Analysis of the time spent in going through the different motions of a job or series of jobs in the evaluation of industrial performance. Such studies were first instituted in offices and factories in the U.S. in the early 20th century. They were widely adopted as a means of improving work methods by subdividing the different operations of a job into measurable elements, and they were in turn used as aids in standardization of work and in checking the efficiency of workers and equipment.
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A time and motion study would be used to reduce the number of motions in performing a task in order to increase productivity. The best known experiment involved bricklaying. Through carefully scrutinising a bricklayer's job, Frank Gilbreth reduced the number of motions in laying a brick from 18 to about 5. Hence the bricklayer both increased productivity and decreased fatigue.
The Gilbreths developed what they called therbligs ("therblig" being "Gilbreth" spelled backwards, with a slight variation), a classification scheme comprising 17 basic hand motions. 1920 Frank B. and Lillian Gilbreth develop their time and motion studies.