Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr.

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Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr.
Frank Bunker Gilbreth ca1916.jpg
Gilbreth in about 1916
Born (1868-07-07)July 7, 1868
Fairfield, Maine
Died June 14, 1924(1924-06-14) (aged 55)
Montclair, New Jersey
Employer Purdue University
Spouse(s) Lillian Moller Gilbreth (m. Oct. 19, 1904)
Children Anne Gilbreth
Mary Gilbreth
Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Martha Gilbreth
Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr.
Bill Gilbreth
Lillian Gilbreth
Fred Gilbreth
Dan Gilbreth
Jack Gilbreth
Bob Gilbreth
Jane Gilbreth

Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr. (July 7, 1868 – June 14, 1924) was an early advocate of scientific management and a pioneer of motion study, and is perhaps best known as the father and central figure of Cheaper by the Dozen.

Biography[edit]

Born in Fairfield, Maine in 1868, to John Hiram and Martha (née Bunker) Gilbreth, had no formal education beyond high school. For a long-time in New England, his father ran a hardware store. At age 3, his father died, and his family moved to Boston, Massachusetts. After high school, he attained a job as a bricklayer apprentice and then became a building contractor, an inventor with several patents, and finally a management engineer. He eventually became an occasional lecturer at Purdue University, which houses his papers. He married Lillian Evelyn Moller on October 19, 1904 in Oakland, California; they had 12 children, 11 of whom survived him. Their names were Anne, Mary (1906–1912), Ernestine, Martha, Frank Jr., William, Lillian, Frederick, Daniel, John, Robert and Jane.

Gilbreth discovered his vocation when, as a young building contractor, he sought ways to make bricklaying (his first trade) faster and easier. This grew into a collaboration with his wife, Lillian Moller Gilbreth, that studied the work habits of manufacturing and clerical employees in all sorts of industries to find ways to increase output and make their jobs easier. He and Lillian founded a management consulting firm, Gilbreth, Inc., focusing on such endeavors.

They were involved in the development of the design for the Simmons Hardware Company's Sioux City Warehouse. The architects had specified that hundreds of 20-foot (6.1 m) hardened concrete piles were to be driven in to allow the soft ground to take the weight of two million bricks required to construct the building. The "Time and Motion" approach could be applied to the bricklaying and the transportation. The building itself was also required to support efficient input and output of deliveries via its own railroad switching facilities.[1]

Gilbreth served in the U.S. Army during World War I. His assignment was to find quicker and more efficient means of assembling and disassembling small arms. According to Claude George (1968), Gilbreth reduced all motions of the hand into some combination of 17 basic motions. These included grasp, transport loaded, and hold. Gilbreth named the motions therbligs, "Gilbreth" spelled backwards with the th transposed. He used a motion picture camera that was calibrated in fractions of minutes to time the smallest of motions in workers.

George noted that the Gilbreths were, above all, scientists who sought to teach managers that all aspects of the workplace should be constantly questioned, and improvements constantly adopted. Their emphasis on the "one best way" and the therbligs predates the development of continuous quality improvement (CQI) (George 1968: 98), and the late 20th century understanding that repeated motions can lead to workers experiencing repetitive motion injuries.

Gilbreth was the first to propose the position of "caddy" (Gilbreth's term) to a surgeon, who handed surgical instruments to the surgeon as called for. Gilbreth also devised the standard techniques used by armies around the world to teach recruits how to rapidly disassemble and reassemble their weapons even when blindfolded or in total darkness.

Death and legacy[edit]

Gilbreth died of a heart attack on June 14, 1924, at age 55. He was at the Lackawanna railway station in Montclair, New Jersey, talking on a telephone. Lillian outlived him by 48 years.[2][3]

Although the work of the Gilbreths is often associated with that of Frederick Winslow Taylor, there was a substantial philosophical difference between the Gilbreths and Taylor. The symbol of Taylorism was the stopwatch; Taylor was concerned primarily with reducing process times. The Gilbreths, in contrast, sought to make processes more efficient by reducing the motions involved. They saw their approach as more concerned with workers' welfare than Taylorism, which workers themselves often perceived as concerned mainly with profit. This difference led to a personal rift between Taylor and the Gilbreths which, after Taylor's death, turned into a feud between the Gilbreths and Taylor's followers. After Frank's death, Lillian Gilbreth took steps to heal the rift (Price 1990); however, some friction remains over questions of history and intellectual property.[4]

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth often used their large family (and Frank himself) as guinea pigs in experiments. Their family exploits are lovingly detailed in the 1948 book Cheaper by the Dozen, written by his son Frank Jr. and daughter Ernestine (Ernestine Gilbreth Carey). The book inspired two films of the same name - one (1950) starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy, and the other (2003) starring comedians Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt. The latter film bears no resemblance to the book, except that it features a family with twelve children, and the wife's maiden name is Gilbreth. A 1952 sequel, titled Belles on Their Toes, chronicles the adventures of the Gilbreth family after Frank's 1924 death. A later biography, Time Out For Happiness, was authored by Frank Jr. alone and published in 1971; it is out of print and considered rare.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Historic Battery Building". hardrockcasinosiouxcity.com. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  2. ^ "Maj. Frank B. Gilbreth.". Washington Post. June 15, 1924. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  3. ^ "Maj. Gilbreth Stricken With Heart Attack at Railway Station After Talking to His Wife.". Washington Post. June 15, 1924. Retrieved 2008-07-08. "Frank B. Gilbreth, 56 years old, known mechanical engineer and author, died of heart ... Gilbreth was born at Fairfield, Maine on July 7, 1868 and educated at Boston. ..." 
  4. ^ The Gilbreth Network at gilbrethnetwork.tripod.com

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]