Monday, September 22, 2008

Cheaper by the Dozen - After Frank

The amazing thing that's so easy to overlook is that Frank and Lillian's work is still being used today, and it's still relevant and important!

Think about ergonomics - a word that's pretty important today! A lot of what Frank and Lillian did was directly related to ergonomics - finding the easiest, most comfortable setup to improve worker efficiency. In Time Out for Happiness, Frank Jr. talks about how careful Frank and Lillian were to stay on the good side of the labor unions. One laborer was quoted as saying "(Frank Gilbreth) makes it 'aisy' for a man to work hard."

Lillie went on to "soften" Frank's theories, and make them more generally applicable. She was always more interested in how the theories affected the worker. In one telling story, Lillie was called in to consult for the Arma plant in Brooklyn, a previously all-male factory. As World War II heated up, Arma was preparing to bring in women employees for the first time.
"We've never had women in the shop before," a panicky manager told her. "We don't know where to start. We're counting on you to tell us everything we have to do to get ready for them."

"If that's all my job is," said Lillie, in what was to become somewhat of a byword in the War Manpower Commission, "I can finish it with one sentence: 'Build separate rest rooms.' "
Time Out for Happiness, page 223
Much of Lillie's later work continued Frank's interest in making it possible for the disabled to work normally, and to make all work environments more user-friendly.

Lillie was an amazing woman. One wonders what she would have achieved had Frank not passed away so early.

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