Engineer of the Week No.45: Anne (Annie) Gillespie Shaw (Pirie)CBE, MACEng FIProdE HonF UMIST (28th May 1904 – 1982)
Today we remember production and efficiency engineer Anne Shaw on her 115th birthday.
Anne Gillespie Shaw was born in Uddingston, Scotland. Her father, Major David Perston Shaw, having been in the wine merchant business, served in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and died June 1915, her mother was Helen Brown Shaw, MP for the Unionist Party (Conservatives) for Bothwell, Scotland 1931-35. She was educated at Laurel bank School, Glasgow and St Leonards School, St Andrews. After graduating from Edinburgh Anne Shaw gained a postgraduate certificate in social economy at Bryn Mawr University, where Dr Lillian Gilbreth, the time and motion expert, was a lecturer. Shaw worked for Gilbreth Management Consultants, doing commercial research studies and the two were lifelong friends and colleagues.
In 1930 Shaw returned to the UK, where she became a personnel officer for Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company in Manchester, and was later (1933) chief supervisor of women workers.She proved to management that a recently-reviewed process could be 150 per cent more efficiently done. From 1930 to 1945 she was the firm’s first and chief motion-study investigator, and as consultant to the entire Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) group, of which Metropolitan-Vickers was a part, she organized motion study courses. In 1935 Shaw joined the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and helped the Electrical Association for Women (EAW) produce an experimental film demonstrating the application of motion study to food preparation in the home. Also in 1935 she gained a private pilot’s licence.During the Second World War the government requested that her motion study courses for AEIbe given to the rest of the munitions industry. In 1942 Stafford Cripps, Minister of Aircraft Production, recruited Shaw onto his Production Efficiency Board, to advise on work methods in the aircraft industry.In 1945 she organized a national exhibition to demonstrate that her motion study methods applied to all industries. Benches of women demonstrated optimal motions for common industrial processes.
After the Second World War Shaw set up her own consultancy business, the Anne Shaw Organisation Ltd., of which she was Chairman and Managing Director, from 1945 to 1974, with her husband, John Pirie, and Bernard Ungerson as partners, and her son David Pirie joining the firm later. It continued after her retirement and death, and produced films, reports, and training courses for commercial and government clients. She was also a Director of Wescot Ltd (1964–79).
Shaw served on the Ministry of Aircraft Production’s Production Efficiency Board, the Board of Trade’s post-war Cotton Working Party; National Council on Education for Industry and Commerce;UK Advisory Council on Education for Management; Milk Marketing Board; NEDC for the Post Office; Economic Planning Council for theNorthwest Region; and the only technically-qualified woman member of the committee chaired by Lord Robens between 1970 and 1972which led to the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974).
She was the first woman elected to be a member of the Institute of Production Engineers (1936),the first president of the Motion Study Society of Great Britain, later the Work Study Society (1938), President of the Institute of Personnel Management (1949-51),and chair of the Management Consultants Association (1967).She was awarded the Queen’s Coronation Medal (1953) and the CBE in 1954.