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Time & Motion Studies [Management
Posted on June 12, 2018 @ 10:06:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I used to think time and motion studies were a relic of the past, something that was popular when we started creating assembly lines but which became less relevant as jobs became more service oriented or knowledge based. To some extent that is probably true but there are still many useful applications of time and motion studies. In certain industries it is still an important key to success because it leads to lower labor costs, greater efficiency of work and more reliable estimates of how long jobs will take.

Time and motion studies refers to two different types of approaches to analyzing work. A time study involves using a stopwatch to figure out how long it generally takes to do a task. A motion study examines the movements used to execute a task with an eye towards optimizing the sequence of movements. Video recording can be often useful for motion studies.

My new found appreciation for time & motion studies comes from watching Richard Perkins videos in which he often promotes studying time and motion for farm work. Ben Hartmann's books on Lean Farming is another inspiration. Many years ago I also read an excellent biography THE ONE BEST WAY: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency (1997) by Robert Kanigel. Anytime you talk about time and motion studies the name Frederick Winslow Taylor comes up. He was the top management guru of his day and a large part of that popularity was due to his advocacy of time and motion studies which he considered a scientific approach to management.

On my weekend at the farm, I was working on clearing out vegetation around the grape vines in my 2 small vineyards (total 2 acres). It involves many repetitive steps and I would like to optimize how long it takes to complete the work. I am actively trying to figure out the "one best way" to do this work but I can't really claim to know that for certain as I haven't studied the time and motion involved in doing the work in different ways. Nevertheless I did time how long it took me to drag a lawnmower up and down the vineyard for a single row of vines - around 8 minutes. I can now estimate how long it might take to do all 8 rows in 1 of my 2 vineyard areas (1 hour and 4 minutes). What I am ultimately aiming for is to estimate how long it would take me to complete all 3 stages of my vegetation management for each vineyard area so I can figure out if I can manage it or if I need someone else on board. I've guessed this in the past, but it would be better if I could come up with better estimates of the time required for the actual work involved.

Note that I wouldn't have to do the pull mowing shown in this video if I didn't have a ditch on one side of the row that prevents me from getting closer with a lawn tractor. Using a push mower is also more of a precision tool than a lawn tractor so can trim closer to the vines.

I am still in the early days of conducting proper time and motion analysis of vineyard work. I need to time how long it takes to do each stage and not just the "dragging the lawnmower" stage. Then I can add the times up and get an overall estimate. This can be compared to the actual time it takes to do the work which may include time to rest, to fuel machines, to fix machinery, etc... This is information I should know in order to better manage work in the vineyard.

I hope this discussion and case study helps you to decide if time and motion studies might be helpful in improving your operations.

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