Experience curve is the name applied in 1966 to overall cost behavior by The Boston Consulting Group. The name was selected to distinguish this phenomenon from the well known and well documented learning curve effect. The two are related, but quite different.
It has been known for many years that labor hours per unit declined on repetitive tasks. This effect was particularly easy to observe in such things as aircraft production in wartime. The rate of labor decrease was characteristically 10 to 15 percent approximately per doubling of experience. This expectation has long been a part of military contracting.
The so-called learning curve effect apparently had somewhat limited application, however. It only applied to direct labor. Unless the job changed, this meant the time required to obtain a given cost decline tended to double each cycle of experience. This masked the far reaching implication of the possibilities of job element management with volume changes.