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2: Technolgies


Trash Can with Foot Pedal
Trash Can with Foot Pedal © Amazon

One of the innovations that Lillian’s work has created was the foot pedal to open up trash can lids. She is best known for her time and motion studies. This was her methodology for of her work in helping workers in efficiency and simplification. To solve a problem, the first step is to know the process and to understand how it works. By using a time and motion study it does exactly this. It lets someone measure each and every step of a process. By analyzing and measuring the steps of a problem then it can then be easily identified of where areas can cause waste or an area where it could be more ergonomically friendly. For the first time management was trying to see how they could help their workers to be more efficient and safe during the early to mid 1900s. By stripping away waste, it can save an organization a tremendous amount of money. Management does not need to increase a price for a product to increase their profits but just decreasing the cost and stripping away waste in producing an item or process can raise their revenues. The customer still receives the same quality but  could be potentially at a lower price.

The Gilbreths helped optimize the proccess that went into bricklaying. © Stockphotos

An example of where Lillian and her husband used time and motion studies to help workers was in brick-laying. By analyzing how the work was done currently she and her husband noticed that workers had to constantly reach and adjust their ladders to lay down bricks. A solution that they recommended was that they use scaffold that permitted quick adjustment of the working platform so that the worker would be at the most convenient level at all times. They also equipped the scaffold with shelves for the bricks and mortar  which saved a lot of unnecessary movement and saving the worker from bending down to pick up bricks. Another process that she improved was that she hired lower paid workers that their job was to lay bricks on a wooden shelf with the best face right side up. This saved the brick-layer the step of having to turn the brick over and look for the side best side to lay it on. With all these process improvements they reduced the number of motions from 18 steps to about 4 (2). It also reduced the motion of the brick layer bending over and picking up the bricks. Since it is an awkward repetitive motion the entire process become much more ergonomically friendly. This was just one process that Lillian helped improve to make workers lives much easier and helped the organization become much leaner and efficient. Lillian has traveled all over the world giving organizations consulting. During her long career she has advised Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson on matters of civil defense, war production and rehabilitation of the physically handicapped (4).

Much of her work was focused on inefficiency and waste. She not only spent much of her time researching on how to reduce these two variables but she also spent a great deal of time on human fulfillment and potential human satisfaction. As from her research workers who felt more fulfilled with what they were doing and were satisfied performed better at their jobs.

Lillian Gilbreth had much on her plate. Not only did she spend her time writing books, helping companies with management skills, managing women consumers, but she had 12 children that she had to support. One of her more famous places that she worked was for Johnson and Johnson in 1926. She was hired by them to help consult and research of to how help women improve their spending decisions during the Great Depression. The first way that she helped Johnson and Johnson was that she offered training as a psychologists in measuring and the analysis of attitudes and opinions. Another thing that this organization benefited from her was that she was a public image as a mother of 12 and a modern career woman to build consumer trust.

It is just amazing that during the gap between her generation and our generation that we are still using many of the same methodologies to target and to reduce waste. It just shows how far ahead Lillian Gilbreth was ahead of her time with her methodologies of work.

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