Vantage point

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

You know sometimes you hear names which you feel you know but can't quite place? I was experiencing something similar for the past two weeks. Our "Operations Management" Professor, R.K "Rocky" Srivastava kept taking the name of the Gilbreth couple as the pioneers of "method design" and "method study". That is basically the science of optimising your output and saving time by efficient design of the flow of work and processes. Frank Gilbreth was a brick-layer at the beginning of his career who eventually rose very high in the field mentioned. Lillian Gilbreth was his wife. For the world of me I could not figure out where I had heard those names before.

Prof Srivastava has this habit of showing us comic strips which are relevant to the topic he is teaching on that day (some are Glasbergen and Dilbert too). Today he showed us the strip of Frank Gilbreth shaving with two razors and his kids watching. Gilbreth tried to save time by shaving with two razors, and it seemed to save 30 seconds. He was happy with this procedure until one day he cut himself and started bleeding. What made him abandon the method was not the fact that he suffered a wound, but the fact that it took up 120 seconds for first aid, and thus increased the net time. Rocky told us that Gilbreth's kids wrote a book about him which was full of such examples.

"Eureka! Eurka!", cried my brain as I finally got it. I placed the names! The book was "Cheaper By The Dozen" by Frank Gilbreth Jr. which I had read ages ago when I was in primary school. In fact it is one of the first proper books I ever read and I had absolutely loved it. I remember it only as a funny book with a couple that has 12 kids. Yeah, that's right, 12 kids!! As Rocky said, the Gilbreths were very productive and efficient in this regard too.

I need to read the book once again now, and not necessarily with an "Operations Management" point of view. Just got it from the library and have saved it up to read when I go home later this month. Also got "1984" by George Orwell and "Rising Sun", one of the few Crichton books I haven't read.

Can't wait to finish my projects and endterms so that I can polish off these books.

After that? i'll probably buy "Return of the King", the third part of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy by Tolkien.

Ahh, I am already mentally salivating at the mention of all these books. But I had better get back to textbooks now.