From The Gilbreth Network Online:
The Quest, Volume 2, No. 3, Fall 1998

Compiled by David Ferguson

Newsletter of the Gilbreth Network

Fall 1998

The Quest is published and copyright by David Ferguson. Please contact him at

Inside this issue (Fall 98):
I'm Late, I'm Late...
A Good Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures
Our New Look
The Quest Awards
Funding the Gilbreth Network
Kanigel's Taylor—An Epilog
Sponsors of the Gilbreth Network
Two Razors are Better Than One


Vol. 2, No. 3 Summer 1998

I'm Late, I'm Late...

I apologize to the members of the Network for being late with this issue of The Quest. I've got two humdinger excuses and a more serious request.

First, being the editor of a small, quarterly newsletter, has its disadvantages, especially when it's a slow news quarter. There simply weren't too many new stories this time around.

Second, my so-called free time has been stretched to the limit. What with being a new officer at my local ASSE chapter and preparing for a certification exam, I come home at night, kiss the dog, scratch behind my wife's ears and go to the computer to do more work. Oh yes, and my boss can't understand why I can't work 24 hours per day.

Now that you realize that I'm a typical American worker, I'll get to the point. I know there are many of our members who have wonderful stories to contribute. Be it a page or a paragraph, we'd love to hear from you.

Think of this as your big opportunity, to be published in a world-renowned newsletter. Whether it's an interesting item you found or a story of an incident while researching a paper, we'd love to hear from you.

Please submit your contribution on computer disk, or double-spaced, typed, or clear handwriting. You probably won't have a better chance to see your words in print.

Deadline for the next issue is December 15, 1998

A Good Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures

Just as this issue of The Quest was being completed, we received some wonderful news from Dr. Peter Liebhold, of the National History Museum, at the Smithsonian. As you may be aware, the Smithsonian has hundreds of photos and positive glass slides taken by the Gilbreths. Up until now, if you wanted to look at these images, you would have to make a trip to Washington D.C. In the not too distant future, you may be able to view Gilbreth photos on the Internet.

Under Dr. Liebhold's direction, they are preparing to develop a photo archive, with captioned information on the pictures, to be placed on the Internet. The difficult part is that the majority of Gilbreth photographs have been separated from their captioned descriptions. If the Gilbreths ever had a master reference listing photo numbers and descriptions, it is gone now.

Dr. Liebhold has asked our help in this matter. We want to gather as much information as we can regarding these photographs. Therefore we are asking for the following information which you may have in your on material, gathered during your research work.

Please send any material to David Ferguson, so that I may correlate it with the information I already have and send it on to Dr. Liebhold.

Our New Look

You have probably noticed that our newsletter heading has a new look. This is thanks to a wonderful suggestion by Dr. William Jaffe. He felt that we could customize the look of The Quest by incorporating a look unique to the Gilbreths. Dr. Jaffe felt that there were no more apt symbols than those used to indicate Therbligs.

[ inserted from original banner ]

For those new to the Network, Therblig was a term the Gilbreths used to describe the categories of motions, while performing a task. By dissecting a task into Therbligs, you could identify and eliminate unnecessary motions and thus simplify the work. Incidentally, Therblig is Gilbreth, spelled backwards (with the exception of the TH).

There were 17 Therbligs, each with its own symbol. The two chosen for the heading were inspired by Dr. Jaffe. The symbol before The Quest title (an eye with the pupil to the side) indicated the Therblig Search. The one after the title is Find. These are certainly two good choices considering that a quest is prefaced by Searching and culminated by Find; the Network's purposes.

We will incorporate other Therblig symbols, where their meaning fits the item. Again, thanks to Dr. Jaffe for the inspiration. Incidentally, the source of the actual symbols used was a list of Therbligs, found at Purdue. The symbols were hand-drawn, by either the Gilbreths or one of their assistants.

The Quest Awards

In the last issue of The Quest, we asked for suggestions to enhance contributions and the overall presentation of the Gilbreth Network. While we received only two suggestions, they were excellent. Therefore, it is my pleasure to announce a tie and that both members will receive copies of Dr. Lillian Gilbreth's autobiography, As I Remember.

Dr. Ben S. Graham, Jr. suggested that we establish categories of sponsorship for the Network. These categories would have the names of those making donations, with designations of total contributions:

Therefore, later in this issue, we will establish a list of contributors within each category. It is our way of thanking them for their support to the Gilbreth Network.

Dr. William Jaffe will receive his award based on his suggestion regarding a new look for The Quest (see previous article).

We thank both Drs. Graham and Jaffe for their contributions and hope they enjoy Dr. Gilbreth's book.

