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Time Study and Work Measurement

A successful business will set expectations for its employees, balance workload, manage constraints, calculate staffing levels and crew size, schedule; pull waste and non-value-added activity out.

Work measurement is the place to start, for any organization where people or machines contribute to output, customer service, or cost.

Objectively define the time required for work elements, to serve as a basis for, and to state and reduce costs directly:

1. Many management tools are possible when you objectively define the time required for work elements, to serve as a basis for, and to state and reduce costs directly:
a. quantify expectations from people and processes, and communicate them
b. determine staffing levels as output levels rise or fall
c. assign and schedule work to people and equipment based on expectations
d. identify and manage constraints; in equipment, process, facility
e. balance individual workloads in lines or work groups for optimum performance
f. perhaps you will want to offer pay related to output; labor incentives

2. Work measurement also provides tools to manage your business better
a. calculate actual capacity the operation can produce
b. develop standard cost models for products and services
c. justify equipment and automation acquisition
d. meet the Sarbanes Oxley Act for financial understanding of costs
e. adjudicate disagreements about workload, assignments
f. analyze variance to find problems
g. estimate potential benefit from changes beforehand

3. What and where?
Work measurement is just as effective in the office, the lab, the maintenance shop, the field, the customer service unit, and the warehouse as it is on a production floor. It can favorably affect costs and service in health care and in government operations.

Many factors affect work measurement. Jackson Productivity Research Inc. has the experience to implement the actions that will generate the best results in your unique situation, to meet your objectives rapidly and cost effectively.

4. Actions to initiate work measurement
From the list of applications for work measurement above, choose primary and secondary objectives. Is it to be a tool to find and quantify cost reduction opportunity? Is it to contribute to a formal system, such as standard costs or product costing? The answer will suggest how to proceed.

Decide what the extent of your measurement program will be: widespread or focused; generally descriptive or statistically accurate; for guidance or for pay. Involve unions or other employee representatives as necessary. Choose in-house or consulting people to perform the program; they will select one or more techniques. Set goals, actions, deliverables, timetables.

5. What comes first, methods or work measurement?
This is a chicken-and-the-egg question which implies a linear relationship. In fact, methods and work measurement are a circular progression; create best results by performing one then the other alternately over time. If you start with methods improvement, quickly you will want to evaluate methods and you will have to time them to compare. Start with measurement, quickly you will identify other methods and will have to choose one.

The only bad choice is to fail to start somewhere.

6. Work measurement techniques Note that there is no inherently right or wrong work measurement technique; each can have a place where it is superior to others. Some techniques will fit your application, while others will be unlikely to achieve the accuracy and cost objectives. Jackson Productivity Research Inc. may use one or more depending on objectives, calendar, and budget.

a. Observation time study; stop watch
Frederick Taylor's original idea was to observe work, time how long it took and write it down. That is still the idea although today equipment and technical nuances are better.

The elements of work on a production floor usually repeat, often quite rapidly. Work elements in an office, a lab, a maintenance facility, a construction unit may not repeat as frequently but work can still be observed, recorded and analyzed for its effect and improvement.

Work measurement may be of an operator, a machine, a process, a movement, any element of work whose duration is important.

b. Predetermined times, MTM, MSD, Modapts
Predetermined times are proprietary systems that have over long observation developed the amount of time required for basic motions. Predetermined times have a built-in accuracy. MTM, Methods-Time Measurement, recognizes extremely short motions that occur in highly repetitive motions. These motions don't take long in the first place, and if you will measure them you had better use a detailed system such as MTM.

Modapts and MSD, Master Standard Data, accumulate predetermined times into larger groups. For highly repetitive work they may not be as accurate as MTM but for more variable work they can take significantly less time to apply. In any of these proprietary systems you must deal with one of the sponsoring organizations, and become accredited in application.

c. Electronic mechanisms e. g. PDA's and specialized software.
Several software products are on the market, designed to operate PDA's. The programs are written to allow the user to perform work measurement by pushing the PDA keys in a predetermined manner. If you have a requirement for frequent work measurement, you should consider one of the electronic systems. They reduce the engineering time in several ways and improve accuracy, especially for repetitive studies.

d. Work sample, random sample, the old term ratio delay. Originally "ratio delay" determined the amount of work, and of delay, through work observation at random times, not continually. Work sample is a more modern phrase, but measures the same way, not continually but randomly. Work sampling is a most effective way to learn quickly about an unfamiliar situation with several interdependent activities. It can even be used to understand general aspects of repetitive functions where many people perform the same work. And of course it quantifies delay and non-cyclic activity quite well.

In practice, time study and work sampling may be done in person or with video recording. One operation may be observed, or multiple operations and people, allied or dissimilar.

Thanks for the time, I hope the article was useful. JPR welcomes the opportunity to discuss your particular application.

Jack Greene, Jackson Productivity Research Inc.

Time Study and Work Measurement

You have searched the web to understand how the principals of time study and work measurement can benefit your organization, but maybe don't know quite how to proceed. I'll be glad to share what I know about the subject, and will welcome your call or email. Tell me as much as you'd like, confidentially, about your organization's situation and objectives, timetable and budget, and I'll describe some practical actions to accomplish your scope. You will have a better understanding of the options.


There's no cost or obligation to contact Jack Greene at 843-422-1298