Revisiting Time and Motion Studies

In the current dynamic business environment, companies are continually looking for methods in which to advance themselves. Innovative implementation of traditional methodologies can help businesses attain their strategic improvement goals without creating internal tension and conflict that can often, in turn, jeopardize the success of quality improvement programs. Time and motion studies have been successful in various implementations enabling companies to move forward in providing logical frameworks for improving and leaning their operations.


A time and motion study is a scientific approach used to discover operational deficiency in a business process. Each process is studied minutely and analyzed in order to eliminate any inefficient practice. The first time study was conducted by Frederick Winslow Taylor, which focused on the length of time it took workers to complete tasks, and was later combined with motion studies conducted by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth in the early 20th century, which concentrated on the best way to perform a job. Taylorism argues that even the most basic tasks can be planned in ways that can considerably increase productivity. The time studies performed by Taylor, which were later classified as time and motion studies, were characterized by timing a worker’s series of motions and determining the optimal way in which to perform their particular job.  The goals of the study are as relevant today as they were back then; to increase the efficiency of a business process.

Time and Motion Assessment and Improvement

Time and motion is assessed through the analysis of activities and assessment of proportionate or associated waste.  Waste can be categorized into eight forms; overproduction, inventory, waiting, transportation, motion, making defects, over processing, and improper use of human intellect.2 Time and Motion analysis defines probable root causes of each form of potential waste within.


• Identifies periods of high intensity work and periods of inactivity based on Demand


• Identifies extra handling and movement due to excess inventory


• Identifies periods of inactivity, man or machine, as one is idle as the other finishes a task


• Identifies non-automated transfer of materials or information


• Identifies excess walking, lack of single point of use work stations, non ergonomically designed workstations


• Identifies product waste and excess resources and associated waste involved in disposal

Over Processing

• Identifies excess movement and work associated with non value added activities

Human Intellect

• Identifies excess handling or checks and delays due to waiting on decisions or approvals

Our Approach

1. Define the Process

A first order, level 0 value stream map can be developed in order to understand the “Big Picture” of the organization’s end to end process. The intent behind the creation of the value stream map is to capture all the critical flows in a process – work, materials, and information. Cost, time, and workload estimates will be assigned to each step in the process and will be evaluated for workload balance and excess waste. The high level steps will be prioritized and based on five key components: control, relevance, resources, payback, and buy-in. With the steps prioritized, deep dive will be conducted on those with the highest priority.

The first step in the deep dive will be to develop a charter for each of the process steps being evaluated. The charter will include a definitive start and end point for the process being evaluated (scope), a problem statement and goal, as well as team resources and objectives.

The second step in the Define phase will be to conduct a Voice of the (x) Analysis; Voice of the Customer (VoC) Analysis, Voice of the Business Analysis (VoB), and Voice of the Process Analysis (VoP). The purpose of the “Voice of” analysis is to determine what is critical to each aspect of the process.

       Voice of (x) Analysis

  • Captures information about the customer, business, and/or process in order to provide superior service product quality through constant innovation, capturing any changes in requirements over time
  • Information obtained through direct conversation or interviews, surveys, observation, field reports, etc.
  • Assist the organization in
  • determining which products and services to offer,
  • identifying critical features and specifications for those products and services,
  • determining where to focus improvement efforts, and
  • creating a baseline measure against which to measure improvement

2. Map the “As-Is” State

For each process step identified from the first order value stream map, a visual layout will be created for the workspace to be evaluated (baseline). A “Spaghetti” diagram will be created to track the movement of each person and object that is involved in the process. Time needed to perform each step in the process and the distance traveled will be recorded. Using the data collected from the spaghetti diagram, a value stream map will be developed using swim lanes to differentiate the various locations within the process. Time, distance, and cost will be recorded for each step.  Costs will be verified with each team’s financial representative.

3. Map the “Ideal” Future State

With the documented value stream map and “spaghetti” diagram, the team will conduct a waste walk of the process to identify waste. A brainstorming session will be conducted to capture improvement ideas and to design potential new ways of performing the process. The brainstorming session will serve to answer several questions, including:

  • What opportunities are available?
  • What obstacles might impede performance?
  • What might be a possible cause of problem A?
  • What is a possible solution to problem B?

