Time Study, Time and Motion Study
How long does a job take? That is perhaps the single most important operating information, in any business.
Work measurement, time study by watch or electronics, perhaps random sampling; is a good way to learn the time involved. Direct observation also points out lost time, interference and waste, constraints, unbalanced workloads, activity that can be performed by a lower skill level, poor or even unauthorized methods.
Work measurement provides current information to support multiple tools of good management.
- First, as in all improvement activity, get the waste out.
Frederick Taylor stressed it, as did Lillian and Frank Gilbreth, and the Toyota production System, and Lean 6 Six Sigma, get the waste out. Observe the task where it occurs, on the production floor or desk or lab or monitor or warehouse or strategy session. Judge each facet for what actually happens, whether from observation, in the system, policy or procedure; “it’s necessary”, “we’ve always done it that way”. Does it add value? Is the customer willing to pay for it? Get the waste out.
- Quantify the required time to perform a function; direct or indirect.
As a basis for vital company systems; standard costing, capacity, efficiency, productivity, utilization, staffing, scheduling, cost justification. For Key Production Indicators to report correct results, better get the labor times right.
- Find and fix production constraints
What is delaying output, and how do we improve? Observation and the watch locate constraints quickly; then allow you to evaluate options.
- Update old rates and standardize practices.
Methods, equipment and technology evolve over time so that older rates become inaccurate. Use work measurement to update.
- Identify non-value added work.
Time study almost always reveals preventable waste, lost time, and productivity-killing practices. Study the constraint, the bottleneck, whether it is paced by machine or labor elements. Keep the constraint loaded. In keeping with the classic mandate of “Don’t improve, remove”, eliminate non-value added activity and pare crew sizes and / or increase production.
- Evaluate overloaded, and underloaded, jobs. Balance lines and workloads.
Time study labor or equipment activity to resolve workload issues objectively. Often, changes to job content or timing leads to quick and effective workload balance and better labor efficiency.
- Prepare for union contract negotiation. Know precisely what the activity level is.
Objective study informs both company and union about real, not perceived, labor workloads. Observation quantifies workloads, whether too high, too low, or just right. Effective corrections can include equipment and technology acquisition, work reassignment, layout change, and timing revisions.
- Take low-skill tasks off the skilled positions, who then spend their time on their special talents.
If a shortage of skilled labor is an issue for your business, work measurement is a key tool. Observe and time your skilled people to identify wasted time and the lower-skilled tasks that are assigned to them. Then eliminate the waste, and assign the lower-skill tasks to other, less skilled employees. In other words, free up your skilled people to use their talents. You don’t ask the surgeons to clean the operating room do you?.
- Educate your educated guesses.
Business makes decisions based on the best available data. Employe work measurement studies to generate objective, report current data. (Be careful here. The watch does not know the official party line; it may generate information that is not politically correct. Been there and done that.)
a. Confirm to management that a certain level of performance has in fact been reached, and that it is time for the next project phase.
b. Quantify current output, activity level, lost time, workload balance.
c. Contribute accurate information to mechanization ot automation justification.
- Choose a formal work measurement system; “incentives” or “piecework”, or “Reasonable Expectations” (RE). The costs of these systems are not the same, so be sure that the benefits will outweigh cost.
Incentives or piece rates motivate people, but rate setting effort, recordkeeping and reporting will increase. RE’s will result in more labor hours per unit than incentives, but less than an unmeasured situation. RE admin costs will be lower than incentives, although accuracy of the rates will be rigorous enough to support management systems.
Is there a single, simple solution to all, or even most, work measurement projects?
Work measurement projects are not all the same, because no two facilities have the same objectives nor operations. One size does not fit all.
JPR is familiar with work measurement in industry. Give us a call, at no cost or obligation, to discuss how it can benefit your operations and objectives. We can lead, participate, teach.