Management information and management practices : freight train operation in inter-war Britain
This thesis seeks to explore how management practices developed in the U.K. using three of the big four railway companies as case studies. It will be argued that the managers in the UK, whilst aware of the debates on "Systematic" management and US practices, pioneered their own approach. Many of these practices were begun before amalgamation in 1923, but were only fully developed afterwards. We begin by exploring the history of management with an outline in Chapter Two on management ideas from the turn of the 20th century to 1939. This is followed by an analysis of management practices from circa 1900 to the amalgamation of 1923 in Chapter Three. Chapter Four introduces the railway companies within the context of their commercial environment. Chapter Five addresses the problem of achieving control of conveyance operations was addressed using similar methods by all companies. The key difference lay in the extent to which techniques were applied: the LMS developed centralised Train Control which enabled a systematic analysis of information to be made. The GWR and LNER introduced localised Traffic Control which did not allow such systematic analysis. In Chapter Six we see how the LMS employed management consultants to study terminal work using Time and Motion studies. Both the GWR and LNER emulated LMS practice by 1939. However these techniques were not the only solution. The LMS identified particular problems after amalgamation which it was felt could be solved by such analysis. The GWR on the other had concentrated on the transhipment freight, with encouraging results. Chapter Seven examines how railways perceived and interacted with their external business environment. New services were offered on the basis of research directed at identifying customers and the services they required. Agents of all companies would investigate opportunities for business and advise customers on their best options. The LMS and GWR had sophisticated Research Departments dedicated to the collection of commercial and economic information regarding the traffic available. If we take the essence of what these were trying to achieve: a rational and scientific approach to management problems, then the railway companies appear in a favourable light. Whatever criticisms are made of the railways, it was not a failure to adopt new management methods.