit, and the Urwick Orr & Partners Point. It explores the large-scale expansion of work measurement during World War Two, particularly in the use of the B- derived ICI Standard Minute unit at the Ministry of Supply's National Filling Factories, and the endorsement of work measurement by the postwar Labour government in the form of the establishment of the British Institute of Management in 1948. It examines how, when, and why the leadership of major trade union organisations, particularly the Transport and General Workers' Union and the Trades Union Congress, accommodated themselves to the Bedaux B and other work measurement systems in the early 1930s, as well as the more vociferous response to 'Bedaux and kindred systems' by the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Amalgamated Engineering Union. It concludes by examining the uneasy political consensus around the utility and practices of work measurement in postwar British industry, both public and private.
Content Version: Open Access
Publication Date: Jul-2014
Date Awarded: Jun-2015
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/25296
Advisor: Edgerton, David
Thane, Pat
Sponsor/Funder: Economic and Social Research Council (Great Britain)
Department: Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine
Publisher: Imperial College London
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Qualification Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Appears in Collections:School of Professional Development PhD theses



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