Drive Operational Excellence with Time Study Analysis. The Ultimate Guide

Organizations across industries are constantly seeking ways to enhance their operational efficiency, optimize resource utilization, and drive continuous improvement. Among the arsenal of tools available to process improvement professionals, time study analysis stands out as a time-tested and invaluable methodology.

At its core, a time study analysis is a systematic approach to observing, measuring, and analyzing the time required for workers to perform specific tasks or operations. 

By recording cycle times, evaluating worker performance, and accounting for various allowances, this technique enables organizations to establish standard times – a fundamental metric that serves as a benchmark for assessing process efficiency and productivity.

Key Highlights 

  • Understand the fundamentals of time study analysis, and its enduring relevance in modern manufacturing and service operations.
  • Explore the multifaceted benefits of conducting time studies.
  • Discover the essential prerequisites for successful time study implementation, such as defining clear goals, selecting qualified observers, choosing appropriate equipment.
  • Master the systematic approach to conducting time studies
  • Learn the intricate calculations involved in determining standard times.
  • Uncover the wide-ranging applications of time study data.
  • Gain insights into integrating time study analysis with lean manufacturing principles and continuous improvement methodologies.
  • We’ll look at the best practices, common pitfalls, and lessons learned from some real-world case studies.

The significance of time study analysis lies in its ability to provide data-driven insights into the true time required for a qualified worker to complete a task under defined conditions and at a designated performance rate. 

Armed with this information, businesses can accurately measure work output, identify bottlenecks, and pinpoint areas for improvement, ultimately leading to increased efficiency, productivity, and cost savings.

Whether the goal is to optimize labor utilization, streamline production planning, or enhance workflow design, time study analysis offers a powerful tool for organizations seeking to gain a competitive edge through continuous improvement and operational excellence.

What is Time Study?

A time study is a structured and methodical process that involves a trained observer meticulously timing and rating the performance of workers as they carry out their tasks. 

This analysis encompasses recording the actual time taken, evaluating the worker’s pace and effort levels, and accounting for factors such as breaks, delays, and environmental conditions. 

The resulting data provides invaluable insights into the true time required for a qualified worker to complete a task under defined conditions and at a designated performance rate (work measurement).

Why Conduct a Time Study Analysis?

The primary motivation behind conducting a time study analysis is to gain an in-depth understanding of the manufacturing or operational processes within an organization.

By establishing standard times, businesses can accurately measure work output, identify bottlenecks, and pinpoint areas for improvement (process efficiency).

This data-driven approach serves as the foundation for optimizing labor utilization (capacity planning), enhancing production planning (workflow analysis), and streamlining workflows – ultimately leading to increased efficiency, productivity improvement, and cost savings.

Benefits of Time Study

The benefits of time study analysis are multifaceted and far-reaching, making it an invaluable tool for organizations seeking to achieve operational excellence. Here are some key advantages:

  1. Process Efficiency: Time studies provide a comprehensive understanding of the true cycle time required for tasks, enabling organizations to identify and eliminate non-value-added activities, streamline processes, and improve overall efficiency.
  2. Productivity Improvement: By establishing standard times and identifying bottlenecks, time study analysis empowers businesses to optimize resource allocation, balance workloads, and implement targeted productivity improvement initiatives.
  3. Lean Manufacturing Alignment: Time study analysis is a fundamental component of lean manufacturing principles, as it helps organizations identify and eliminate waste, reduce lead times, and continuously improve processes through data-driven insights.
  4. Labor Utilization Optimization: Standard times derived from time studies enable accurate measurement of work output, facilitating better workforce planning, capacity management, and labor utilization strategies.
  5. Production Planning and Scheduling: By providing accurate estimates of task durations, time study data informs more realistic production planning and scheduling, reducing delays and improving on-time delivery performance.
  6. Workflow Analysis and Redesign: Time study insights reveal opportunities for optimizing workflows, identifying bottlenecks, and redesigning processes for improved efficiency and reduced lead times.
  7. Plant Layout Optimization: Time study data can guide the optimization of plant layouts, enabling efficient material flow, minimizing non-value-added movements, and improving overall operational efficiency.
  8. Ergonomic Workplace Design: By analyzing worker movements and identifying non-ergonomic tasks, time studies contribute to the development of safer, more comfortable, and more productive workplaces.

In essence, time study analysis empowers organizations to make data-driven decisions, continuously improve processes, and align their operations with lean principles.

Prerequisites for Successful Time Study

While the benefits of time study analysis are undeniable, realizing its full potential hinges on meticulous planning and preparation. As an experienced practitioner, I cannot overemphasize the importance of establishing a solid foundation before embarking on this transformative journey. 

Overlooking these critical prerequisites can lead to inaccurate data, skewed results, and ultimately, flawed decision-making. To ensure a successful time study implementation, organizations must prioritize the following key elements: 

Defining goals and scope (work measurement, standard time)

The first step towards a successful time study is to establish clear and well-defined goals and scope. This entails identifying the specific processes, tasks, or operations that will be subjected to the work measurement analysis. 

It is crucial to determine whether the objective is to establish standard times for individual tasks or entire workflows, as this will inform the depth and granularity of the study.

Moreover, organizations must align their goals with broader strategic initiatives, such as productivity improvement, cost reduction, or process optimization

By explicitly defining these objectives, the time study can be tailored to provide actionable insights that directly contribute to the desired outcomes.

Selecting a Qualified Time Study Observer

The accuracy and reliability of time study data heavily depend on the expertise and competence of the observer conducting the analysis. Ideally, organizations should enlist the services of a certified industrial engineer or a professional with extensive training and experience in time study methodologies.

A qualified observer must possess a deep understanding of work measurement techniques, rating systems, and allowance calculations. 

