Time & Motion
A business or organisation must have resources, capital (equipment and accommodation), services, funds, information, and personnel. These ingredients of business are managed by accounting and finance practice, IT practice, and HR practice, yet ergonomics constitutes a third pillar of management, neglected for half a century.
The modern practice of time and motion includes the original process measurement methods, but has also developed to include the fields of cybernetics (the practice of control) and ergonomics (the practice of action). It is in some ways the most confronting discipline for the modern manager, because it's the most introspective. It asks questions about how well management is able to address the needs of the business or organisation.
This also makes it one of the most important disciplines for the modern manager, and unfortunately perhaps the most neglected. Project management methodologies, BPI and other methods have led to an increasing awareness of the importance of understanding operational management. But whilst dramatic in their impact, these tools are not an overarching framework for describing effort scenarios. This is gradually changing, however, as modern management professionals are becoming aware of the crucial importance of being able to make and interpret expressions of effort in the same way that accounting allows concepts to be expressed in terms of finances.
The original concern of time and motion studies was to determine effort involved in production steps (famously with a stopwatch), but over time, this idea was expanded into the notion of “scientific management”. It was believed that the same approach of “best practice” could be extended to fit the entire organisation, including management decisions. This was the flavour of the era when it was believed that careful planning could solve any problem. After management changes resulting from the world wars, time and motion approaches, along with “scientific management”, became neglected.
In the modern era, the lean management methods developed by the Japanese, which partly powered the Japanese economic miracle, have produced a strong focus on just-in-time, rapid response, and dynamic business. The speed of the market has increased dramatically since the late twentieth century thanks to automation and computerisation. This market “speed” has led to the need to focus more and more on adaptive business. Modern companies change direction often, whereas traditional firms specialised in doing the same job long-term.
This propensity for change has lead to greater need to ensure that production processes remain efficient and effective. The combination of cybernetics and ergonomics can be thought of as the alignment of effective and efficient action with methods for measuring, understanding, and controlling action. Increasingly, in a world where fast, responsive adaptability is needed, modern time and motion studies are in demand.
A simple lesson that any car driver knows is that times when things are changing fastest is when you need the most control. Likewise, when the business environment changes fastest, finely tuned control is more important than ever. The static repeating-step production lines of Henry Ford are the seed from which time and motion studies grew, but the field has bloomed beyond its roots, now complete with tools for analysing dynamic work flows and complex production systems.
The modern time and motion consultant can analyse and quantify activity in a changing environment, with work-patterns that are variable, and dynamically reconfigured with switching paths. Not only does the modern business or organisation need to account for effort spent in the course of business, it needs to be able to account for it in an environment that won't stand still.
It is in pursuit of this information that time and motion studies excel, offering the most value. The business of business has come full circle. Ergonomics now focuses on range and extent rather than rigidly confined operations, and now manages dynamic situations, not line and process. Control is as important as it ever was, and managers are remembering once again that ergonomics is a critical part of the management discipline.
Time & Motion Pty. Limited offers services for professional executives, managers, staff, and supervisors interested in developing their skills in the practice of time and motion, ergonomics, and cybernetics. We provide high-quality consulting, training and education, and support materials. Time and motion is a field whose time has finally arrived.
The business of business has come full circle
"Control is as important as it ever was, and managers are remembering once again that ergonomics is a critical part of the management discipline."