Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.
Time and motion studies were important tools used by followers of the scientific management school of thought. In this lesson, you will learn about time and motion studies. You'll also find out what a therblig is. You can then test your knowledge with a quiz.
The School of Scientific Management
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, with the rise of industry and factories that produced large numbers of consumer items, there developed a school of thought called scientific management, which sought to improve the efficiency of labor, and therefore, profits of the factory owners, by analyzing the process of industry and the work environment.
This school of thought was initially developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor, a mechanical engineer. Although we don't really use the term 'scientific management' anymore, the tools developed during that era are still used in business and management today.
One of the tools used in early scientific management studies, developed by Taylor himself, is the time study, which breaks down the distinct motions required for a work task into separate components and times each motion. The goal is to determine the appropriate amount of time it should take to complete each component of the task.
The other tool developed during the scientific management era and discussed in this lesson, the motion study, examines the exact types and numbers of motions required to perform a work task. The goal of the motion study is to eliminate any unnecessary motions from the task, thus increasing productivity.
The motion study was developed by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, a married couple that were significant contributors to scientific management. They had a name for each distinct part of a task, the therblig.
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Let's say you are a 19th century production manager in a steel plant. Your plant uses coal-fired furnaces to heat the steel it produces. The furnaces are fed coal in the old-fashioned way, with a shovel, muscle and sweat. You decide to perform a time study in an attempt to improve efficiency. First, you break down the shoveling of coal into its distinct motions: picking up the shovel, walking to the coal bin, placing the shovel in the bin, scooping up coal, removing the shovel from the bin, walking over to the furnace door, placing the shovel into the entrance, rotating the shovel to deposit the coal, withdrawing the shovel, and returning to the coal bin. You time each motion. You may use the best workers - that is, the quickest workers - to determine the appropriate amount time it should take to complete each motion by timing them. You then develop a set of times it should take for an employee to complete each step of the task.
Now, let's change the approach a bit by using a motion study. This time you will not be concerned with timing the motions. You carefully examine the motions required to complete the task of delivering coal into the furnace. You determine which motions are essential to the task and which motions are not necessary. You develop a precise procedure that outlines the motions to be followed in performing the task using only the necessary motions and eliminating all unnecessary motions.
Time and motion studies were two of the tools developed within the school of thought called scientific management. Frederick Windslow Taylor started the process by using time studies to improve work efficiency by determining the shortest amount of time it should take to perform each motion in a work task. The Gilbreths contributed with motion studies, which focused on eliminating all unnecessary motions in a work task to improve efficiency. These two tools are commonly still used in management today.
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