Time study

From CEOpedia | Management online

Time study - known also as motion and time study. It is a method to establish workers’ productivity standards. The time study is a procedure for determining the amount of time required to do some task, under standard conditions of measurement.

Motion and time study [1] is used to find the best and most efficient way of doing work. However it can not be use for every kind of work. This method is used to find the preferred way to be applied in factory work, hotel work, farm work, housework and other activities which are repeatedly done.

Characteristics of motion and time study

The characteristics of motion and time study are:

  1. dividing complex task into small and simple steps
  2. observing all of the moves of the employee to detect and eliminate useless movements
  3. precise time needed to do each movement

Direct time study procedure

Mikell Groover [2] developed procedure for the direct time study.

  • Identify and evidence the standard method.
  • Divide the task into work items.

These first two stages are carried out before the real time. They acquaint the analyst with the task and allow the analyst to try to improve the work procedure before the standard time is defined .

  • Time of work elements to get the time observed for the exercise.
  • Estimate the employee's work rate relative to the standard performance to determine the normal time

It must be note that steps 3 and 4 are performed simultaneously. Over these steps, a few different work cycles are determined over time, and the performance of each cycle is evaluated independently. Finally, the values ​​collected at these stages are averaged to obtain normalized time.

  • Apply the addition to the normal time to calculate the standard time. The tolerance factors that are needed at work are then added to calculate the standard time for the job.

Purposes to use standard times

The standard time for a work will be 130/100 of the amount of time that is essential to perform a unit of work[3]. The main purposes to do it are:

  • To set schedules
  • To specify supervisory goals
  • To specify standard costs
  • To set labor standards
  • To specify the number of machines that a person can run
  • To specify hardware and work requirements
  • To stability the work of crews, coordinate or in sequence
  • To specify labor standards.


The beginning of the idea of motion and time study was in 1890’[4]. It was used by Frederick W. Taylor, who was working at the Midvale Steel Company. Not too much time later, Frank B. Gilbreth coworking with his wife Lillian Gilbreth started developing the idea.

Examples of Time study

  • An example of time study is the analysis of the manufacturing process of a car. The car is broken down into individual components, such as the engine, transmission, and body parts. Each part is examined to determine the time it takes to assemble each component, as well as the time it takes to install and adjust each part. This information can then be used to optimize the manufacturing process, reducing the time it takes to produce a car.
  • Another example of time study is the analysis of the customer service process. This type of time study involves observing how quickly customers are served in a retail store, how long it takes for customer service representatives to answer phone calls, and how long customers wait in line. This information can then be used to streamline the customer service process, making it more efficient and reducing wait times for customers.
  • A third example of time study is the analysis of a restaurant kitchen. This type of time study involves measuring the time it takes for each step of the cooking process, from preparing the ingredients to plating the food. This information can then be used to improve the kitchen workflow and optimize the preparation times for each dish.

Advantages of Time study

Time study is a method to establish workers’ productivity standards. It has several advantages, including:

  • Improved productivity - As the time study is used to measure the amount of time required to complete a task, it can help to identify inefficiencies in the workflow, and the necessary adjustments can be made to improve productivity.
  • Reduced costs - By using time study to identify inefficiencies and waste, organizations can reduce their costs and increase efficiency.
  • Improved quality - By providing workers with specific instructions on how to complete a task, the quality of the work can be improved.
  • Increased motivation - By providing workers with clear instructions on how to complete tasks, it can help them to stay motivated and focused on the task.

Limitations of Time study

Time study is a useful tool for measuring and establishing workers’ productivity standards, however, it comes with certain limitations. These are:

  • The accuracy of the time study is highly dependent on the skill of the time study observer. If the observer is not experienced or qualified, their data collection could be inaccurate or biased.
  • Time study is best used to measure tasks that are repetitive and have a consistent pattern. It is not suitable for tasks that have frequent changes or require a lot of problem solving.
  • Time study can be expensive to set up, as it requires specialized equipment and dedicated staff to observe and record the data.
  • Workers may feel that their performance is being judged and hence could feel discouraged or unmotivated.
  • It does not take into account human factors such as fatigue, motivation and skill level, which can all affect a worker’s performance.
  • Time study can be difficult to adjust if the task changes or new processes are introduced.

Other approaches related to Time study

Time study is an important method for establishing workers’ productivity standards. Other approaches related to it include:

  • Work Sampling: This is a technique used to measure the percentage of time a worker spends on a specific activity by taking a random sample of observations over a period of time.
  • Predetermined Motion Time System (PMTS): This system is used to analyze the motions required to perform a task and identify the most efficient way of performing it.
  • Job Evaluation: This is a systematic process used to determine the relative value of jobs in an organization. It involves comparing jobs to each other, assigning them a value and determining how much employees should be paid for performing them.
  • Line Balancing: This is a technique used to achieve a balance between the number of workers and the tasks required to complete a job in the most efficient way possible.

In summary, these approaches are all related to time study, and when used together, can help to determine the productivity standards for workers.

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  1. Marvin E. M., (1960)
  2. Groover M. P., (2007)
  3. Marvin E. M., (1960)
  4. Pigage L. C., Tucker J. L., (1954)

Author: Klaudia Trączyk