Fordism/Taylorism in the Alima-Gerber Factory

The success of Henry Ford’s motor company was largely due to his introduction of the assembly line whereby each task in the process of creating a product is done repeatedly by an individual instead of one person making an entire product. This Fordism was then enhanced by Frederick Taylor who used “Scientific Management” to make control of factories vertical; “to wrest control of the production process out of the hands of the skilled craftsmen and to centralize control of the production process in the hands of managers” (Dunn, 10). Labor was separated into manual and mental. Manual labor was done by the “unintelligent” who worked the assembly lines and mental labor was done by managers who organized the production system and sought ways to increase productivity. Breaking down the individual tasks of workers even further, managers analyzed employee’s every move so as to eliminate any unnecessary steps in their task and complete the task as many times as possible in the least amount of time.

The Alima-Gerber baby food factory in Poland, like many other socialist factories, initially based its production system on a Fordist/Taylorist model. As well as these models worked in capitalist companies, however, they had to be greatly adapted to fit into the socialist economy. Firstly, management was not centralized in the firm, but in the state because it controlled the means of production. It also controlled supplies, which were not often plentiful. This led to hoarding and shortages, like those described by Verdery in her “What was Socialism and What Comes Next?”. As a result of these shortages, production was not constant and efficient as ideal Fordism should be. Employees “stormed” (Dunn, 16) when certain products were available, scrambling to produce as much as possible, were idle during shortages, and sometimes resorted to making products other than baby food so as not to waste what they did have. Through this, the separation between mental and manual labor was undone as workers had to decide for themselves what to do with different quality supplies (fruits of different ripeness, different sized jars, etc.) in ways that varied from their stipulated instructions.

Although socialist and capitalist production systems were based upon the same Fordist and Taylorist models, they evolved quite differently and became two completely different entities. This proved problematic when capitalist managers assumed that they could start over, going back to before socialism began and recreate a capitalist Fordist production system in post-socialist Poland.

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2 Responses to Fordism/Taylorism in the Alima-Gerber Factory

  1. af025 says:

    This comment was absolutely fantastic. It covered every aspect of the question posed and then some. I liked the structure of this comment where the layout started with defining the terms Fordism and Taylorism as well as integrating it into socialism. Then relating these two concepts to the Alima-Gerber baby food factory was clear and easy to translate. I thought this response showed a thorough reading of the text in addition to introducing other texts that we have read in class. I wrote about these two concepts as well but I think this response was more detailed in how the Fordism and Taylorism related to socialism and the people in the factories working under these conditions. I also liked the description of the importance factory worked stressed on what size and what types of foods are being processed and put into jars under the breakdown of mental and manual labor. The comparison of factories, factory workers, the importance of products and consumption, and the consumers through the transition of socialism to capitalism was also a nice touch. Great job!

  2. tnc005 says:

    This post did a great job of explaining Fordism and how it worked with Socialism. Fordism was adapted into Socialism,becoming centrally controlled. This post did a good job of explaining exactly how the Fordist system works to improve time efficiency by use of specialization in assembly lines. This post also showed how Fordism still resulted in hoarding and shortages in a more supply side focused system. Fordism and Taylorism broke up small tasks and emphasized time efficiency. Because of all of these qualities, I agree that it did prove to be problematic for the Alima Gerber company to switch into a Fordist Capitalist system.