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Work Study the tool for the job

31st January 1969
Page 57
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Page 57, 31st January 1969 — Work Study the tool for the job
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Keywords : Management

I referred in a recent Management Matters (CM January 17) to the contribution that work study could make across the whole field of road transport. The Prices and Incomes Board has stressed on many occasions that managements which do not appreciate the significance of the work study "tool" are unlikely to make much progress with productivity negotiations. A recent report of the Board (No. 90) criticized British Road Services for failing to ensure that management—especially those concerned with vehicle maintenance—was adequately trained in the principles of method study and work measurement.

I conunented: "No doubt the Road Transport Industry Training Board will take the point! If they do not, they may be lambasted by Mr. Aubrey Jones before long".

It is with pleasure, therefore, that I can record the RTITB's direct and immediate interest in promoting work study techniques in road transport—and indeed, in all the sectors for which they ate responsible for training.

From its inception the RTITB has realized that specialized management techniques, including job analysis and work study, could yield benefits in the short and long term. As Mr. T. E. Tindall, the Board's director-general, said in a contributed Management Matters (CM December 13 19(8): "Work study should lead to economies of time, effort and materials, including vehicles and stock. Both techniques should give improyed productivity".

No time wasted

The Board wasted no time in recruiting high-calibre staff to handle management training. The task was not easy—experienced training experts are at a premium, available men being constantly sought by other training boards and by private concerns large enough to run their own training establishments. But key appointments have been made and the road transport industry will very soon be feeling the impact of their enthusiasm.

For example, Mr. S. J. Rayfield, manager, analytical techniques, has played a major role in launching work study appreciation courses. These have been organized to meet the requirements of four sections for whom the RTITB have responsibility, viz. the road haulage industry, passenger transport, furniture removals and the garage trade.

In designing courses for road transport managers the Board has been particularly anxious to start off on the right foot. The aim has been to make syllabuses practical —if busy men do not feel at the end of a short course that their time has been profitably spent, the course has failed. With a subject like work study that is new to most people in road haulage management it is especially important to awaken interest in the subject in the first few minutes of the course. This is not always realized when a lecturer talks to an audience about a subject new to them—yawns and blank faces will be noticeable very quickly if the group does not become quickly interested.

Mr. Rayfield's approach has been to "sell" the value of work study as a tool of management. Most managers in the industry have had to function without much knowledge or appreciation of the management techniques available in more highly organized industries. They have had to base decision-making on their own experience —and it would be very wrong to criticize the results in every case.

But lack of awareness of the value of control information has often meant that decision-making has been of the hit or miss variety. So far as possible guesswork shobld be divorced from management.

In thinking about the approach to the introduction of work study to road haulage Mr. Rayfield was naturally keen to learn about firms in transport and distribution who had applied work study on a substan tial scale. There was abundant published literature about results in other industries —work study has been profitably applied to fields as diverse as production engineering and pig farming. It has made an impact in other service industries where the experience gained is often directly applicable to road transport.

Detailed analysis

Some of the larger C-licensed firms, as is well known, have introduced work study into their transport operations. Mr. Rayfield feels that the transport sector of such firms has often been forced to apply sophisticated management techniques. Distribution is such a costly business that every aspect of it—including warehousing and transport —has been subjected to detailed cost analysis. Hence the pressure on transport departments to rationalize their activities and subject their operations to the management techniques accepted as normal in manufacturing industry.

It is much easier to apply work study to transport operations when there is trained staff available in the main company. Moreover, trade union resistance is less likely to occur in the transport department if large sections of the same firm's employees have already been subjected to work study. Particularly when it is apparent that more efficient working practices can . yield higher earnings resistance in a comparatively small sector like transport would be unlikely.

The first work study appreciation courses were designed to last two days. The two pilot courses run at the Board's Wembley headquarters in December were largely confined to management representatives from the road haulage and garage industries Within the Home Counties area. Course members were given introductory lectures on the techniques of work study and work measurement related to typical road haulage management problems and then listened to visiting lectures with personal experience of the value of work study in a transport organization.

The inclusion of a case study in this two-day course provides an opportunity for course members—split up into syndicates of three or four persons—to apply a logical approach to a clearly stated problem. The RTITB method, as described by Mr. Rayfield, is to make several references to the case study subject during the introductory lectures on the first day. This familiarizes the students with the subject matter more thoroughly than would occur with a single reading—after a strenuous day's lecturing. It yields valuable results on the second day when class members are aware of all aspects of the problem and have to discuss how they would approach it.

