The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 9 (January 1, 1930)
Industrial Psychology — The Use of Psychology in Business — Some Relevant Mental Factors in Industry
In the following article Mr. Dale continues his elaboration of the theory of modern industrial psychology and states some interesting facts relative to the importance of fatigue as affecting output.
Note the physical and mental condition of factory operatives at “knock-off” time. The individuals exhibit a remarkable range in activity. There are some who are, apparently, “dog-tired,” there are some who seem reasonably fresh, while intermediate stages of fatigue between these extremes can be readily distinguished. Fatigue, as is generally defined, is the deadly enemy of both operative and employer. To the former it means the inability to enjoy leisure, while the latter realises that fatigue means a lessened output.
Scientifically, we are only now beginning to acquire precise knowledge about fatigue, but, even at the present stage of investigation, we know very little of the cumulative effects which seem so painfully evident in most industrial centres. What we do know, however, is that fatigue may be considered as a mental or as a physiological phenomenon.
Mentally, fatigue has been experienced by most of us. It comes as a feeling of tiredness or weariness, but it has a wide range of intensity, from sheer boredom to neurasthenia. Research in England during the war period, when factories were working at greatest pressure, showed only too clearly that fatigue at the most intense degree was responsible for the numerous cases of nervous breakdown. How far the mental state is the effect of the physiological condition it is not possible to say directly, as conflicting theories have been put forward by respective supporters with all the enthusiasm possible.
Physiologically, fatigue is much more easily recognised as a state of bodily exhaustion, a feeling of being “done-up” and requiring a rest. The explanation of this, too, is more easily given than that for the mental aspect. The state is brought about by the piling up of fatigue-toxins, which the blood cannot remove. These toxins are the residue of inorganic matter and used-up matter of the cells of the body. These chemical wastes are, in ordinary circumstances, immediately carried away by the blood, but if the blood stream becomes too heavily laden, the poison accumulates so that the individual requires rest to allow the blood to catch up on the job, as it were.
Relation Between Work and Fatigue.
When research noted this poisoning of the bloodstream, laboratory methods were devised to find out more about the connection between work and fatigue. Mosso perfected a small machine, which demonstrated beyond all doubt that fatigue was one of the greatest handicaps labour had to face. The machine was a simple contrivance, which demanded what was known technically as “work” by an isolated group of muscles. The machine, called an Ergograph, has since been modified and improved, but as the principle involved is the same in all machines, we may, with profit, describe it. (See Fig. 1.)
The arm is clamped in so that free arm movement is impossible; the first and third fingers are inserted in cases, which hold them firmly and so prevent movement there. The middle finger is left quite free to move in any way. When the experiment starts, the finger is inserted in a sheath attached to a wire, which runs over pulleys, to be attached to the weight. Every time the finger is raised (i.e., doing work) the weight is lifted. The contractions are continued until the finger is fatigued. By changing the weights, different conditions can be attained, and the amount of page 29 work can be calculated from the given data.
Importance of Rest Periods.
This insistence on rest periods is not yet general. Recently, in making an examination of some of the larger stores of one town, the writer noted the number of chairs which were not used. Girls behind counters have seats provided, but apparently rarely use them. Nor are these girls given rest periods off so that a real rest can be secured. It has been asserted that the sight of girls sitting down gives a bad impression to customers; that girls are not working hard enough to require rest; that the firm has never considered rest periods—there are many similar excuses.
Results of Fatigue Experiments.
The next step to show the result of fatigue, (See Fig. 2.) I shall select from the workshop experiments of Gilbreth, who, by-the-way, probably stands as the ideal scientific investigator. His idea was to co-ordinate the relation between fatigue, time and motion. Explained simply it meant that, under workshop conditions, what was the connection between fatigue, picking up weights, placing them down, and the movements necessary to complete the operation. The operation was timed in three sections, viz., time from starting to picking up weight, length of time from picking up to depositing, and length of time to recover an upright position. The experiment proved that the time of motions of different lengths is practically the same, unless those of the same length are consecutively repeated. The quantity of work that can be done in a day is, of course, much less with long motions than with short ones, due to extra time needed to overcome the fatigue of the long motions.
Having thus shown that laboratory methods give point to the statement that fatigue is wasteful in industry, turn now to the workshop for a consideration of the application of fatigue-saving principles. In the first article it was stressed that psychology in business aimed at getting the maximum output from the minimum of effort. Assuming that this is the aim, as I believe from personal investigation in the Railway Workshops, what steps should be taken to ensure that this aim is to be attained? First, education must be carried out. It must not be page 30 assumed that ordinary education is meant, but rather a complete understanding of the aims and objects of new methods and modes of setting out a shop, no matter whether it be a departmental or sectional workshop, or a huge undertaking like our own Railway shops. Men from top to bottom must throw overboard preconceived notions of right or wrong methods. The only right method is the one reached through scientific research.