Funding the Gilbreth Network

It's time, once again, to discuss the funding for the Gilbreth Network. First, it is appropriate that we review the operational structure and financial records of the Network.

Operational Structure

The Gilbreth Network had its beginnings in the latter part of 1996. The Network was formed and coordinated by David Ferguson. Following the main functions of the Network:

Expense Categories

First, the Coordinator receives no compensation for his work.

Production of The Quest has included:



Operating expenses were, at first, covered out of pocket, by the Coordinator. Shortly after the first issue of The Quest, contributions began to arrive from members. For the most part, the Gilbreth Network has been in the black since the first quarter of 1997. We can all be grateful to these generous members for their help.


Currently, the figures, since 1997, are:

The Future

Our future holds many possibilities. We are not only looking towards the growth of membership, but of ways to share our knowledge. We are looking for those who can share expenses as well as those who can assist with projects which will help to enhance our group and it's ability to share with others.

Kanigel's Taylor: An Epilog

In my younger days, I was on my high school's debating team. To give the background on this activity, I joined the team because my girlfriend was also a member. Her father, who felt we were "too involved," made a deal with us: as long as we kept winning our debates, we could both continue as team partners. Thus, my motivation to win was a very real, driving force.

However, in order to win, we needed "documented facts." Facts that could make the difference between an uninformed opinion and a salient point of view. Incidentally, we won all of our debates.

Unfortunately, our society and news media have become somewhat "fact challenged," ranging from ignorance to outright lies.

The truly sad part is that Mr. Kanigel isn't alone in his lack of understanding of the demarcation between Taylor and Gilbreth's contributions. I have just finished reading a book by Dan MacLeod, The Ergonomics Edge, where he credits Taylor with inventing Time and Motion Study. Unbelievably, he then credits Taylor's work as laying the foundations, leading to our current knowledge and efforts in Ergonomics. This is a little hard to swallow, since Taylorism is a major factor in why we have cumulative injuries today.

Since my last comment on this situation, I have been lucky enough to have the excellent council of Dr. William Jaffe. Through the many months of our friendship, he has shared his wisdom and knowledge of history. He has suggested that the issue of Taylor/Gilbreth fight could be put to rest with two observations and a bit of philosophy.

First, in his trilogy, USA—The Big Money, John Dos Passos, painted a picture of Taylor's last hours on earth, winding his stopwatch and finally, being found dead, with the watch clutched in his hand. Secondly, while less dramatic, Frank Gilbreth was heard to comment, regarding Taylor's Memorial Service, "...that not one working man attended." Not a glowing observation for the Father of Scientific Management. To some, these items may be considered Taylor's true legacies. As to the present and our future, Dr. Jaffe reminded me of a favorite saying of Dr. Gilbreth's: "This, too, shall pass."

While historians will still need to argue about the respective Taylor and Gilbreth legacies, we have said enough regarding Mr. Kanigel. Besides, with the obvious exceptions, it was still an interesting book.

However, the latter-day legacies of Taylor's and Gilbreth's very distinct philosophies still leave many battles for us to fight. Are we to work by the rule of the stopwatch or a business atmosphere guided by the human factor? That is the true battle to be joined.

Sponsors of the Gilbreth Network 


Motion Study:

One Best Way:

We want to thank these members for their support for the Gilbreth Network. Much of the work of the Network could not have been done without their help.

We further want to thank those who have contributed articles and items for The Quest:

Your stories have added much to the enjoyment of our readers.

Two Razors are Better Than One

You may remember the wonderful story in Cheaper By The Dozen, where Frank Gilbreth tried to make the daily chore of shaving more efficient. This story was based on a series of letters he wrote to a magazine reporter.

In Frank Gilbreth's day, there were no electric razors or aerosol shave cream. People shaved with a cake of shave soap, a lather brush and a straight razor.

At first, Frank saved time by lathering with two brushes. He then experimented with patterns of shaving to save steps. But, the final experiment, for the ambidextrous FBG was to shave with two razors.

He reported that he saved at least a minute and a half, but spent three minutes patching up all of the cuts.

Dr. William Jaffe pointed out that Mr. Gilbreth's idea has taken root. Gillette, who has had a two-bladed razor, has now introduced a three bladed model. And since all three blades are on the same head, shaves are faster and closer and you don't have to draw a pint of blood.

Even many years after his passing Frank Gilbreth is still the "thought detonator."


David Ferguson
Coordinator of the Gilbreth Network
113 Kay Ct.
Cloverdale, CA 95425


— from the website The Gilbreth Network Online. Reformatted but unedited. All rights remain with the author and/or publisher.
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