Case studies are relatively new in road haulage training schemes, though the technique is well established on both sides of the Atlantic in general management training. A greater variety of case studies specifically designed for road transport operators is becoming available. Typical subject matter could deal with the flow of paperwork through a traffic office; the operation of a loading bank; the loading of vehicles; or a labour relations problem.

Of course it would be easy to poke fun at the shortness of these first work study appreciation courses—which have now been transferred to the MOTEC at High Ercall. No one pretends that so short a course is anything more than a brief introduction to the subject. In fact, as a result of the opinions expressed by the pilot course members who mostly felt the need for more time to be spent on the practical side, the RTITB intends to increase the length of the courses to 3 days after Easter—plans already in train prevent any earlier lengthening.

Mr. Rayfield hopes that by the end of 1969—by which time a considerable number of managers and executives will have attended work study appreciation courses —it will be feasible to invite firms in the induStry to nominate people for comprehensive training as work study practitioners. Courses of 10 to 15 weeks are envisaged and it is expected that the standards reached in this period will be equivalent to the comparable City and Guilds of London examination.

What type of man can most usefully be considered for professional training in work study? Mr. Rayfield made it very clear that the Board was not asking for "genius" candidates. A quick analytical mind that appreciated the value of a logical approach was desirable and a friendly manner helped. The "born salesman" often made an excellent work study man; tact and persuasive ability and the capacity to deal easily with people at all levels in an organization are necessary. Obviously, most such candidates would be likely to be found from the junior managerial or senior clerical grades.

One of the useful techniques discussed during the pilot courses is known as activity sampling—a method that applies a simple statistical approach to the efficient use of time. By taking a number of observations during the day it is possible for management to determine the effectiveness of staff within an accuracy of 2 to 3 per cent. It is by no means unusual to find that in maintenance operations staff are employed effectively for no more than 60 per cent of their time. This does not mean that they are deliberately wasting time. Time is lost whilst parts are drawn from stores; special tools may be needed for particular operations; there may be delay in getting requisitions signed—and so on.

When the causes of delay are arlalysed it is often possible to arrange for many regular delaying factors to be avoided by the efficient pre-planning of workshop operations.

"0 and M"—organization and method —is another well established management tool that is expected to make a big impact on road transport organization. Appreciation courses for office managers and supervisors illustrate some of the known clerical cost reduction methods. Form design is featured prominently—where a large variety of forms are used, as in many road transport organizations, an informed knowledge of form design principles can save a lot of time and money. Ogler features of this course cover reproduction equipment, visual aids, the use of wall charts, etc.

Operational research is another sophisticated management tool which is certainly relevant to the larger road transport concerns. Some of the larger C-licence operators use it—for example, in planning vehicle routeing. The RTITB, I believe, will not shy away from providing training courses in "O.R." when it is certain that the industry is ready for it.

Obviously, the growth of group training activities will induce a very different training climate in road transport. At the present stage the RTITB must awaken interest in the value of management training. As responsible managers in the industry learn the value in hard cash of trained staff applying modern management techniques to everyday problems it is anticipated—and I think rightly—that there will be an insistent demand for comprehensive training facilities for managerial and supervisory staffs.

Effect of training

Not all the necessary facilities will be provided by the Board itself. Mr. Rayfield was just off to Southampton to talk to the local technical college about work study courses. Naturally, if local colleges can provide training facilities in line with those provided by the Board at Wembley or at High Ercall it is advantageous to many road transport managers to make use of facilities near their homes.

It is rather fascinating to speculate on the effect of management training as it is diffused through the road transport industry. The experience of many different industries, adapted to the special requirements of road transport, is available through the RTITB's staff. Mr. Rayfield himself was at the Fleet Air Arm's school of management and work study before he accepted the challenge of the road haulage industry.

For many years the Fleet Air Arm resisted work study—their aircraft maintenance operations aboard ship had for long been closely planned in what was thought to be a highly efficient way. But responsible leaders, such as Earl Mountbatten, pressed the claims of work study and eventually secured its introduction, making an efficient operation still more efficient. The organization of aircraft repair and servicing in the confined space of an aircraft carrier at sea may seem a far cry from road transport. It is, in fact, very relevant for such operations are continuously under pressure of time and cost. The object of the exercise was to get more work done using fewer people —and for less money.

That, I suggest, is the problem in road transport. Managers should begin to make plans now for the release of suitable staff next year for training as professional work study practitioners. The small firms in the industry can press their group training organization to be prepared to nominate a suitable person. Given the support from the industry which this initiative by the RTITB deserves a much more profitable future is assured.

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