Introduction to Industrial Engineering

By Jane M. Fraser

Chapter 12

The past and the future

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12.8 Mobilization for World War II:

Drucker described the mobilization of production for World War II as being much more than replacing the machines in a plant from machines to make lamp shades to machines to make planes. He never uses the term “industrial engineering” but the following passage describes what IEs do:

“The wrecking of the old machinery, the new buildings, even the designing of the new machinery, were more or less incidental to the real problems and the real achievements of conceptual and human organization. First came the design -- not of machines but of the plan as an assembly of identical and interchangeable parts. Then came the analysis of each part as a problem in mass production, as something that is being produced in a sequence of elementary and basic operations, performance fast and accurately by an unskilled or semiskilled worker. Next came the task of merging the production of each part into a plant producing the whole -- a task involving three distinct problems of organization: one of people working as members of a team to a common end, one of technical processes, one of materials flow. Finally came the job of training thousands of new workers and hundreds of new supervisors many of whom had never seen the inside of a plant before. On those four pillars, design of the final product as a composite of interchangeable parts, design of the production of each part as a series of simple, repetitive operations, design of a plant to integrate human labor, machines, and materials into one whole, and training in skills and in teamwork, rested every achievement of our war production” (pages 32-33, Drucker, The Concept of the Corporation, 1983)

Drucker points out that mass production is

“based on the combination of three factors: standardization and interchangeability of parts; a principle of production which sees each process as a composite of elementary and unskilled manipulations; and a principle of materials control which aims at bringing all pieces needed for any given step of the operation to the operator at the same time” (page 154-5).

Operations research (called operational research in Britain) was also developed during World War II. This research on operations helped improve the effectiveness of the use of people and machines. The book Methods of Operations Research (First Edition, revised, 1951) by Philip M. Morse (Dr. Morse was my academic grandfather: his Ph.D. student, Robert M. Oliver, was my academic advisor for my Ph.D.) and George E. Kimball collected material written by various authors during the war, and was first published as a classified document shortly after the war. The book describes how quantitative analysis of data, quantitative reasoning, and experimentation were used to improve aircraft search for submarines, the setting of depth charges when dropped on submaries, the appropriate maneuvers by a ship to evade an incoming suicide plane, and more.