'Strict but fair' is how Robert Owen was regarded by his employees. New Lanark was one of the largest cotton mills in the UK in the early 1800s, employing over 1,500 people. Owen proved that you could run a successful business and make money without exploiting the workforce.

Robert Owen pioneered the use of new technology using the latest machinery in his mills. He was the first to advocate that shorter working days would improve efficiency and so it proved. When he reduced the working day, production in his mills increased. Owen did not employ any child under the age of 10.


Owen disagreed with any form of punishment, and so used the 'silent monitor' to improve productivity by encouraging hard work and good behaviour. The monitor was a small wooden block, each side of which was painted a different colour, and was hung next to each machine. The colour facing out showed how hard the person had been the working. The results were noted in the 'Book of Character'. White represented excellent work, yellow was acceptable, blue meant they could do better, while black was to be avoided!


Today, many of Owen's initiatives are widely regarded as good management practice, with the welfare of employees being seen as having a crucial role to play in the success of business.

Silent Monitor