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The What, When, Why & How Of A Time And Motion Study

23rd February 2022

What…is a Time and Motion Study?

A Time and Motion Study is conducted to review individual tasks that are carried out in the workplace, identifying specifically how long each task currently takes (the time side of the study) and what physical activity it involves (the motion side of the study).

The outcomes of this assessment highlight time taken for each stage of the process, which can then be benchmarked and reviewed from an outsider’s perspective. An unbiased evaluation of the current process can identify where  improvements can be made.

Not only would this result in less movement, it would, of course, make the task quicker.

The outcomes from a Time and Motion Study are used in two ways:

  1. To help plan resources in order to match workload. For example, if serving a customer takes one minute, and 120 transactions are usually conducted within one hour, two colleagues are required in order to cover the workload
  2. To understand the time required for each step in the process, enabling businesses to focus their improvement efforts where it matters most. Whilst eliminating a once-a-month task that takes five minutes is good, it is in fact better to shave seconds off a process which is carried out all day, every day. Process steps in a coffee shop, for example, are:

The What, When, Why & How Of A Time And Motion Study

  Serve a customer to take the order

  Take the payment

  Get a cup (and maybe a tray)

  Make a coffee shot

  Froth the milk

  Make the drink

  Hand it to the customer

A Time and Motion Study in this situation could determine where seconds could be saved during these various process steps.

There are different types of studies involved, including:

  • Activity study – Answers the “how long does this take?” question
  • Efficiency study – Lifts the view from the detail of a process to look at a macro view of how time is spent overall by the team
  • Role study – Useful to quantify how nominated roles spend their time and can inform decisions such as “do I need all my layers of management, is a specialist fully occupied or could a more generalist role achieve the same?”
  • Pre-determined study – The breakdown of a task to a series of individual movements

When…did Time and Motion Studies originate?

It was originally developed in two parts.

Time studies were conceived in the United States by Frederick W. Taylor in the 1880s who used them for wage-rate setting after noticing that some men were not working themselves or their machines as quickly as they could. It involved determining the amount of time it took for a person to carry out various procedures under certain standard conditions.

Motion studies were developed by Frank B. Gilbreth and Lillian M. Gilbreth. These consisted of a wide variety of procedures that would enable a person to effectively describe, systematically analyse and highlight means to improve work methods. Ultimately, their goal was to reduce the variability in how different people completed the same process to identify the “one best way”.

Eventually, these two studies merged and are used today to discover a preferential and optimal way of carrying out a task.

Why…are they useful?

To give you an example of why a Time and Motion Study would help your business and when it would be particularly useful, let’s imagine you are a retailer and, on a particular shift, you have 5 colleagues working 8 hours, totalling 40 deployed hours.

After carrying out a Time and Motion Study, you have now been provided various insights and information that have led you to identify a number of outcomes. One of these outcomes highlights that actually, in one day, it takes 33 hours to serve customers and conduct all tasks. But you’re paying for 40 – that’s 7 extra hours a day that you don’t need to be paying for! Over the course of a year, that amounts to more than 2,500 hours.

If each hour costs you £10 in wages, that’s a whopping £25,000 you might not necessarily need to be spending.

The What, When, Why & How Of A Time And Motion Study

How…we do it at ReThink

Historical methods of conducting a Time and Motion Study involved a stopwatch and a clipboard, observing every movement and detailing observations at every step to produce piles of data.

Whilst that attention to detail is not lost, here at ReThink, we do things a little differently.

Using technology for complete accuracy, our productivity experts put their knowledge and experience to good use by visiting your workplace and meticulously assessing the length of time it takes to carry out each task. This could involve assessing till interactions, stock management and food production to calculate precisely how many colleagues are required on one shift and how much time is needed to achieve sales targets.

Our process improvement consultants will suggest practical steps to help improve both time and efficiency. This could be something as simple as moving items closer to the workstation (making them easier to grab on the go) or something like dropping the number of staff on shift at one particular time if they are not necessarily required.

We also have benchmarks for some processes enabling us to steer focus in the right direction. For example, we know of a retailer who routinely hands out online (Click and Collect) orders in under 30 seconds, whereas others may take 3 to 4 minutes. The retailer’s process is to have orders close to hand making packages easier to see, together with a slick IT system rather than paper trackers.

Our business improvement consultants provide extra knowledge and insight by using data from our time in retail, using it both for workload planning and process improvement. Because we have been there and done it, our experts know what is required, how to use data and the right level of detail, so that you receive a thorough insight rather than an overload of information.

Our ultimate aim is to make a difference with your data – to discover opportunities, develop insights and deliver better decisions for positive change.

How can we help you?

Not only will our approach to a Time and Motion Study plot out exactly where you stand versus where you could be, but our analysts will provide practical steps on how to help you get there, saving you time, effort  and, ultimately, money.

Contact our team today.

More information on Time and Motion Studies can be found in our whitepaper – our experts’ views into how modern techniques are bringing about new productivity insights. Download here >>