چارلز بابیج: احیای پیشگام مدیریت عملیات
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|7885||2007||12 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Operations Management, Volume 25, Issue 2, March 2007, Pages 248–259
Charles Babbage (1791–1871) was the embodiment of a polymath: elected a Royal Society fellow, holder of the Lucasian Chair of mathematics at Cambridge, founder of the London Statistical Society, author of many papers and full-length monographs and, most famously from a 21st century perspective, the architect of modern computing with his difference engines and designs for the analytical engine. The scale and complexity of these machines meant their realisation was dependent upon the latest industrial advances like parts standardization and machine tool technology. As a result Babbage committed large amounts of his time and money to the theoretical and empirical study of advanced production and engineering practice. This paper argues that Charles Babbage deserves to be recognised as a pioneer in the field of operations management. His path-breaking contributions were born of a singular intellect and degree of creativity combined with a commitment to empiricist scientific method and statistical measurement. Moreover, he was working as Britain transformed itself into the most highly industrialized country the world had ever seen. The paper draws in particular upon the various editions of his best-selling book, ‘On the Economy of Machines and Manufactures’, first published in 1832. It reviews the many core operations principles evident in Babbage's analyses and highlights insights that remain relevant to today's theoretical and practical concerns. The paper concludes with a discussion of how a combination of contextual and biographical factors left Charles Babbage a largely unsung pioneer in the field of operations management.
Operations management (OM) is primarily concerned with, and indeed regularly rededicates itself to, the immediate needs of industrial practice (e.g. Hayes, 2000). While this focus on current relevance is laudable, the transitory and dynamic nature of “fashion” in management thought (Abrahamson, 1996) can hinder the appreciation of fundamental lessons—especially when they come from history (Wilson, 1995 and Jeremy, 2002). For example the Venice Arsenal – first built in 1104 but reaching its “heyday in the 15th and 16th centuries when it was famed for the speed at which a ship could be outfitted” (Schmenner, 2001a and Schmenner, 2001b) – provides a classic illustration of the benefits of a focused facility (i.e., it only really built one kind of ship). It was a vertically integrated operation with hulls and other standard parts batch manufactured and stored as inventory. These parts could then be assembled into a finished product in a matter of hours, as and when required. A key benefit of this system was that it allowed the Venetian state to hold some of its fleet as land-based work-in-process rather than as expensive, maintenance-consuming ships at sea (Lane 1934 and 1973, cited in Schmenner, 2001a and Schmenner, 2001b). There has been historical OM of course: authors have focused upon, for example, relearning the lessons of the American System of Manufacture (e.g. Abernathy and Corcoran, 1983 and Wilson, 1996) and deployed historical anecdote while proposing universal OM theories ( Schmenner and Swink, 1998, Schmenner, 2001a, Schmenner, 2001b and Singhal, 2001). But there has been almost no extended reflection upon those individuals in history who helped to decipher, document and disseminate the emerging operations paradigm. As an illustration although Frederick Winslow Taylor and his Scientific Management principles are now recognised as cornerstones of management theory and practice ( Locke, 1982 and Kanigel, 1997) – Peter Drucker counts Taylor (with Darwin and Freud) as “the trinity often cited as the ‘makers of the modern world’ (Drucker, 1993, p. 31) – Taylor and his work have been subject to only limited OM interest (e.g. Robinson and Robinson, 1994 and Voss, 1995). Likewise, although Charles Babbage is sometimes mentioned (Buffa, 1982, Voss, 1995, Hopp and Spearman, 1995 and Landes, 1999) as an early advocate of “rational … industrial management” (Hobsbawm with Wrigley 1999, p. 101) there has been almost no detailed reflection within OM upon the content and context of his work, nor of the methods he adopted in his scientific investigation of manufactures. It is these gaps that this work seeks to address. Combining a summary of his life and times with a detailed review of his best-selling work, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1832), this paper sets his content findings in a framework that articulates the enduring relevance of his conclusions to today's OM audience.1 Specifically, a review of the content of Babbage's principles “which pervade a very large portion of all manufactures” is conducted for evidence of core OM principles. From this, the work moves on to highlight those insights which provide a relevant legacy for today's theoretical and practical concerns. The paper concludes by addressing the specific question of why such a pioneer needs rediscovering. In exploring his lack of enduring practical impact, contextual and biographical themes are discussed: first, Babbage's efforts are set against the relative decline, compared with the United States, of the British industrial model and, second, the very polymath brilliance that generated so many insights meant that he normally worked alone on projects and failed to build the “active following” that is crucial when disseminating systemic innovations.