Consider organizations that produce automobiles in the United States. These organizations typically employ the specialization and division of labor. What are the key concepts and theoretical propositions from the perspective of classical organizational theory as it relates to this industry? How do these concepts improve either/both worker productivity as a measure to increase production or productive efficiency (producing a good for a lower cost)? Why is this important?
In 1886, Karl Benz invented the first modern automobile in the world. However, the complexity of producing a car limited the large-scale manufacturing of automobiles. The production of automobiles could impossibly satisfy the demands. Meanwhile, in the United States, Henry Ford realized that a more efficient production process was needed to lower the price and meet increasing consumer demand for his popular new car. In 1913, the Ford Motor Company established the first moving assembly line which is used for large-scale manufacturing. By the end of 1913 Ford’s application of the moving assembly line had improved the speed of chassis assembly from 12 hours and eight minutes to one hour and 33 minutes (Michael, 2007). From 1909 to 1972, the Ford Motor Company built more than 15 million cars, which make it become one of the biggest automobiles manufacturers in the world today. The specialization and division of labor makes Fort the great success.
Michael (2007) said that each worker was trained to do just one step or a very few steps. It is the simplest definition of division of labor.
As far as the classical views of the division of labor, Adam stated that “division of labor increases the productive powers of labor” (Adam, p.38). Adam analyzed the reasons of the establishment of division of labor and concluded into three points. First, increase of dexterity of labor increases the quantity of the work he can perform. Secondly, division of labor saves time which is lost in passing from one species of work to another. Thirdly, invention of a great number of machines facilitates and abridges labor and enables one man to do the work of many (Adam, p.39). In this sense, the division of labor is the natural production as a factory develops. The increasing dexterity and invention of machines naturally cause the division of labor.
Positively, Fayol thought that division of work improves efficiency. On one hand, division of labor increases production with improved dexterity of labor. The workers need less time to do the same works, which make more productions be produced. On the other hand, increasing efficiency makes less workers be needed to produce the same products. In addition, workmen’s dexterity brings them competitions, which cause a wage cut (Taylor). In this sense, division of labor brings factory lower costs.
The great success of Ford has been proved the importance of division of labor in organizations. However, there are still negative views of division of labor. Weber thought that people’s ideas and ideals guide the development of the society and organization. However, division of labor eliminates the privileges in hierarchy. Division of labor leads to unequal distributions of rewards and efforts. Marx thought that division of labor causes class conflicts and class consciousness. As the development of division of labor, works and goods no longer belong to people; contrarily, people are classified by their works. Division of labor creates capitalism and causes class conflicts and struggles.
Gulick thought that division of work also brings limitations. First, the workload has to be proper. Nothing will be gained by subdividing work if the work requires less than the full time of one man. Secondly, division of work needs be considered with existing technology and custom. There is no point to divide work, where there is lack of technology or all about custom. Third, subdivision of work must not pass beyond physical division into organic division.
It is important to illustrate the establishment and effects of division of labor. Division of labor is the foundation of human progress and development. Ford’s application of division of labor in his automobiles industry makes Ford Company become one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world. Similarly, division of labor contributes to every American’s convenient transportation today. Division of labor makes automobiles’ production possible to satisfy the large demands. In addition, division of labor promotes the development of technology. More and more intelligent machines are applied to improve efficiency in automobile manufacturers. However, division of labor also causes inequality and conflicts between workers and employees. Workers are not machines. Study of division of labor requests managers to realize the importance of admitting workers’ works and their values.