Functional foremanship is a factory management technique that advocates for having multiple foremen in different, specialized roles. Traditionally, factories had just one foreman who would oversee operations. This foreman was the only direct contact for factory workers. Frederick Winslow Taylor, the famous engineer who revolutionized scientific management around the end of the 19th century, found a major flaw in this system. When he listed all of the qualities a successful foreman would need, he realized that no one person could possibly have every single one. Thus, the concept of functional foremanship was born.
Functional foremanship is a factory management technique that advocates for having multiple foremen in different, specialized roles. Each foreman is responsible for one specialty and needs to have all of the qualities and expertise necessary to carry out that one task.
In a factory, the foreman acts as the on-site manager, responsible for overseeing operations, managing employees and controlling production. This is quite a tall order to fill. Taylor, who spent his life studying the science of workplaces, realized that it was too large a job for just one person. Bringing in multiple, specialized foremen would ensure that all factory operations were covered optimally.
Under functional foremanship, each foreman is responsible for one specialty and needs to have all of the qualities and expertise necessary to carry out that one task. Taylor proposed having eight foremen in total; four foremen for planning and four for production. The eight specialized foremen together co-manage all of the factory workers. They report to one factory manager, who has the bird’s-eye view of operations. This manager is responsible for overseeing the eight foreman and for ensuring that they’re properly managing the factory workers, as well as fulfilling their own specialized roles.
Under functional foremanship, there are four types of planning foreman:
- Instruction Card Clerk: Drafts instructions for the workers so they understand their individual jobs and tasks.
- Route Clerk: Lays out the sequence of operations and determines the route through which materials should be processed.
- Time and Cost Clerk: Sets the schedule for completion of the project and prepares a budget for how much it will cost.
- Disciplinarian: Makes rules and regulations and ensures the orderly performance of factory jobs.
Four types of production foreman are set out in the functional foremanship technique:
- Speed Boss: Guarantees timely work from the factory employees and minimizes production delays.
- Gang Boss: Arranges materials, machines and tools so they’re always ready for the workers who will be using them.
- Repair Boss: Assures proper maintenance of machines and tools, and maintains the overall work worthiness of the factory.
- Inspector: Oversees the quality of the product made by the workers.