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Babbage died on 18 October 1871 and was buried at a sparsely attended funeral in London's Kensal Green Cemetery. By the standards of any age, he was an extraordinary man, who made contributions to many different disciplines. However the focus of this paper has been his systematic investigation of the state-of-the-art in manufacturing, the hugely successful by-product of his efforts to create an automatic general-purpose analytical engine. His work has had a major influence upon the theory of political economy. John Stuart Mill, for instance, draws heavily upon Babbage's analysis in Book 1 of his seminal Principles of Political Economy (1848). Intriguingly, given Babbage's enthusiastic advocacy of capitalism, it was “those characteristics of the division of labour that Babbage had identified as sources of improved efficiency in the factory” (Rosenberg, 1994) which formed the basis for Karl Marx's very different economic and political conclusions in Capital (Blaug, 1978). Other attempts have been made to reclaim Babbage as a pioneer economist, with Rosenberg (1994) in particular arguing that OEMM “has much to offer to any reader today who wishes to understand the difficulties confronting the innovative impulse in the early days of industrialisation”. To conclude this paper, we return to the question of to what extent Babbage has a reasonable claim to pioneer status in the operations management field. The first issue that must be addressed is a version of the “if you are so clever, why aren’t you rich!” cliché—if Babbage was an OM pioneer with so many enduringly relevant insights, why does he need to be rediscovered? Why was it was not until Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915) established his models for the scientific selection, education and development of workers, that operational management theory had any consistent impact (Locke, 1982) upon practice? A partial explanation for Babbage's lack of enduring impact can be found by revisiting the detail of his historical context. England led the process of industrialization centered on textiles, iron and railways that took hold in Germany, France, Belgium, and the United States during the period 1820–1840. However, it should be noted that already – by the beginning of the 19th century – American labour productivity was higher than Britain's, despite its lower capital intensity (Broadberry, 1994). Within forty years, the alternative American system of manufacturing (Hounshell, 1984) – based in part on the refinement of interchangeable parts (“the proportion, and relative position, of several parts … are so exactly alike; and the screws, springs and other limbs made so similar, that they may be transferred from one … and adjusted to another without any material alteration”, Dwight, 1822) – was increasingly perceived to represent global ‘best practice’ ( Wilson, 1995 and Wilson, 1996). By 1850, some US manufacturers (such as Samuel Colt) had opened UK production facilities based on these principles. In part as a response to these transplants, a UK parliamentary commission investigated the American system and produced a detailed report recommending the adoption of many of its key principles (Rosenberg, 1969). Few of these innovations would have been new to Babbage. Although he never visited the United States himself, the lessons of standardization were always extremely important to his work and he had plenty of opportunities to learn them. For example, Marc Isambard Brunel, the French-born father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, worked as an architect and engineer in America for 6 years, eventually becoming a citizen. He came to England looking to win the contract to design block-making machinery for the Portsmouth Naval dockyard (Gilbert, 1965 and Cooper, 1981). The set of machines he eventually designed were the first to use machine tools to make equipment (rigging blocks) with interchangeable parts. Completed in 1808, the Block Mill saved the Admiralty many thousands of pounds, allowing 10 unskilled workers to replace 110 people for the same volume (Gilbert, 1965, p. 6) and was so successful that Gilbert found some of the machines still in use in 1965. Babbage became close to Brunel and his difference engine was the “next important piece of equipment with interchangeable parts to be made by machine tools” (Hyman, 1982, p. 145). Of course, in addition to its technical components, the American system was unhindered by long-established forms of organisational focus (embodied in structures such as craft guilds and unions) and moved more rapidly towards vertically integrated and larger scale modes of production—a development trajectory that continued until Henry Ford (1863–1947) became the first person to use the system to produce very complex products. State intervention also played an intriguing role with requirements for large quantities of reliable and affordable military equipment leading directly to the sustained work on standardization by private contractors like Eli Whitney and the