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Time vs. Motion Study: Two Paths to Improved Productivity

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Are you constantly striving to optimize the efficiency and productivity of your business processes? If so, then you’ve probably heard about two powerful methodologies – time study and motion study.

Time study is a method used to determine the duration required to complete a task or activity, while motion study is a systematic analysis of work methods, focusing on the movements involved in a task.

Time vs. Motion Study

Time StudyMotion Study
Time study involves analyzing and measuring the time required to perform a specific task or activity.Motion study focuses on observing and analyzing the body movements and motions involved in performing a task or activity.
Its objective is to determine the standard time needed to complete a task accurately and efficiently.Its objective is to identify and eliminate unnecessary or inefficient movements to improve productivity and reduce fatigue.
Time study primarily focuses on the measurement and analysis of time-related factors such as work pace, breaks, and interruptions.Motion study primarily focuses on the analysis of body movements, including reaching, bending, grasping, and overall ergonomics.
Its objective is commonly used in industrial settings to establish fair labor standards, improve work methods, and determine labor costs.Its objective is frequently applied in ergonomic design, work process optimization, and workplace safety evaluations.
Time study often employs techniques such as stopwatch timekeeping, work sampling, and predetermined time systems like MOST or MTM.Motion study utilizes tools like video recording, observation charts, motion analysis software, and ergonomic evaluation tools.
Its objective provides data on task duration, cycle time, and potential areas for time-saving improvements.Its objective provides insights into ergonomic issues, work motions that can be streamlined, and recommendations for better work methods.

What is Time Study?

Time study is a systematic method used to determine the amount of time required to perform a specific task or activity. It involves observing and measuring the various elements of the task, such as the actions, movements, and pauses involved, to establish the standard time needed to complete the work accurately.

Time study is commonly used in industrial settings to improve productivity, set benchmarks, and establish efficient work methods. By analyzing and optimizing time-related factors, organizations can enhance efficiency, allocate resources effectively, and improve overall operational performance.

What is Motion Study?

Motion study is a scientific approach used to analyze and improve work methods by closely examining the movements and motions involved in performing a task. It aims to eliminate wasteful, unnecessary, or inefficient motions, leading to increased productivity and reduced fatigue. Motion study involves breaking down the task into individual movements, analyzing their sequence and efficiency, and identifying opportunities for improvement.

By studying and refining work methods, organizations can reduce physical strain, enhance worker safety, and optimize workflow. Motion study is a key component of time and motion studies, often used in industries like manufacturing, logistics, and healthcare to drive process improvement and increase efficiency.

Advantages of Time Study

  1. Standardizes work methods for consistency.
  2. Measures and compares worker performance.
  3. Aids in resource planning and allocation.
  4. Identifies and eliminates inefficiencies.
  5. Reduces costs by streamlining processes.
  6. Optimizes workforce utilization.
  7. Supports training and skill development.
  8. Improves workflow management.
  9. Enables data-driven decision-making.
  10. Fosters a culture of continuous improvement.

Advantages of Motion Study

  1. Identifies and eliminates wasteful motions.
  2. Optimizes work methods for efficiency.
  3. Reduces physical strain and fatigue.
  4. Improves worker safety and ergonomics.
  5. Enhances productivity and throughput.
  6. Streamlines workflow and task sequencing.
  7. Increases process consistency and quality.
  8. Facilitates standardized training and skill development.
  9. Enables continuous process improvement.
  10. Enhances overall operational performance.

How to decide which approach is best for your business

  • The type of business you have: If you have a manufacturing business, the stopwatch method may be more suitable as it can help you identify areas where you can improve efficiency. If you have a service-based business, the continuous recording method may be more suitable as it can help you track employee productivity over time.
  • The size of your business: If you have a small business, the stopwatch method may be more practical as it is less time-consuming. If you have a large business, the continuous recording method may be more suitable as it can provide more accurate data.
  • Your budget: The stopwatch method is generally cheaper than the continuous recording method as it requires less equipment and training. However, if you have the budget for it, the continuous recording method may be worth the investment as it can provide more insights into your business operations.

Steps for implementing Time and Motion Studies in your organization

  1. Define your goals. What are you hoping to achieve with time/motion studies? Do you want to improve efficiency, reduce waste, or assess employee productivity?
  2. Choose the right method. There are several different approaches to time/motion studies. Choose the one that best suits your needs and resources.
  3. Train your employees. Time/motion studies can be disruptive to normal workflows. Ensure your employees know the process and have been properly trained on how to participate.
  4. Collect data. This is the key step in any time/motion study. Pay attention to detail and be sure to document everything accurately.
  5. Analyze the data. Once you have collected all of the data, it’s time to sit down and analyze it. Look for patterns and trends that can help you achieve your goals.
  6. Make changes based on your findings. The whole point of conducting a time/motion study is to make improvements in your organization. Based on what you’ve learned, implement changes that will help increase efficiency and productivity.

Key differences between Time and Motion Study

Time Study:

  1. Focuses on analyzing and determining the standard time required to perform a specific task or activity.
  2. Involves breaking down the task into individual elements and measuring the time taken for each element.
  3. Aims to identify and eliminate any unnecessary or inefficient steps in the process.

Motion Study:

  1. Concentrates on analyzing and improving the physical movements involved in performing a task or activity.
  2. Studies the motions of workers, tools, and equipment to identify opportunities for reducing wasted movements.
  3. Aims to streamline the workflow by eliminating or minimizing unnecessary motions, fatigue, and injuries.
Differences between Time Study and Motion Study


Time and motion studies are powerful tools for uncovering the best ways to optimize processes in your business. Both methods offer distinct advantages depending on what your needs are, so it is important to consider how each approach can benefit you before making a decision. Whether time study or motion study is right for you, implementing one of these approaches could help boost efficiency and productivity in your organization.

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