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Here's some little-known facts about Industrial Engineers, historical perspectives on IE, and the impact of "Efficiency Experts" on modern society. If you have an interesting bit of history or a story to contribute, please contact us.

Ever wonder where the term "Work Smarter...Not Harder" originated? Allan F. Mogensen, the creator of Work Simplification, coined the phrase in the 1930s. A more modern equivalent term for the current era is probably "Business Process Reengineering."

Frederick Taylor, the "Father of Scientific Management," and an "efficiency expert," is generally acknowledged to be the first true Industrial Engineer. He conducted studies at Midvale and Bethlehem steel plants. One of Mr. Taylor's famous experiments had to do with increasing the output of a worker (named "Schmidt") loading pig iron to a rail car. With time and motion study, he increased the worker's output from 12 to 47 tons per day! Taylor used improved methods plus rest periods of specific interval and duration to improve the output. One fact not frequently mentioned was that Schmidt was a prime physical specimen who jogged to and from work each 12 hour day! Not exactly an average operator!

Did you know that one of today's operating room procedures was developed by Frank Gilbreth (along with Frederick Taylor, one of the founders of Industrial Engineering), in an efficiency study of medical operations? The next time you see a surgeon extend an opened hand and a nurse place an instrument into it, think of Industrial Engineering. Prior to this change in method, doctors wasted much time (frequently while the patient bled) searching for the right tool.

Early in his career Frederick Taylor spent a great deal of time developing methods and time formulas for metal cutting operations. One little-known contribution of his and an associate was the development of high-speed tool steel (HSS), still used today in many machine shop cutting tools.

One of Frank Gilbreth's first "motion studies" concerned the age-old craft of bricklaying. Bricklayers stooped over to pick up every brick and then stooped again to get mortar. Mr. Gilbreth designed and patented special scaffolding to reduce the bending and reaching, increasing output over 100%. At the time, unfortunately, unions resisted his improvements, and most workers persisted in using the old, fatiguing methods.

Ever wonder why typewriter or computer keyboards are arranged in the so-called "QWERTY" pattern? It was because, in the early days of mechanical typewriters, proficient typists could type so fast that the keys frequently jammed against each other. In an effort to space often-used keys apart to prevent jamming, the familiar but illogical QWERTY pattern was developed.

Speaking of typing, one of Frank Gilbreth's clients in the early 1900s was the Remington Company, then a famous typewriter manufacturer. Mr Gilbreth was enlisted to help train a fast typist to help Remington win a world-wide typing competition, then a public relations coup. He trained the typist to continually focus on the copy, not the keys. The world champion typist in 1916 typed 150 words per minute, from strange copy, with no mistakes! Along the way, he also helped develop the Dvorak keyboard, a more efficient way of arranging keys (in contrast to the QWERTY arrangement above).

Frank Gilbreth studied the body motions of individuals performing work, in order to develop the most effective motion paths. After the outbreak of World War I, he was able, as an Army officer, to tell which military conscripts were faking body ailments (such as limps) to avoid service. He also used his expertise to produce training films and procedures. One example was a procedure to disassemble and reassemble a machine gun while blindfolded.

Frank Gilbreth's partner in both life and business was Lillian Moeller Gilbreth, who was a scientist in her own right. Lillian lived for many years after Frank's relatively early death, and carried on his career works in industrial productivity. A trained psychologist, she achieved national acclaim and was recognized by Congress for her work. Among other things, she patented an electric food mixer and a trash can with a step-on lid opener. A popular book and 20th-Century Fox movie, "Cheaper By The Dozen," tells the story of their marriage and family. A sequel, "Bells On Their Toes," was written by one of the Gilbreth daughters.

A final story about Frank Gilbreth.. In the course of studying manufacturing methods, Mr. Gilbreth developed his own system of "shorthand" to describe motions. Each motion had a symbol, somewhat like Egyptian hieroglyphics. He used about 40 distinct symbols, many of which were later adapted into commercial predetermined method/time systems. As an example, his symbol for focusing the eyes was a sketch of an eyeball, viewed from the side. He named a unit of time the "Therblig", his name spelled backwards (with two letters reversed for practicality).

The "Consultant Joke-of-the-Month"

A consultant booked himself on a Caribbean cruise and proceeded to have the time of his life. …at least for a while until a hurricane came unexpectedly. The ship went down and the man found himself swept up on the shore of an island with no other people, no supplies, nothing. Only bananas and coconuts.

Used to 4-star hotels, he had no idea what to do. So for the next four months he ate bananas, drank coconut juice, longed for his old life, and fixed his gaze on the sea, hoping to spot a rescue ship.

One day, as he was lying on the beach, he spotted movement out of the corner of his eye, it was a rowboat, and in it was the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen. She rowed up to him. In disbelief, he asked her: "Where did you come from? How did you get here?"