government armouries at Springfield and Harper's Ferry (Sawyer, 1954). Eli Whitney, for instance, accepted his first musket order in 1798 (when Babbage was only 7 years old)—although at that time he lacked a factory, employees, equipment, finance and any experience of making guns. Unsurprisingly, he completed his first federal contract 9 years late and it was only the exigencies of the 1812 war with Britain that led to a further 15,000 muskets being ordered. In sum, despite Babbage's experience and analysis, and the popularity of OEMM, any subsequent interpretation of his work has to be set against the backdrop of the relative decline of the British industrial model. Contrasting Babbage with Taylor (Kanigel, 1997) also highlights another potential explanation for Babbage's lack of contemporary impact. For instance Hopp and Spearman (1995, p. 27) argue that, until Taylor, “no-one generated the sustained interest, active following and systematic framework necessary to plausibly proclaim management as a discipline”. In other words, although OEMM generated interest as it coincided with a time of public curiosity about factory production, this was not sustained (nb: given the contemporary popularity of the factory tour, many of the sales may have been to interested amateurs rather than factory owners or managers). Conversely, Taylor was working at a time when, as US organisations grew in scale and scope, there quickly followed the emergence of an increasingly professional managerial class dedicated to controlling ever more complicated production systems. By the beginning of the 20th century this had created, in North America, a marketplace for formal management education, and operations (scientific) management formed a key part of many curricula (Gordon and Howell, 1959). At the same time, engineering education was broadening to include industrial engineering courses, also strongly influenced by Scientific Management principles (Emerson and Naehring, 1988). Babbage's tendency to work alone on projects also prevented him from building the “active following” that was so central in refining and implementing scientific management. Taylor had a small army of advocates/consultants (i.e., Carl Barth, Henry Gantt, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth), with the Gilbreths in particular playing a key role in the dissemination of the ideas to Japanese Industry (Robinson and Robinson, 1994). Where Babbage's claim is strongest however is in presenting a “systematic analysis” derived from pragmatic and industrially relevant but conceptually robust insights. Babbage and his contemporaries (like John Herschel, the celebrated Astronomer) were clearly the intellectual descendents of Francis Bacon, but also perceived themselves to be the philosophical equivalents of great industrialists such as James Watt, Matthew Boulton and Josiah Wedgwood (Ashworth, 1996). Babbage explicitly argued that “efforts for the improvement of … manufactures … with the greatest probability of success, must arise from the combined exertions of all those most skilled in the theory, as well as in the practice” (OEMM, XXXV, p. 379). Methodological issues relating to the observation and analysis of manufacturing operations were also central concerns of Babbage's work, arguing that “the errors which arise from the absence of facts are far more numerous and more durable that those which result from unsound reasoning respecting true data” (p. 156). In OEMM he even provides readers with a guide for conducting a meaningful ‘plant tour’. More sophisticated than many of the practical checklists so beloved of modern ‘airport’ management books, Babbage's guide comprised a set of structured questions and included a discrete method for checking the internal consistency of interviewee responses. He also highlighted some of the specific work measurement challenges that later scientific management experts would encounter (typified by the studies conducted at the Western Electric Hawthorne Plant in Chicago between 1924–1932) and discussed at length (Roethlisberger and Dickson, 1929 and Mayo, 1933). “In filling up the answers which require numbers, some care should be taken: for instance, if the observer stands with his watch in his hand before a person heading a pin, the workman will almost certainly increase his speed, and the estimate will be too large” (OEMM, XII, p. 117). In addition to the descriptions of specific processes and abstractions of general operating principles, one of the most striking elements of the OEMM is Babbage's enthusiasm for the subject. This shines through, even given a somewhat arcane prose style, and allows us to draw comparisons with today's OM enthusiasts (e.g. Chase, 1996). “We shall notice, in the art of making even the most insignificant of [articles], processes calculated to excite our admiration by their simplicity, or to rivet our attention by their unlooked-for results” (OEMM, I, p. 3). Babbage's lack of impact on public and firm policy does not diminish the validity of his work nor his claim to OM pioneer status. After all, many academic ideas fail to impact practice and Henry Ford claimed that he knew nothing of F.W. Taylor or his ideas. However, it remains fascinating to speculate what impact Babbage might have had if he had been writing in the US, and had paid more attention to marketing and dissemination.