International Steel Group, Steelton, Pennsylvania

February 1, 2018 Assignment

ISG Steelton

International Steel Group, Steelton, Pennsylvania

As the day-shift supervisor at the ISG Steelton steel plant, you summon the six college students who are working for you this summer, doing whatever you need done (sweeping up, sandblasting the inside of boilers that are down for maintenance, running errands, and so forth). You walk them across the plant to a field where the company stores scrap metal. The area, about the size of a football field, is stacked with organized piles of metal. You explain that everything they see has just been sold. Metal prices, which have been depressed, have finally risen enough that the company can earn a small profit by selling its scrap.

You point out that railroad tracks divide the field into parallel sectors, like the lines on a football field, so that each stack of metal is no more than 15 feet from a track. Each stack contains 390 pieces of metal. Each piece weighs 92 pounds and is about a yard long and just over 4 inches high and 4 inches wide. You tell the students that, working as a team, they are to pick up each piece, walk up a ramp to a railroad car that will be positioned next to each stack, and then neatly position and stack the metal for shipment. That’s right, you repeat, 92 pounds, walk up the ramp, and carry the metal onto the rail car. Anticipating their questions, you explain that a forklift could be used only if the metal were stored on wooden pallets (it isn’t); if the pallets could withstand the weight of the metal (they would be crushed); and if you, as their supervisor, had forklifts and people trained to run them (you don’t). In other words, the only way to get the metal into the rail cars is for the students to carry it.

Based on an old report from the last time the company sold some of the metal, you know that workers typically loaded about 30 pieces of metal parts per hour over an 8-hour shift. At that pace, though, it will take your six students 6 weeks to load all of the metal. But the purchasing manager who sold it says it must be shipped in 2 weeks. Without more workers (there’s a hiring freeze) and without forklifts, all of the metal has to be loaded by hand by these six workers in 2 weeks. But how do you do that? What would motivate the students to work much, much harder than they have all summer? They’ve gotten used to a leisurely pace and easy job assignments. Motivation might help, but motivation will only get so much done. After all, short of illegal steroids, nothing is going to work once muscle fatigue kicks in from carrying those 92-pound pieces of metal up a ramp all day long. What can you change about the way the work is done to deal with the unavoidable physical fatigue?

  1. If you were the supervisor in charge, what would you do?

  2. Find out what really happened and what steps do you think Frederick W. Taylor and his associates will take to achieve their goal


J. Hough and M. White, “Using Stories to Create Change: The Object Lesson of Frederick Taylor’s ‘Pig-Tale,’” Journal of Management 27 (2001): 585–601; E. Locke, “The Ideas of Frederick W. Taylor: An Evaluation,” Academy of Management Review 7 (1982): 14–24; F. W. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (New York: Harper, 1911); C. Wrege and R. Hodgetts, “Frederick W. Taylor’s 1899 Pig Iron Observations: Examining Fact, Fiction, and Lessons for the New Millennium,” Academy of Management Journal 43 (2000): 1283–1291; D. Wren, The History of Management Thought, 5th ed. (New York: Wiley, 2005).

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