"I rowed from the other side of the island," she said, "I landed here when my cruise ship sank." "Amazing," he said, "I didn't know anyone else had survived. How many of you are there? You were really lucky to have a rowboat wash up with you." "It's only me," she said, "and the rowboat didn't wash up, nothing did."

He was confused, "Then how did you get the rowboat?" "Oh, simple." replied the woman "I made the rowboat out of raw material that I found on the island. The oars were whittled from Gum tree branches, I wove the bottom from Palm branches, and the sides and stern came from a Eucalyptus tree."

"But…but, that's impossible," stuttered the man, "you had no tools or hardware, how did you manage?" "Oh, that was no problem," replied the woman, "on the south side of the island there is a very unusual strata of alluvial rock exposed. I found that if I fired it to a certain temperature in my kiln, it melted into forgeable ductile iron. I used that for tools, and used the tools to make the hardware. But, enough of that," she said. "Where do you live?" Sheepishly he confessed that he had been sleeping on the beach the whole time. "Well, let's row over to my place, then," she said.

After a few minutes of rowing, she docked the boat at a small wharf. As the man looked onto shore he nearly fell out of the boat. Before him was a stone walk leading to an exquisite bungalow painted in blue and white. While the woman tied up the rowboat with an expertly woven hemp rope, the man could only stare ahead, dumbstruck. As they walked into the house, she said casually…"It's not much, but I call it home. Sit down please; would you like to have a drink?"

"No, no thank you" he said, still dazed, "can't take any more coconut juice." "It's not coconut juice," the woman replied. "I have a still. How about Scotch-on-the-rocks?"

Trying to hide his continued amazement, the man accepted, and they sat down on her couch to talk. After they had exchanged their stories, the woman announced…

"I'm going to slip into something more comfortable. Would you like to take a shower and shave, there is a razor upstairs in the cabinet in the bathroom."

No longer questioning anything, the man went into the bathroom. There in the cabinet was a razor made from a bone handle. Two shells honed to a hollow ground edge were fastened on to its end inside of a swivel mechanism. "This woman is amazing," he mused, "what next?" When he returned, she greeted him wearing nothing but vines, strategically positioned and smelling faintly of gardenias. She beckoned for him to sit down next to her.

"Tell me," she began, suggestively, slithering closer to him, "we've been out here for a very long time. You've been lonely. There's something I'm sure you really feel like doing right now, something you've been longing for all these months? You know… " She stared into his eyes. He couldn't believe what he was hearing:

"You mean… ?", he replied, "…I can check my emails from here?"

Last Month's Consultant Joke:

There once was a consultant who lived his whole life without ever taking advantage of any of the people he worked for. In fact, he made sure that every job he did resulted in a win-win situation. One day while walking down the street he was tragically hit by a bus and he died. His soul arrived up in Heaven where he was met at the Pearly Gates by St.Peter himself. "Welcome to Heaven," said St. Peter. "Before you get settled in though it seems we have a problem. You see, strangely enough, we've never once had a consultant make it this far and we're not really sure what to do with you."

"No problem, just let me in." said the consultant. "Well, I'd like to, but I have higher orders. What we're going to do is let you have a day in Hell and a day in Heaven and then you can choose whichever one you want to spend an eternity in."

"Actually, I think I've made up my mind...I prefer to stay in Heaven." "Sorry, we have rules..."

And with that St. Peter put the consultant in an elevator and it went down-down-down to hell. The doors opened and the consultant found hisself stepping out onto the putting green of a beautiful golf course. In the distance was a country club and standing in front of his were all his friends - fellow consultants that he had worked with and they were all dressed in tuxedos and cheering for him. They excitedly ran up and talked about old times. They played an excellent round of golf and at night went to the country club where he enjoyed an excellent steak and lobster dinner. He met the Devil who was actually a really nice guy and he had a great time telling jokes and dancing. The consultant was having such a good time that before he knew it, it was time to leave. Everybody shook his hand and waved goodbye as he got on the elevator. The elevator went up-up-up and opened back up at the Pearly Gates and found St. Peter waiting for him. "Now it's time to spend a day in heaven."

So the consultant spent the next 24 hours lounging around on clouds and playing the harp and singing. he had a great time and before he knew it his 24 hours were up and St. Peter came and got him.

"So, you've spent a day in hell and you've spent a day in heaven. Now you must choose your eternity."

The consultant paused for a second and then replied, "Well, I never thought I'd say this. Heaven has been really great and all, but I think I had a better time in Hell." So St Peter took him to the elevator where he went down-down-down back to Hell. When the doors of the elevator opened he found himself standing in a desolate wasteland covered in garbage and filth. He saw his friends were dressed in rags and were picking up the garbage and putting it in sacks. The Devil came up to him and put his arm around his.

" I don't understand,"stammered the consultant. "Yesterday I was here and this was a golf course and a country club and we ate lobster and we danced and had a great time. Now all this is a wasteland of garbage and all my friends look miserable."

The Devil looked at him and smiled. "That's because yesterday you were a consultant, but today you're permanent staff."

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