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Steel Industry Research Papers

This is a SAMPLE paper topic on the Steel Industry. Steel industry projects should describe the significant changes that occurred to the steel industry in terms of its evolution in management during the first half of the 20th century. In particular, a Steel Industry Research Paper should focus on how the steel industry went through significant changes in terms of organizational understanding, people management, complexity, and use of scientific theory in management (aka: scientific management) during the first half of the 20th century. Ideally, the Steel Industry Research Paper should begin with the works of Frederick Taylor and colleagues in the Bethlehem Steel and Midvale Steel plants during the early 1900’s and continue with the works of other scientific management experts that implemented new management techniques (primarily scientific management related) within the steel industry throughout the 20th century.

Steel Industry
  1. Please include at least one Table or one Figure within the body of the Steel Industry Research Paper. Use proper APA format for the caption of the table or figure.
  2. Also, the paper should open with a short abstract (not more than 120 words), and close with a conclusion (any reasonable length).
  3. References for the paper should include a combination of books, articles, and Internet sites. All references listed should have an in-text citation somewhere within the body of the paper to indicate where the information was used (in standard APA format).

Frederick Taylor's Theories and the Steel Industry

Taylor’s theories were originally based on his observations of work routines and behaviors at the Midvale Steel Company of Philadelphia. He was particularly troubled by a practice of employees of slowing down the work process in order to prevent their supervisors from learning how swiftly the work could be performed. This led Taylor to being time and motion studies using his personal observations and a stop watch to determine the amount of time necessary to complete a task. Based on these studies, he was able to determine the appropriate motions and time necessary to complete a task, with the data becoming the norm for determining piecework rates and bonuses. In 1881, he published his first paper regarding the cutting of metal based on his observations at Midvale.

In 1895, Taylor presented a paper on piece-rate systems using time and motion principles to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers that was acclaimed as innovative at the time. This led Bethlehem Steel to contract with Taylor in 1898 to conduct time and motion studies. At Bethlehem Steel, Taylor focused on the design of shovels that were used for shoveling coal into blast furnaces, which reduced the number of employees engaged in the task from 500 to 140. Because of the success of Taylor’s methods in reducing costs and improving efficiency, Bethlehem Steel began to adopt the principles of scientific management more widely in the organization. The techniques developed by Taylor were diffused into the steel industry in general in 1901 following the sale of a Bethlehem plant to the U.S. Steel Corporation, which had been recently founded through the merger of various steel firms. Taylor’s book Shop Management, published in 1903, provided a general theoretical and practical framework for the firm’s use of the scientific management approach. After the publication of the book, other management researchers and theorists such as Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, Henry Gantt and Harington Emerson became interested in Taylor’s concepts, and expanded the understanding and application of scientific management principles.

Taylor’s concepts were developed at a time when the steel industry was strongly concerned with preventing unionization. Following the Homestead strike in 1892 in which the Carnegie Steel Company engaged in a successful lockout of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, the industry had largely de-unionized. At the same time that the industry was vigorously opposed to organized labor, it supported the progressive movement that essentially involved welfare capitalism. As part of its welfare capitalism approach, the steel industry favored the use of incentive programs for workers to promote individual achievement and loyalty to the firm such as pension plans and employee ownership of stock. The scientific management concept of providing financial incentives for workers who exceeded the norms of production dovetailed with this general focus on incentives. As a result, the steel industry began to gradually implement time motion studies, develop task standards and provide workers with training to ensure that they had the necessary skills to perform tasks.

An important aspect of scientific management adopted by the industry was the Gantt chart, which was developed by Taylor’s associate Henry Gantt in 1903. The chart was intended to quantify the work that was required for a specific task that would take place over an extended period of time. It fundamentally showed the amount of work that had been accomplished for the task and the amount of work that yet had to be done for task completion. The chart approach functioned as a planning tool that standardized performance on extended projects or tasks for firms. In practice, they reduced the control of the skilled worker shop foreman by providing management with a tool for the objective assessment of task progress.

Until 1915, labor was adamantly opposed to scientific management and viewed it as a means for management to exert a greater degree of control over workers without providing adequate compensation. During World War I, however, the federal government pressured steel firms to recognize employee representation plans that were essentially company unions controlled by management. Despite the ineffectiveness of these unions, management nonetheless began to modify the harsher aspects of the application of scientific management to prevent more general unionization of the industry. It was during this time that the unions also began to shift their opinion regarding the value of scientific management. Unions initially regarded scientific management as a means for employers to obtain more work for the same pay from employees. Scientific management theory as articulated by Taylor, however, explicitly states that management and labor should cooperate in a friendly manner to identify the best methods for carrying out tasks and for determining the incentives that should be used. As a result, some unions after World War I began to advocate the use of scientific management when management and labor could equally participate in the process of determining the most appropriate methods to perform a task. From the union perspective, scientific management could provide labor with a rational basis for claiming that a management action, rule or policy was not reasonable and would have a negative impact on profitability by interfering with labor productivity.

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