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On Controlling the Workforce (1915)

Controlling labor in large factories was of utmost importance to industrialists and their managers. Their ability to regulate workers’ hours and monitor their productivity increased with the appearance of new technological innovations, including increasingly sophisticated time clocks. Such devices represented a major tool of social control in the modern period.

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The economic life of today is marked by intense competition, which can only be engaged in successfully if, along with the use of all rational work methods, careful attention is also paid to the maximum utilization of work time. Monitoring workers is the means to the latter. [ . . . ]

The most widespread method is probably token monitoring [Markenkontrolle] [ . . . ]. The oldest and simplest form of token monitoring is when boards are mounted at the factory entrance and every entering or exiting worker hangs his token on the board or removes it. A second, identical token board is usually found in the work area proper, usually close to where the foreman is positioned, so that he can scan the board easily for monitoring. Once work has begun, the porter has the gates closed, so that every worker who arrives late has to report to him to obtain a token. It is practical if the board has a wire grate that can be placed over the tokens once the gate has been locked to prevent any unauthorized person from having access to them. Every worker who arrives late will be noted as such by the porter when he asks for his token; the same will be done for a later countercheck by the foreman in charge, to whom the tardy worker has to report in person when depositing his token. The procedure is quite similar, only reversed, when a worker leaves the work site early. The porter notes the absence of workers from the tokens left hanging, while the foreman records the same on the basis of the empty token numbers. At the end of work, the procedure is reversed: the foreman opens the token board, from which every worker leaving the shop takes his token in order to hang it on the porter’s board at the main gate. If a token is left behind with the foreman, it must be assumed that the worker has not yet left the worksite. In an especially dangerous factory, it is not unreasonable to assume that there may have been an accident that was not yet noticed, and an immediate investigation is called for. Of course, it is usually the case that the worker has left the workplace without removing his token, and the reasons for this must be ascertained. The work monitoring records of the porter and the foreman must be checked for agreement, a task that is usually done by the wage office. In large enterprises it is advisable to reserve certain numbers for individual categories of craftsmen or workers; for example, the numbers 1-100 are set aside for the lathe operators, the numbers 100-200 for the joiners, which makes it possible to readily and easily determine the sort of work an individual does. [ . . . ] In companies with a large workforce the constant monitoring that is necessary several times a day requires the corresponding personnel, since the porter cannot record the large number of notes all by himself. To address this difficulty, so-called token collection machines have been built, and they perform their task in a useful way. [ . . . ]

The technique of worker monitoring has not stood still but has advanced, and this brings us to the control clocks, which themselves are actually quite old. The key apparatus [Schlüsselapparat], which one can characterize as a larger wall clock, should be considered the oldest and simplest control apparatus. Every worker has a key with a control number at the bit end. Upon commencing or leaving work, every worker inserts his key into a keyhole located below the clock face, where, once the key has been turned, the control number, the hour, and the minute are mechanically pressed onto a strip of paper that is rolled inside the clock. In this way, the strip of paper continuously records every worker who presents himself for monitoring. The keys, similar to the tokens, hang on a numbered board. The rest of the procedure corresponds to the token system, that is to say, [there is] a second

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