What Is a Time and Motion Study?

Time and motion studies determine employee production requirements by analyzing complex tasks and breaking them down into component parts, eliminating redundant and wasteful motion by observing employee's sequence of movements, and precisely measuring the correct time for each movement. The results of time and motion studies determine production and delivery times, as well as prices. They are also utilized to create incentive schemes. Time and motion studies are used exclusively for repetitive tasks.

Time and motion studies are used in the manufacturing and service industries. They are based on the work of industrial engineer Frederick Taylor, who developed time and motion studies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His application of time and motion studies is known as Taylorism. In Taylorism, conception and execution are separated. Managers conceive of tasks, and workers perform them according to instruction. Taylor argued that this separation increased harmony and productivity in the workplace. Many labor unions argue against Taylorism as a form of de-skilling that harms workers.

Time and motion studies assist in lean production analysis. Lean production analysis utilizes time and motion studies to achieve continuous improvement in work processes in the context of demand-driven production. Proponents of motion and time studies under lean production argue that it gives workers input into problem solving and standard setting, while detractors argue it is a form of work intensification that is detrimental to workers.