Unit Six : Sam Adams，Industrial Engineer
San set out to improve efficiency at the shirt factory but, as we find out later in this unit, his plans turned out not quite as he had expected.
Sam Adams, Industrial Engineer
If you ask my mother how I happened to become an industrial engineer, she'll tell you that I have always been one.
She means that I have always wanted everything to be well organized and neat. When I was still in elementary school, I liked to keep my socks in the upper left-hand drawer of my bureau, my underwear in the upper right drawer, shirts in the middle drawer, and pants, neatly folded, in the bottom drawer.
In fact, I was the efficiency expert for the whole family. I used to organize my father's tools, my mother's kitchen utensils, my sister's boyfriends.
I needed to be efficient. I wanted to be well organized. For me, there was a place for everything and everything was always in its place. These qualities gave me a good foundation for a career in industrial engineering.
Unfortunately, I was also a bit bossy and I wasn't a very good listener. You'll see what I mean when I tell you about the first project I ever did after I finished my bachelor's degree at the university.
After graduation I returned home to my small town in Indiana. I didn't have a job yet. Mr. Hobbs, a friend of my father's, owned a small shirt factory in town. Within the past five years it had grown from twenty to eighty workers. Mr. Hobbs was worried that his plant was getting too big and inefficient, so he asked me to come in on a short-term basis as a consultant.
I went to the plant and spent about a week looking around and making notes. I was really amazed at what I saw.
Most curious of all, there was no quality control whatsoever. No one inspected the final product of the factory. As a result some of the shirts that were put in boxes for shipment were missing one or two buttons, the collar, even a sleeve sometimes!
The working conditions were poor. The tables where the workers sat were very high and uncomfortable. Except for a half hour at lunchtime, there were no breaks in the day to relieve the boring work. There was no music. The walls of the workrooms were a dull gray color. I was amazed that the workers hadn't gone on strike.
Furthermore, the work flow was irregular. There was one especially absent-minded young man in the assembly line who sewed on buttons. After a while I recognized him as "Big Jim," who used to sit behind me in math class in high school. He was very slow and all the shifts were held up at his position. Workers beyond him in line on his shift had to wait with nothing to do; therefore, a great deal of time and efficiency were lost as Big Jim daydreamed while he worked. All week I wondered why he wasn't fired.
After I made observations for a week, Mr. Hobbs asked me for an oral report of my findings. I covered my major points by telling him the following:
"If you have a quality control inspection, you will greatly improve your finished product."
"If the assembly line is redesigned, a smooth work flow can be achieved and time and energy can be saved."
"If you decrease the height of the worktables, the machine operators will work more comfortably."
"If the management provides pleasant background music and beautifies the dull setting, the factory will be much more productive."
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