Times Tells All

ISE Magazine -Volume 49: Number 03
By George Bishop

Work measurement is an indispensable source of knowledge for any business, leading to more accurate management decisions

Industry has continued to embrace work measurement, despite the challenges associated with finding young engineers who are trained and interested in it. Clearly, the stated goal of work measurement is to establish the time – to provide knowledge on how much time it should take to accomplish a given task under defined conditions. Work measurement should be considered as the tool used to populate the information system with data relative to time. This data is composed of the individual ELS associated with the various components that constitute a task, an operation or a job function.

Performance management

Work measurement anchors any successful performance initiative, and along with its industrial relations and human resources components it defines the rules and strategy by which labor performance will be managed.

To have any credibility, a performance measurement system must rely on accurate and fair measurement of performance. Time, as well as countless labor arbitrations, have shown that work measurement is the only reliable means to set the standard time that is used as the numerator in calculating an individual’s performance.

Incentive-based compensation

Incentive-based compensation remains popular in many industries, and it is often referred to as the “carrot” to the performance management “stick” in overall workforce management strategy. The rationale behind incentive-based compensation is to give the associates an opportunity to earn extra compensation based on performing above what would normally be expected. It makes perfect sense to use ELS to establish the threshold for the performance component of the incentive package.

Advanced method analysis

The best practice when it comes to implementing ELS starts with optimizing the current process.

Given that many first-level predetermined motion time systems (PMTS) are closely linked to the notion of therbligs and the Gilbreth approach of analyzing motions, it stands to reason that these systems can be extremely useful in fine-tuning work methods. In the case of repetitive work, PMTS can offer a more granular analysis of the methods than typical process improvement methods. A more granular analysis will improve our ability to focus on finer details of the processes and lead to even more optimized processes. The structure and granularity of MTM-1 makes it possible to outline improvement opportunities that arise from:

  • A lack of simultaneous use of both hands
  • Awkwardness and difficulties associated with the grasping of a tool, object or component
  • Difficulties to position tools, objects or components due to lack of symmetry, tight tolerances and awkward grip
  • A nonoptimal positioning of the tools, objects and components that will require longer reach and move distances
  • The impact of bending and other body motions
  • Additional eye usage due to the layout of the tools, objects and components

 Ergonomics analysis

The MTM Institute and the Deutsche MTM Association is currently field testing and validating MTM-HWD (Human Work Design), a new system that combines work measurement and ergonomics analysis into one convenient package. In essence, MTM-HWD is a new “language” that captures, assesses and measures human actions. A more efficient work design process is created by embedding the ergonomics component directly into the work measurement process. This approach yields many advantages, including the following:

  • Time and ergonomic assessment is done concurrently, saving time in the design process and ensuring that both time and ergonomic risks are assessed.
  • Methods design process integrates seamlessly.
  • Ergonomic risks are considered early in the design process of both the product and the manufacturing process.
  • ELS are calculated through a well-accepted methodology that yields accurate, defendable and homogenous standards.
  • Health issues can be mitigated early enough in the process to minimize their impact.
  • Germane to this approach is a closer integration of three important fields of industrial engineering. Work and process design can now benefit from the synergy created by methods engineering, work measurement and ergonomics.

Comparing alternatives

The decision to invest in new equipment, a new workplace layout or new methods should rely on accurate data regarding the potential of the alternative versus the current situation. One way to improve your decision process is to leverage your current ELS to assess the impact of potential alternatives to your current processes. Comparing the alternatives to the current situation becomes simple:

  1. Identify how the current process will be impacted. What will disappear from the current process? What will be added? What will be modified?
  2. Create a standard to account for what will be added.
  3. Assess the impact to elements of the standard that will be modified.
  4. Update the overall standard by removing what is no longer needed, adding the new elements and updating those that were impacted by the change.
  5. Calculate the ROI based on the current standard and the projected standard for the alternatives.

In the end, if the new alternative is viable and subsequently implemented, you will already have an updated set of ELS to continue managing your operations most efficiently.

Planning and scheduling

Planning and scheduling resources are two of the most fundamental aspects of operating any type of organization. Lacking either of those skills has an immense negative impact on any endeavor; chief among the consequences are poor service levels, low customer satisfaction, low resource utilization and high labor costs. For most organizations, the challenges in planning and scheduling do not reside with the activity itself; advances in software have simplified and greatly enhanced these business processes. Most organizations actually rely on proven resource scheduling and planning systems.

Activity-based costing

The challenges outlined in planning and scheduling also impact an enterprise’s ability to cost its services and products accurately. Activity-based costing imparts a real understanding of all costs associated with a service or product. To be useful, any activity-based costing exercise needs to rely on accurate information. The use of ELS will make it possible to associate the labor expenditures to the appropriate activities, services or products.


A manufacturing process simulation will yield insightful information only if the process is modeled accurately and if the data, including cycle times, are accurate. When dealing with sophisticated analysis and simulation tools in the era of big data, users often are under the impression that such a powerful tool cannot fail – that given enough computational power, we can crunch any data and make some sense out of it. Unfortunately, it is the user that fails in understanding the importance of quality data, including the importance of using ELS when modeling time-related scenarios.

Decisive measures

Work measurement should be viewed for what it truly is – the best and most accurate way of understanding the time attributed to a given activity. Any decision that relies on time will greatly be enhanced by using work measurement. This article outlined where management can use work measurement and ELS to improve the quality of the decision process. Any activity that relies on the notion of time can benefit from accurate time measurement, which begs the question: How can you manage without ELS? You can’t.