Effect of Long Hours on Fatigue Causation.
The most obvious of all factors is the unit of work. We have passed legislation for an eight-hour day, which is, at least a beginning. Many employers, with a rush of work, immediately commence overtime rates. The worker, in most cases, welcomes the opportunity to make more money. In the light of what has been written, examine the result. Longer hours mean a greater measure of fatigue, with a resultant slowing up of real work output, to say nothing of errors causing a waste of material in the shop, as well as the increased cost of such inferior labour. This is not theory, but has been substantiated by enquiries as to the output by workers where overtime is almost habitual. Wharf labourers have admitted that the overtime work is less efficient in both quantity and quality than that performed during the work-unit. This statement can be verified by entering a departmental store late on a Friday night; the attention, courtesy, and service generally fall below the usual standard, not because the assistants so will it, but because fatigue, both mental and physical, is present in a large degree.
This illustration shews the floor space measured up to give exact data as to distance; weight on adjustable table to establish relationship between weight and height (this also enables studies in motion to be made); clocks to measure time, etc. (these measure up to 1-1,000th of a second); and cells used to give current to the apparatus for experiments.
In support of the contention that shorter hours really mean a greater output, a case may be quoted from Engineering, Oct. 6th, 1916, pp. 331–332. In a factory where surgical dressings were made a number of female operatives were engaged as “winders” for yarn. The operation is one requiring considerable dexterity, and constant attention in the piecing up of broken threads. The hours of work were from 6 to 8 a.m. 8.30 to 12.30, 1.30 to 5.30, and overtime from 6 to 8 o'clock in the evening. One operative, a single woman of 32 years of age, persistently refused to work before breakfast or after 5.30, declaring that the additional rest enabled her to turn out more than if she worked the whole twelve hours. When her claim was investigated, a month's output was compared with three other first-class hands who worked twelve hours a day for two weeks, and ten hours a day for two weeks. The so-called slacker, who worked only eight hours a day, won hands down. In addition to cutting out work from 6–8 a.m. and 6–8 p.m., she also stayed away the whole of one working day and three half-days, yet her output for the period was 52,429 bobbins as against an average of 48,529 for the three first-class workers who worked full time. The best of her three competitors had an output of 51,641, for which she worked about 237 hours, as against the 160 hours worked by the shorttimer. This effectually disposes of the theoretical use of overtime to secure greater output. It does show, too, that it is inadvisable for the employee to continue to work after a certain number of hours have been put in at the job.
Value of Modern Workshop Amenities.
The next aspect of the fatigue problem must then be that which concerns the work-unit. If the factory can prevent an accumulation of fatigue-toxins in the bodies of the workers, who is to benefit, and how can this result be brought about?
Considering the last part of the question first, there are four fundamental parts; (a) conditions page 31 of work; (b) machinery and rhythm; (c) hygienic conditions; (d) actual fatigue-saving devices.
When The Lunch Whistle Blows.
(Rly. Publicity photo.)
Employees at lunch in the well-appointed dining room at the Department's new workshops in the Hutt Valley, Wellington. About 300 men sit down to lunch daily in this bright and airy room, their luncheon requirements being attended to (on the quick lunch principle) by an efficient staff under the control of the Refreshment Branch. A feature of these daily luncheons is a programms of excellent musical items played by the Workshops Orchestra.
In the next contribution figures and examples of this noise principle will be quoted.page 32
Gaiety under a Canopy of Cloured Lights and Streamers
(Rly. Publicity photo.)
Plain and Fancy Dress Carnival Dance held in the Hutt Valley Workshops Social Hall on 26th November 1929. This was organised by the Workshops Social Committee (Messrs. C. O'Shea (Chariman), H. G. B. Du Faur (Hon. Secretary). F. C. E. Parr, W. J. P. Neil, J. W. Graham, H. G. Sloan, J. R. Maguire [gap — reason: Page torn at binding] McFarlane, N. H. Gjersen and E. G. Hancock) to raise funds for a Christmas Tree and a free Christmas gift to the children of the Workshops employees. Mesdames Walworth, Burton and O'Shea acted as judges and awarded first prize to Miss Leila Astwood (Spanish Lady), second prize to Miss Lena Steffensen (Egyptizn costume) and consolation prizes to the Misses Strickland (Page and Marionette), and Miss Lucy Steffensen (Highland costume.) The music was supplied by the Workshops Radio Orchestra and vocal items by Miss Harris and the Melody Four (Messrs. S. Duncan, R. S. Allwright, F. Bryant and W. W. Marshall). To Mr. A. E. P. Walworth (Works Manager), and his staff much credit is due for the success of the evening.