Each of the new designs will be discussed and prioritized. The top scoring designs will be mapped and a future state visual layout will be created.

4. Analyze the Gap

A gap analysis will be conducted to assess the differences between each of the future state options and the “As-Is” process. This analysis allows the organization to develop strategies to close the gap(s) between current and potential performance. A cost benefit analysis can be conducted for each chosen or potential option(s) for their validity and potential impact and outcome. Further analysis will be done to compare the options, and pilots will be run when applicable. The improvements will be prioritized based on the Control, Relevance, Resources, Payback, and Buy-in.

5. Make Changes and Evaluate the Improvement

Teams will be introduced to concepts such as pull systems, just-in-time, cell layout, and visual management (6S) in order to enhance the design of their “Ideal” process. Once an “Ideal” process has been designated, the changes will be implemented and evaluated against the “As-Was” sub-process. Data will continue to be collected for analysis regarding time movement and cost associated with the new process and asses its benefits.

       Pull Systems

  • Control the flow of production by automatically replacing supplies as they are consumed, thus eliminating shortages and overstocking
  • Eliminate waste in storage and handling


  • Have supplies available at the exact moment at which they are needed
  • Allow operations to be more efficient, economical, and reactive

       Cell Layout

  • Reorganize layout of floor to reduce part movement, set-up time, and queue time
  • Release idle capital that can be better utilized elsewhere, resulting in cost savings and better control of operations

       Visual Management (6S)

  • Enable all staff levels to assess the existing business process
  • Reduce waste by restructuring the workplace, normalizing processes and procedures, improving quality efficiency, and creating a safe and secure work environment
  • 6S – create and maintain a structured, clean, secure, and high-performance workplace
    • Sort: eliminate all objects from the workplace that are not needed for the current tasks
    • Simplify: all items needed for the current tasks are arranged in line with the physical workflow, allowing for effortless and immediate retrieval
    • Sweep: maintain clean workspace so all items needed for tasks are easily found and to provide employees with a safe work environment
    • Standardize: generate a consistent way of implementing daily tasks; including sort, simplify, and sweep
    • Sustain: maintain and review standards to help enable continue success
    • Safety: maintain safety standards in the workspace to help eliminate process downtime

6. Continuous Improvement and Control

Monitoring and evaluation will continue as the team works on mistake-proofing the new process. Flow diagrams will be created, requirements documentation will be collected, and all changes will be validated. Risk management plans will be created using Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). FMEA is a procedure that helps to categorize every potential mode of failure in a process or product to determine its effect on other processes, sub-processes, or products.  This analysis is also used to classify and prioritize the possible causes of the failures. It also aids in the development of and implementation of preventative actions, with responsible parties assigned to carry out these actions. Lastly, standard operating procedures will be captured and training plans will be documented and implemented.

Specific Benefits of Time and Motion Studies


  • Works to verify that critical customer requirements and “Voice of” analysis are simultaneously reviewed and taken into account
  • Sustains a level of consistency between the business and process/product improvement
  • Links Quality Management Systems directly to financial business performance


  • Gives credibility to Quality Management Systems by continuously improving products and processes
  • Signifies an organization’s ability to deliver and sustain the benefits

A Management Approach

Organizations That Get the Most from Time and Motion Studies Have:

  • Business managed around its core competencies
  • Decisions based upon fact and data
  • Performance measured from the customer point of view
  • The gap between current performance and customer expectations clearly understood and proactively managed
  • Quality integrated into daily work
  • Improvements made in a structured, methodical manner
  • Benefits of all improvement activities consistently delivered and realized

1 Adler, Paul S. “Time-and-Motion Regained.” Harvard Business Review 93101 Jan 1993: 97-108

2Max Allway CI Plus, 1996

2 thoughts on “Revisiting Time and Motion Studies

  1. Hello ! it really helps me a lot doing a research about time and motion study !! i was exactly looking for a company example that uses one of Taylor’s techniques, im wondering if u could give me information where u got that ‘Toyota company example’ ! thank u !! =) great work !!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s