Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr.
|Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr.|
Gilbreth with a wire representation of the path of motion for a unit of work
July 7, 1868|
|Died||June 14, 1924
Montclair, New Jersey
|Spouse(s)||Lillian Moller Gilbreth (m. Oct. 19, 1904)|
Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr. (July 7, 1868 - June 14, 1924) was an early advocate of scientific management and a pioneer of motion study, but is perhaps best known as the father and central figure of Cheaper by the Dozen.
Born in Fairfield, Maine to John Hiram and Martha (née Bunker) Gilbreth, had no formal education beyond high school. He began as a bricklayer and became a building contractor, an inventor, 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 eventual spouse, 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.
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 that a surgical nurse serve as "caddy" (Gilbreth's term) to a surgeon, by handing 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 
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.
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 
- "Maj. Frank B. Gilbreth.". Washington Post. June 15, 1924. Retrieved 2008-07-08.
- "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. ..."
- The Gilbreth Network at gilbrethnetwork.tripod.com
Further reading 
- The Magic of Motion Study
- George, C. S. Jr., 1968. The History of Management Thought. Prentice Hall.
- Gilbreth, Frank Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, 1948. Cheaper by the Dozen. ISBN 0-06-008460-X
- ------, 1950. Belles on Their Toes. ISBN 0-06-059823-9
- Lillian Moller Gilbreth, 1998. As I Remember. Norcross, GA: Engineering & Management Press.
- Price, Brian, 1990, "Frank and Lillian Gilbreth and the Motion Study Controversy, 1907-1930" in A Mental Revolution: Scientific Management since Taylor, Daniel Nelson, ed. The Ohio State University Press.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Frank Bunker Gilbreth|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr.|
- Gilbreth archive at Purdue University.
- The Gilbreth Network.
- Bibliography of books by and about Gilbreth.
- "The Gilbreth 'Bug-lights', by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. Originally published in the Historic Nantucket, Vol 39, no. 2 (Summer 1991), p. 20–22.