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The Advantage of the Division of Labor

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By subdividing each individual function of the manufacture of an engine block into dozens of smaller sub-functions, manufacturers could spend less time switching from one function to another and focus just on performing one task. Returning to our example of pin manufacturing rather than spending time drawing the wire and then getting the tools necessary to straighten a wire, a pin makes can simply focus on just one function. The last major advantage of utilizing a system that employs a division of labor is that a great deal of the machines, tools and other technology have evolved alongside the system of specialized labor.

The best example of this that comes to mind are pneumatic tools such as an ‘ air ratchet’ . These are tools that used highly compressed gas as a power source for their primary function. If for example, a person were to be removing or affixing a tire to a vehicle the function can be performed sluggishly with a normal ratchet wrench, or with a pneumatic air wrench someone can affix or remove dozens of times an hour.

However, the startup and use of these tools require precise calibration and specific startup time that makes them impractical for infrequent use. Returning to the case of pin manufacturing it is the case that pin making is no longer the delicate time-consuming process that it once was but assuming that one was to try and recreate the old process again, instead of using a sharpening stone for putting a point on the wire one could use a specialized tool such as a pneumatic grinder. Not everybody has been a proponent for the application of the division of labor.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2008 revision), Karl Marx described the industrial division of labor as representing a form of alienation in which a person becomes reduced to the condition of a machine. Take the example of Lidl and Aldi grocery retailers in Europe. These companies are frequently the subject of criticism because of the low wages paid to the checkout clerks and the near impossibility of skills upgrading to perform more complex and higher paying job functions within the organization.

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