Moving work offshore where labour is abundant and low cost is a logical extension of scientific management, whether in the factory or in the office." Explain and assess this argument, citing case evidence to support your position. Can anything be done to mitigate stressful working conditions associated with scientific management in offshore sites of work?
This essay examines the economic conditions of scientific management and discusses its relation to the exportation of work offshore in both manufacturing and service sectors. Mitigations against employees stress in offshore sites are also suggested.
The economic conditions required for scientific management to be productive include: scale economies, standardisation of output and strong skill-pay differentials. In the factory, standard product requires workers to perform repetitive, low cycle time tasks; high steady level of demand maintains optimum capacity; economies of scale is needed to cover high administrative costs of planning, implementing, and monitoring production; continuous workflow is required in production process to balance line and avoid delays. Same principles can be applied to service sector. In particular, in order to gain economies of scale, unskilled labour is needed for de-skilled tasks at lower wages. However, there may be a shortage of unskilled local labour or there may be local institutional obstacles (e.g. trade union) to paying low wages. These local labour market conditions provide incentives to alter economic conditions through offshoring work to countries where labour is both abundant and low cost. This applies to both manufacturing and service work as long as the work process is labour intensive and requires low skills. In service sector in particular, skills are scarce and labour costs are a much higher proportion of total cost than in manufacturing.
Task decomposition is used as basis for export of services to low wage offshore sites. Digitisation induces workflows to be organised in the direction of dividing workflow into tasks that are separable in term of technical skills and interactivity; certain portions of the activity that requires low levels of face-to-face interactivity could be relocated offshore. There has been emphasis on reengineering - decompose, examine and standardise the activities necessary to complete a business process. This resembles the Taylorism scientific management activities that tasks took place in the factories back in 19th century. Large numbers of firms have offshore business processes (e.g. insurance claims, medical transcription, call centres and accounting) to low wage countries such as India. The firms benefits from the combination of low labour costs, project management skills and technological sophistication offered by the offshore location. All in all, relocation of jobs offshore results in economies of scale while paying low wages. This satisfies the economic conditions required for achieving high productivity in scientific management.
A number of mitigations can be done to reduce worker stress associated with scientific management at offshore sites.
Introduce technical changes to improve work efficiency.
Encourage worker participation in improving tools, workplace design and task organisation.
Provide employment security - e.g. permanent employment, promotion opportunity and bonus schemes.
Provide opportunity for employees to participate in improvement activities to increase workers commitment.
Address employees' complaints and concerns.
Provide in-time and sufficient technical support when requested.
Organise workplace in work cells/community and provide social support.
Make overtime voluntary and prepare pools of cross-trained workers to fill in for absenteeism.
Provide job enlargement and enrichment to reduce stress caused by performing repetitive low cycle time tasks.
'No blame' culture - avoid individual performance display, recognise worker sensitivity for negative feedback about defects, and train workers in designing and implementing foolproof techniques.
Reduce ergonomic difficulty by investing in process design and capital equipment.
Avoid intensity speed-up and consider impact of resource removal on team performance.
In conclusion, there is increasing tendency of relocating low skilled work offshore across various industries. Such phenomenon exhibits characteristics of scientific management - low cost labour, economies of scale, and standardised outputs. The stressful working conditions associated with scientific management inevitably affect the offshore sites; however such stress can be managed through a number of effective mitigation causes.