Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

Anne Gillespie Shaw (1904-1982), production engineer and businesswoman

Anne Shaw

Born in Uddingston, educated at St Leonard's School, St Andrews, Laurel Bank School, Glasgow; and the University of Edinburgh.

After graduating from Edinburgh, she 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. Shaw and Gilbreth 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 AEI be 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 the Northwest Region; and the only technically-qualified woman member of the committee chaired by Lord Robens between 1970 and 1972 which led to the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974).

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