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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 8 (December 1, 1929)

Industrial Psychology — The Use of Psychology in Business — Relations Between Output and Technique. Selection of Operatives

page 22

Industrial Psychology
The Use of Psychology in Business
Relations Between Output and Technique. Selection of Operatives

An investigation of the theory of modern industrial psychology has been made by Mr. Dale to exhibit the extent to which it has been applied to the working of the New Zealand Railways system.

Iconcluded, last month, the first instalment of this article, with a reference to the superior results, upon output, following the introduction of improved working methods, and to the evil significance of an improper conception of the worker's time unit which results in speeding up.

Turn now to the second case in which the employer changes the technique of the job. It can be understood readily that in changing the mode of attack a greater output may be ensured during the time unit, but there may be, relatively speaking, no greater expenditure of energy. As a matter of fact, some methods, as shown in typing, are designed to conserve the energy of the employee. It can therefore be said, with certainty, that if the output is increased, but there is no added energy over and above the greatest reasonable expenditure, as under the old method, and during the given time unit, then “speeding-up” is absent.

Not Synonymous with Speeding Up.

This explanation should serve two purposes, namely, to dispose of the idea that psychology in business means greater effort, and also that it is a subtle move to “speed up” for it indicates conclusively that, under normal conditions, an increase of output is not necessarily the result of “speeding up” operatives. At this point the reorganisation of the Railway Workshops serves to give point to the facts. In this instance methods of work were investigated and, having regard to the application of the mental deliberations or acts of decision, as required when assembling, the lay-out of the work was reorganised so as to make such work more automatic. This simple adjustment was clear-cut psychology in that making decisions means mental strain, and, as such, demands energy which might otherwise be used in production. Moreover it is a time-saving device which increases output without any extra effort or energy.

Finally it should be remembered that, while industrial psychology aims at reaching industrial efficiency, it has no claims on the worker outside the factory, foundry, or workshop, although the worker's leisure is undoubtedly coloured by work shop or factory conditions. In America where standardisation is synonymous with workshop practice the Daily Mail Trade Mission noted that the workers enjoyed their leisure to the full despite the heavy demands on their energy by the work they performed. The evidence gathered showed that it was the scientific direction of effort in work rather than a multitude of labour saving devices which increased production without unduly fatiguing the workers. This also applies to the New Zealand Railways.

Selection of Operatives.

The General Manager has lately been illuminating on the subject of saving. The rank and file have had placed before them figures indicative of how losses can be stopped. No business can succeed unless the goods can be put on the market at the least cost, but the accomplishment of this aim is not easy. It involves many variable factors which, because of the differences in human beings, are more or less independent. Since we cannot cut all to a pattern, psychological science has, therefore, touched but one side page 23 of industry—that of cheapening production, but it has another task which the worker will realise is equally as important if commercial prosperity is to be maintained. That task is the choice of individuals for selected work. At present, many of the operatives may be doing jobs for which they are unfitted, not bodily, but rather mentally. The writer does not say that every man will be fitted to his job, but there will be no possibility of a man, whose sight is weak, being placed where sight is of the greatest importance. Later this aspect of picking the man for the job will be considered more fully. But to give point to these remarks one method of selection will be explained.

A boy desires to enter the machine shops. He has always been keen on machinery, and the salary sheet indicates a satisfactory rate of pay. The shops have become specialised, and the boy may be required to fit pins to centres of small rollers. This, of course, is a simple example. The skill demanded to perform this job is found in muscle and eye co-ordination, the pin must go straight in if the job is to proceed at a normal rate. The operation demands that one movement only must be made, there must be no bungling, no hesitation, no mis-hits. To ascertain his fitness for this task he is put before a simple machine, and tests for his fitness are made. The machine consists of:—

1. A metal stand with series of graduated holes which the boy must pierce with needle (5) at intervals. This interval is governed by factory conditions.

2. A dry cell connected with 1 and 5 and 4.

3. A delicately constructed watch which draws the time line on drum A.

4. A make and break magnet attached to a needle which draws a record on drum A.

A simple testing machine used to ascertain a worker's fitness for the performance of specific operations.

A simple testing machine used to ascertain a worker's fitness for the performance of specific operations.

When the record is complete the sheet is taken off the drum (shown under the apparatus). The record shows a “hit” when the needle makes a contact with the metal plate; this breaks the circuit and the needle at 4 drops. As the needle 5 is withdrawn from the plate the needle 4 lifts. When the hole is pierced cleanly by the operator nothing happens and the record is a straight line. This is the essence of the job in the shop so that if the pin does not go “home” at regular intervals then the boy is judged to be unsuitable for that type of work. Of course, one trial does not condemn. Practice is needed; but, after a time—sufficient for eye and muscle to work together—if results on the graph indicate no improvement, then output is being slowed up because of the operator's inability to overcome certain psychological difficulties, and he must be transferred to another job where his ability can be used. A more lengthy consideration of selection will be made later on when the utilisation of specific abilities will be made. In any case, selection is not a menace to the employee, rather it is an asset, for it means work in accordance with ability and psychological fitness.

Enough has been written to show the scope of the subject—that it has a definite part to play in industry. The application of the ascertained facts of industrial psychology can increase output without increasing the demands on the energy of the worker. Selection of workers on a basis of fitness will assist in relieving nervestrain and slowing-up; and, finally, by studying the job, construct new methods of work which are improvements on the old.

The next article will deal with some mental factors relevant to industry.

page break
“Panel and circumscribing wall Of latest feature, grand and tall.”—Thomas Hardy. The imposing booking hall of Wellington's new railway station (looking towards the Dining Room.)

“Panel and circumscribing wall
Of latest feature, grand and tall.”

—Thomas Hardy.
The imposing booking hall of Wellington's new railway station (looking towards the Dining Room.)