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Body movement and the brain

Help La crise du taylorisme et les nouvelles formes d’organisation du travail L’organisation scientifique du travail 1909, LE TAYLORISME

In 1939, to solve certain problems caused by repetitive manual labour on assembly lines (but with the ultimate goal of increasing productivity even further), Harvard University began conducting a research project for Western Electric.

Somewhat randomly, the Harvard researchers began to modify certain factors in the organization of work, such as lighting, the timing and duration of workers' breaks, and overall work schedules. Curiously, no matter what changes were made, productivity increased. The conclusion: when managers take an interest in workers (or pretend to do so), they produce more because they feel valued.

In another classic experiment, when workers in a plant were divided into two groups, and one was given a vitamin and the other a placebo, absenteeism decreased by the same amount in both groups. This discovery (named the Hawthorne effect, after the name of the Western Electric plant near Chicago where the experiment was conducted) gave rise to the human-relations trend in corporate management.

Experience : Effet Hawthorne Link : Hawthorne Effect Link : The Hawthorne effect: a note

Taylorism became the dominant method of organizing work in the early 20th century. Based on separating the design of tasks from their performance, it allowed for tremendous gains in productivity compared with pre-industrial, artisanal production.

As early as 1908, automobile manufacturer Henry Ford saw the many benefits that his industry could derive from applying Taylor's theories. When Ford introduced the assembly line to build his Model Ts, Taylorism became Fordism. The term Fordism thus refers to the rationalization of the Taylorist method of organizing work through the creation of assembly lines, which made standardization and mass production possible.


The advantage of the assembly line was that it brought the work to the worker instead of making the worker go to the work. In Ford's auto plants, workers were never supposed to have to stoop, stretch, or take more then one step in any direction. By the 1920s, thanks to the assembly line, it took only 1/12 as much time to build an automobile as it previously had.

By continuing to promote the division of tasks, the ideologues of Fordism soon revealed the limitations of these principles. By reducing workers to the status of machines, these principles ultimately impaired the profitability of the enterprise itself. With the depression of the 1930s, social protest movements also emerged to which employers were forced to respond.

As a result, bosses began to pay special attention to "human relations" within the firm. To put it more clearly, they tried to get workers to identify subjectively with the company's goals. Improvements in the work environment in terms of atmosphere, physical amenities, and communication also had positive impacts on employees' productivity (see sidebar).

During this same period, some unionized workers began to stress the importance of enriching jobs by giving workers tasks from which they could derive a sense of personal achievement. It was also during this period that ideas such as decentralization and self-management were first raised.

Since the 1950s, technological progress has brought significant changes to the principles of Taylorism and Fordism. The old-fashioned assembly line was divided into a series of fixed workstations constrained by the slowest operation. But now, instead of being treated as an additive process, production is regarded as a continuous flow. Production workers' jobs have come to include a larger element of monitoring and supervision, in which semi-autonomous teams organize themselves, assign their own tasks, and make their own decisions concerning production.


These employees are also expected to control the quality of their own product and maintain their own machines. If problems arise, the team members co-operate to get production going again. And if the company makes changes in its product line or processes, these workers must be able to adapt to them. This versatility lets the company reduce downtime and increase productivity. In short, this form of job enrichment makes employees feel that they are "indispensable".

Source: Denis Simard, Cégep Sept-Iles

This production method is often called Toyotism, after the Japanese automobile maker Toyota, which was the first to put it into practice. In this method, productivity gains no longer come from simplifying tasks and intensifying the work pace, as in Fordism, but instead come from increasing workers' flexibility and thus maximizing their usefulness to the company. In both cases, however, the company's objective is still to increase productivity and thus increase its profits by getting more out of its workers.

The robots used on assembly lines are machines designed to replace human hands. These machines can be programmed to perform myriad tasks with strength and accuracy, in locations that would be dangerous, hostile, or hard to access for human beings.

While automated machines repeat the same operations indefinitely, robots can make certain choices. This flexibility in their operating cycle is made possible by the computers that control them. Some robots are shaped like human beings and are therefore called androids.

Link : Introduction to Robotics Tool Module : La main Link : Automates intelligents Link : Pino, le robot humanoïde qui apprend par lui-même à marcher Link : Des robots humanoïdes qui apprennent le mouvement à l'aide d'un réseau de neurones dynamiquement reconfigurable Link: Humanoid robot "isamu"

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