Industrial Relations & Industrial Engineering

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					               Industrial Relations & Industrial Engineering

Industrial Relations
Industrial relation is a multidisciplinary field that studies the employment relationship.
Industrial relations are increasingly being called employment relations because of the
importance of non-industrial employment relationships. Many outsiders also equate industrial
relations to labour relations. Industrial relations studies examine various employment
situations, not just ones with a unionized workforce.

Industrial relations have its roots in the industrial revolution which created the modern
employment relationship by spawning free labour markets and large-scale industrial
organizations with thousands of wage workers. As society wrestled with these massive
economic and social changes, labor problems arose. Low wages, long working hours,
monotonous and dangerous work, and abusive supervisory practices led to high employee
turnover, violent strikes, and the threat of social instability.

Industrial relations have three faces: science building, problem solving, and ethical. In the
science building face, industrial relations is part of the social sciences, and it seeks to
understand the employment relationship and its institutions through high-quality, rigorous
research. In the problem solving face, industrial relations seek to design policies and
institutions to help the employment relationship work well. In the ethical face, industrial
relations contain strong normative principles about workers and the employment relationship,
especially the rejection of treating labor as a commodity in favor of seeing workers as human
beings in democratic communities entitled to human rights.

When labor markets are seen as imperfect, and when the employment relationship includes
conflicts of interest, then one cannot rely on markets or managers to always serve workers’
interests, and in extreme cases to prevent worker exploitation. Industrial relations scholars
and practitioners therefore support institutional interventions to improve the workings of the
employment relationship and to protect workers’ rights. The nature of these institutional
interventions, however, differs between two camps within industrial relations. The pluralist
camp sees the employment relationship as a mixture of shared interests and conflicts of
interests that are largely limited to the employment relationship.
Significance of Industrial Relations:

    It contributes to economic growth and development: Good industrial relations lead
      to increased efficiency and hence higher productivity and income. This will result in
      economic development of the economy.

    It improves morale of the work force: Good industrial relations, built-in mutual
      cooperation and common agreed approach motivate one to contribute one’s best,
      result in higher productivity and hence income, give more job satisfaction and help
      improve the morale of the workers.

    It discourages unfair practices on the part of both management and unions:
      Industrial relations involve setting up machinery to solve problems confronted by
      management and employees through mutual agreement to which both these parties are
      bound. This results in banning of the unfair practices being used by employers or
      trade unions.

    It ensures optimum use of scare resources: Good and harmonious industrial
      relations create a sense of belongingness and group-cohesiveness among workers, and
      also a congenial environment resulting in less industrial unrest, grievances and
      disputes. This will ensure optimum use of resources, both human and materials,
      eliminating all types of wastage.

    It establishes industrial democracy: Industrial relations means settling employees’
      problems through collective bargaining, mutual cooperation and mutual agreement
      amongst the parties i.e., management and employees’ unions. This helps in
      establishing industrial democracy in the organization which motivates them to
      contribute their best to the growth and prosperity of the organization.

    It prompts enactment of sound labour legislation: Industrial relations necessitate
      passing of certain labour laws to protect and promote the welfare of labour and
      safeguard interests of all the parties against unfair means or practices.

    It facilitates change: Good industrial relations help in improvement of cooperation,
      team work, performance and productivity and hence in taking full advantages of
      modern inventions, innovations and other scientific and technological advances. It
      helps the work force to adjust them to change easily and quickly.

Industrial Engineering

Industrial Engineering is concerned with the design, improvement, and installation of
integrated systems of people, material, information, equipment, and energy. It draws upon
specialized knowledge and skills in the mathematical, physical, and social sciences together
with the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design to specify, predict, and
evaluate the results to be obtained from such systems.

Hence Industrial Engineering might be used not only for manufacturing processes but for
other purposes as well like shortening queues in theme parks or streamlining an operating
room in a hospital. In a more specific sense, Industrial Engineering is closely linked to
manufacturing, to which this term originally was applied. Nowadays it is often applied to
service industries as well.

