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An Introduction to Time and Motion Studies

Time and motion studies are a core set of tools which are used by the managers in the industrial sector to enhance the performance or the operational efficiency. This is done by breaking down the work into simpler units and setting the execution benchmarks. This can be used in conjunction with the wage –incentive model which helps in increasing  employee motivation. The time and motion studies were initially used to improve productivity in manufacturing units but later saw tremendous use even in the service industries.

Time and motion studies can be used to determine the best possible method to perform the sub tasks in a worker’s job. This is the original piece-rate compensation model to maximize the workers’ productivity and to identify and train the employees on the basis of personality and skills analysis.

There are many advantages accrued by the right implementation of time studies in any work environment. Some of the key benefits are:
• It helps in improving the existing methods of performance improvement irrespective of the industry or size of operations.
• The studies will also help in identifying the right floor plan or operation layout of the factory or facility.
• The results of the time study when implemented lead to better resource utilization, higher job satisfaction and overall efficiency.
• It can also be used to cut manual effort because of the implementation of better workflow processes.


The time and motion studies are the keystone of the scientific management movement started in the late nineteenth century in the United States of America. These are the results of the work done by the stalwarts of the scientific management movement – Frederick Winslow Taylor, Frank B Gilbreth and Lillian Gilbreth.

Fredrick Winslow Taylor is the father of scientific management and in fact the movement itself is also known as Taylorism. He published his path breaking book, The Principles of Scientific Management in the year 1911, wherein he describes in detail how scientific management methods can help in improving worker productivity in an industrial set up.

The core idea behind the scientific management was a clear demarcation between the responsibilities of the manager and the workers. The managers involve primarily in planning whereas the workers are responsible for the execution of the tasks. The key concept for the Scientific Management is the organized study of work. In this the work is broken into simple elements and the worker’s performance is enhanced using systematic improvements.

Though the model has been written off many times since its conception, one can safely conclude that the model will be in force as long as industrial society prevails.

As per the research done by Taylor, any work can be broken down into smaller entities and these simple tasks can be planned so that the productivity can be enhanced by the use of scientific management principles. As per Taylor the scientific management is a better way to ensure that work is done effectively as against the more often followed initiative and incentive scheme. To determine the best way to perform a task, Taylor experimented using Time Studies. Time studies were done using a stopwatch to measure the time taken by a worker to perform the different actions to complete the task. The objective was to identify the best way to do a particular job.

The research on time study has evolved scientifically from the time of Taylor and Gilbert. Even in the current times, manufacturing companies still use the principles of time study to develop the best way of executing a particular task and thus increase the efficiency. The Gilbreths developed the micromotion analysis which involves elimination of unnecessary movements and simplifying of necessary movements to enhance efficiency.
Taylor made use of Gilberth’s motion study principles in his time study and thus redefined it to gain better acceptance among the management and the workers. The resulting time study model could be divided into the analytical and constructive categories.

The time study analysis required to dividing the worker’s task into simple basic movements, removing the useless movements, identifying and timing the quickest motion paths and types and using the time taken to perform these activities as the standard time for completing the tasks.

In the constructive time study, the elementary movements required in any activity were grouped together in different combinations. These were recorded and indexed so that this knowledge repository can be used to determine the time required to execute similar tasks in any job or factory setting.

The results of these time studies done by Taylor are the Principles of Scientific Management.

These concepts played a key role in the growth of Ford and the way the organization operated. The Ford model was supply driven where standardized goods were produced by semi-skilled employees with high-efficiency due to the implementation of Taylor’s Scientific Management principles.

Currently the lean production organizations use the time and motion studies to set up the standards and obtain continuous process improvements in the demand driven markets.



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