As early as the 1890s, Frederic Winslow Taylor of Philadelphia became the Father of what has come to be known as Scientific Management, or "Taylorism"), the theory of management that analyzed and synthesized workflows with the goal of optimizing productivity and reducing waste. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management.
Taylor observed that most workers who are forced to perform repetitive tasks tend to work at the slowest rate that goes unpunished. This, and other observations, led him to develop policies such as rest breaks, piece work incentives, time and motion studies, etc.
Once scientific management started, it was a genie that could not be put back into the bottle, and today's Toyota Production System, and Kaizen's focus on continuous improvement are merely the evolution of Taylor's insights. Beyond manufacturing, his findings have even been applied to sales process engineering.