Lean manufacturing

Time study 101: overview, steps, and best practices

What Is a Time Study?

In simple terms, a time study is a methodical way to observe and measure your employees' work rate using a timing device. Time studies aim to determine how long it takes a qualified worker to complete a task at a set performance level.

When done correctly, a time study is a useful tool for managers and business owners to assess how efficiently work is being done on a production floor. It provides a standard rate of working, which can be useful in a manufacturing setting when trying to improve productivity and optimize the entire plant floor. It can also help uncover any hidden flaws or areas of weakness within the plant that slows down production and leads to delays.

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Reasons for Conducting a Time Study

A time study is an important observed time measurement, as it gives you baseline metrics and data points for your business. In addition, this process helps you learn more about the operational efficiency of your production lines using clear time standards.

Here are a few other benefits of conducting a time study:

Time Study Analysis Helps Managers Find Ways To Improve Production

One of the major goals of all managers is to improve production and maximize output. It’s important to have insights into everything from machine utilization to the actual time it takes to make a good product. When you have a baseline for your metrics, managers can then find ways to improve production — like moving machines and workstations to streamline processes, or restructuring the layout of the production floor for better workflow.

It Balanced Work Distribution

In addition to helping managers find ways to improve efficiency overall, time studies also help find new ways to balance the workload and distribute work among team members. If just a few individuals are burdened with the majority of the workload, it can demoralize the entire team. A time study can help uncover areas of inequality and help managers find better ways to balance the workload.

It Provides Target Times and Wage Incentives

Motivating the team is another important task for managers. Conducting a time study can help managers figure out what the target times for the factory floor should be. When they know this information, managers can then set up incentives like bonuses and wage increases when employees meet those goals and target times. This can increase production overall and create a more dedicated workplace.

It Helps Eliminate Inefficient Manufacturing Processes

Inefficient processes slow down production and create waste. While certain techniques like lean manufacturing can help reduce waste in the manufacturing process, without clear baseline metrics there still won’t be enough data to correct these areas of inefficiency. If these areas go unaddressed, your manufacturing processes will continue to suffer from inefficiencies that result in bottlenecks and slowdowns.

Best Practices and Tips to Get the Most From Your Time Study

Before beginning your time study, there are a few basic requirements that need to be established. These best practices will help ensure that your time study is successful and that your time doesn’t go to waste.

Establish Clear Time Study Goals and Boundaries

As with most baseline studies or template initiatives, you need to begin by creating clear goals for your time study. This includes ensuring you have defined boundaries for what you want to achieve. Think about what you want to determine in your study — be it the speed of your production processes or the removal of wasted time. From there you can pick the processes or areas of your business to observe during the time study.

Have a Certified Workplace Observer Monitor the Time Study

Next, you’ll need a trained and experienced certified workplace observer to monitor the study. In order to get the most out of your time study and make sure that it’s done correctly, you’ll likely want someone with a background in industrial engineering. The right person will typically have a certification in workplace optimization from the Institute of Management Services or another similar agency, like the Industrial Time Study Institute. These organizations offer training and can help execute your time studies.

Choose an Adequate Sample Size

Another important setup step is to make sure you have the right sample size for your time study. If the labor you choose to observe isn’t a good representation of the size of your workforce, you won’t get accurate measurements for your business. For example, if you have 500 production employees, you wouldn’t select a sample group of only three workers.

Utilize Advanced Time Tracking Tools

The final basic requirements for a successful time study are the right tracking tools and timing devices. When you use outdated or even manual tools, you risk having incomplete or incorrect data. Advanced tracking tools can give you better insights into your workplace efficiency and ensure that the metrics you collect are as accurate as possible.

7 Steps to Structuring Time Studies

Now that you know more about what a time study is and how to establish a good foundation for implementation, let’s take a look at how to conduct one.

1. Choose the Tasks and Processes To Study

Begin your time study by determining the tasks and processes in your organization that you want to spend your time studying. This will depend on the larger goals and boundaries you established in the set-up phase of your time study.

2. Determine the Number of Cycles To Study

Next, decide how many cycles to study. If you’re unsure where to start, looking through your timelines and budgets can help you determine exactly how many cycles you should study. Make sure you have enough samples to get accurate data, but also consider the time and effort it will take to collect all of those samples.

3. Choose Eligible Workers

You don’t want to pick only your top performers for your time study. While it can be tempting to choose your fastest employees to give you the best numbers, this won’t give you numbers that are reflective of your actual workforce. Select eligible employees who represent your average worker — not the highest or lowest performers. It’s okay to include a couple of these outliers if necessary, but be aware that too many may skew your data significantly.

4. Explain the Time Study Details to Your Team Members

Communication is key for the success of a factory. A time study requires careful observation of your workforce, and if you don’t tell your team members what’s going on it can be extremely disruptive to their normal workflow. This also means that your numbers and metrics are more likely to be inaccurate. Make sure that your team understands why the time study is being conducted and reassure any concerns that they might have about their job security.

5. Have an Observer Analyze Individual Tasks

Hire or train an observer to analyze the individual tasks that will be completed in the course of the time study. If you don’t have baseline standards in place, then the observer will need to use their experience and training to judge the best starting point and calibrate their measurements from there.

6. Analyze Workers’ Performance

Next, begin analyzing workers’ performance with the help of advanced tools. However, it’s important to remember that because a time study measures human work, you’ll need to make allowances for things like working conditions, time off, personal needs, and sick days.

7. Use Your Data To Calculate Standard Time

Finally, you can use the data collected from the time study to calculate the all-important standard time metric, and then develop your data points from there. Then you can come to actionable conclusions that will direct how you improve efficiency and optimize the flow of your manufacturing processes.

Helpful Formulas To Use With Time Studies

Formulas are the foundation of manufacturing. Everything from OEE to the actual times collected in your time studies have an important place in your organization. When conducting a time study, here are a few useful formulas that you can use.

Average Time

Before you can calculate standard time, you’ll need to know your average time and your normal time. Average time, as you might assume from the name, is the average time it takes for a worker to complete an individual task from start to finish. If you are studying multiple individuals, then you would take the average of all the recorded times to find your average time.

Average Time = (Recorded time 1 + Recorded time 2 + Recorded time 3 +…) / Number of recorded times

Normal Time

Normal time is a calculation that multiplies the average time by the rating factor, which is a metric that records the abnormal standards of a task. The rating system takes into consideration things like employee skill, effort, and consistency. There are a few different rating systems that your observer might use to determine the rating factor they will use in the normal time calculation. The normal time formula is as follows:

Normal Time = (Average Time) x (Rating Factor / 100)

Standard Time

When you have your average time and normal time calculated, you can finally move on to your standard time formula. This is the key metric that your time study is working to uncover, and will tell you the time it takes a normal worker to complete a task under standard conditions. The standard time also takes into account different allowances, like unplanned breaks or unexpected delays. The standard time formula is typically written as such:

Standard Time = (Normal Time) x (1 - Allowances)

Optimize Your Operations With Amper

A time study can reveal crucial insights about how quickly your production lines are working. Done right, a time study generates valuable data and metrics that can help boost your entire organization's efficiency. But to get the most out of it, you need the right tools in your arsenal. And that's where Amper comes in.

With our state-of-the-art tools, you can run a top-notch time study and analyze the results with ease. We specialize in helping you understand your setup and changeover times, so you can make better decisions that drive your business forward. Book a demo today and see how Amper can help you optimize your business to its fullest potential.

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