The Hawthorne Experiment and the developing of Industrial Engineering

A major episode in the quest to understand behavioral aspects was the series of studies
conducted at the Western Electric Hawthorne plant in Chicago between 1924 and 1932.
Under sponsorship from the National Academy of Science, a team of researchers from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) observed groups of coil-winding operators
under different lighting levels. They observed that productivity relative to a control group
went up as illumination increased, as had been expected.

Then, in another experiment, they observed that productivity also increased when
illumination decreased, even to the level of moonlight. Unable to explain the results, the
original team abandoned the illumination studies and began other tests on the effect of rest
periods, length of work week, incentive plans, free lunches, and supervisory styles on
productivity. In most cases the trend was for higher than normal output by the groups under

Approaching the problem from the perspective of the “psychology of the total situation,”
experts brought in to study the problem came to the conclusion that the results were primarily
due to “a remarkable change in the mental attitude in the group.” Interpretations of the
study were eventually reduced to the simple explanation that productivity increased     highly
as a result of the attention received by the workers under study.

This was dubbed the Hawthorne effect. However, in subsequent writings this simple
explanation was modified to include the argument that work is a group activity and that
workers strive for a sense of belonging not simple financial gain in their jobs. By
emphasizing the need for listening and counseling by managers to improve worker
collaboration,      the      industrial      psychology        movement       shifted      the
emphasis of management from technical efficiency—the focus of Taylorism to a richer, more
complex, human-relations orientation.

Methods Engineering and Work Simplification in Industrial Engineering

These reactions led to an increased interest in the work of the Gilbreths. Their efforts in
methods analysis, which had previously been considered rather theoretical and impractical,
became the foundation for the resurgence of industrial engineering in the 1920s and 1930s. In
1927, H. B. Maynard, G. J. Stegmerten, and S. M. Lowry wrote Time and Motion Study,
emphasizing the importance of motion study and good methods. This eventually led to the
term methods engineering as the descriptor of a technique emphasizing the “elimination of
every unnecessary operation” prior to the determination of a time standard.

In 1932, A. H. Mogenson published Common Sense Applied to Time and Motion Study, in
which he stressed the concepts of motion study through an approach he chose to call work
simplification. His thesis was simply that the people who know any job best are the workers
doing that job.

Therefore, if the workers are trained in the steps necessary to analyze and challenge the work
they are doing, then they are also the ones most likely to implement improvements. His
approach was to train key people in manufacturing plants at his Lake Placid Work
Simplification Conferences so that they could in turn conduct similar training in their own
plants for managers and workers. This concept of taking motion study training directly to the
workers through the work simplification programs was a tremendous boon to the war
production effort during World War II.

The first Ph.D. granted in the United States in the field of industrial engineering was also the
result of research done in the area of motion study. It was awarded to Ralph M. Barnes
by Cornell University in 1933 and was supervised by Dexter Kimball. Barnes’s thesis was
rewritten and published as Motion and Time Study: the first full-length book devoted to this
subject. The book also attempted to bridge the growing chasm between advocates of time
study versus motion study by emphasizing the inseparability of these concepts as a basic
principle of industrial engineering.

Another result of the reaction was a closer look at the behavioral aspects associated with the
workplace and the human element. Even though the approach taken by Taylor and his
followers failed to appreciate the psychological issues associated with worker motivation,
their work served to catalyze the behavioral approach to management by systematically
raising questions on authority, motivation, and training. The earliest writers in the field of
industrial psychology acknowledged their debt to scientific management and framed their
discussions in terms consistent with this system.

Industrial engineering, as it stands today, is primarily concerned with the physical facts of the
situation. Textbooks on the subject cover time and motion study, cost reduction, plant layout,
etc., and describe techniques for the analysis and application of such factual knowledge.
Because of the application of the scientific method to these aspects of management, great
progress is being made.

Human factors so often are the limiting factors of a situation. What is needed is a technique
for analyzing and applying the human facts of every situation as a part of every industrial
engineering study. Such a technique should indicate what human limitations there are to a
proposal and how to introduce a change with the least possible friction and the greatest
chance of success.

As a result a good industrial relationship leads to a better industrial engineering process in an


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