They should also have a keen eye for detail, the ability to remain objective and impartial, and excellent communication skills to effectively convey the purpose and procedures to the observed workforce.

Choosing the Right Time Study Equipment

Advancements in technology have revolutionized the time study process, offering a wide array of sophisticated equipment and tools to enhance accuracy and efficiency. 

While traditional stopwatches and clipboards may still have their place, modern observers often leverage video cameras, specialized software, and predetermined motion time systems (PMTS) to capture and analyze data with greater precision.

PMTS, in particular, have gained significant traction in recent years, as they provide a standardized and objective means of measuring manual work by breaking it down into basic motion elements. 

By leveraging these predetermined time values, observers can streamline the analysis process and reduce the potential for human error or subjective biases.

Determining Sample Size

Ensuring a representative and statistically sound sample size is crucial for obtaining reliable and actionable time study data. 

The sample size should be large enough to account for variations in worker performance, environmental factors, and process complexities.

Work sampling techniques, which involve observing a randomly selected subset of workers or tasks, can be employed to achieve a balanced and unbiased representation of the studied process. 

Additionally, organizations should consider implementing standardized rating systems to assess worker performance consistently and objectively.

By adhering to established statistical principles and best practices, organizations can determine the optimal sample size, ensuring that the time study results accurately reflect the true nature of the process under investigation.

Neglecting these foundational elements can lead to flawed data, inaccurate conclusions, and ultimately, misguided decisions that can undermine the entire time study effort. 

By investing the necessary time and resources into establishing a solid foundation, organizations can unlock the full potential of time study analysis and pave the way for sustainable process improvement and operational excellence.

Conducting the Time Study

With the necessary groundwork laid and the prerequisites fulfilled, we can now delve into the intricate process of conducting a time study. This phase is the heart of the analysis, where data is meticulously collected, analyzed, and transformed into actionable insights. 

Any deviations or oversights can compromise the integrity of the data, rendering the entire effort futile. Therefore, let us approach this phase with the utmost diligence and attention to detail.

Observing and Recording Cycle Time

The foundation of any time study lies in the accurate observation and recording of cycle times.

A trained observer, equipped with the appropriate tools and techniques, must meticulously monitor the worker’s performance, capturing the time required for each elemental task or operation within the process cycle.

This phase demands an unwavering focus, as the observer must remain vigilant, accounting for every minute detail and nuance that could potentially impact the time measurements. 

It is essential to adhere to a consistent approach, ensuring that the data collected is standardized and comparable across different workers, shifts, or environmental conditions.

Advanced time study equipment, such as video cameras and specialized software, can greatly enhance the accuracy and efficiency of this process, allowing for detailed playback and analysis of worker motions and actions.

Rating Worker Performance

Recognizing that human performance is inherently variable, time study analysis incorporates a critical step known as performance rating. This process involves assessing the worker’s pace, skill level, and consistency relative to a defined standard or benchmark.

Experienced observers employ standardized rating systems, such as the Westinghouse System or the Objective Rating method, to assign a numerical rating to the observed worker’s performance. 

This rating factor is then used to adjust the recorded cycle time, ensuring that the resulting data reflects the expected performance of a qualified, average worker operating under normal conditions.

These allowances are typically expressed as a percentage and are applied to the adjusted cycle time, ensuring a comprehensive and realistic representation of the true time required for the task or operation.

Calculating Basic Time and Normal Time

With the raw cycle time data and performance ratings in hand, the next step involves calculating two fundamental metrics: basic time and normal time.

Basic time represents the standardized time required for a qualified worker to perform a specific task or operation, assuming a consistent and defined rate of working.

It is derived by multiplying the observed cycle time by the performance rating factor, effectively adjusting the raw data to reflect the expected performance of an average worker.

Normal time, on the other hand, incorporates allowances for various factors that may impact worker productivity. It is calculated by applying a predetermined allowance percentage to the basic time, accounting for factors such as personal needs, fatigue, delays, or environmental conditions.

These calculations are crucial as they form the basis for establishing standard times, which serve as the benchmark for assessing process efficiency, productivity, and resource utilization.

Applying Allowances for Breaks and Delays

As alluded to earlier, the calculation of normal time involves the application of allowances to account for various factors that can impact worker productivity. These allowances are derived from a comprehensive analysis of the work environment, process characteristics, and human factors.

Common allowances include personal needs (such as restroom breaks or hydration), fatigue (accounting for physical or mental strain), machine interference (downtime due to equipment failures or changeovers), and environmental conditions (temperature, noise, or lighting factors).

Experienced time study practitioners employ standardized allowance systems, such as those developed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) or the British Standards Institution (BSI), to ensure consistency and objectivity in the application of these allowances.

By incorporating these allowances into the normal time calculations, organizations can ensure that the resulting standard times accurately reflect the real-world conditions and constraints faced by workers, enabling more realistic and achievable performance targets and productivity goals.

Throughout this phase, documentation and record-keeping are essential, as the collected data will serve as the foundation for subsequent analysis, decision-making, and continuous improvement efforts. 

Calculating Standard Time

At the culmination of the meticulous data collection and analysis phase, we arrive at the pivotal juncture where the true essence of time study analysis reveals itself – the calculation of standard time. 

This critical metric serves as the linchpin for all subsequent efforts aimed at optimizing processes, enhancing productivity, and driving operational excellence.

The standard time calculation not only encapsulates the intricacies of the observed process but also provides a benchmark against which future improvements can be measured and validated.

Standard time formula

The calculation of standard time is a precise and structured endeavor, governed by a well-established formula that has withstood the test of time. 

At its core, the standard time formula integrates the previously calculated normal time with additional allowances to account for various contingencies and constraints inherent to the process.

Standard Time = Normal Time / (1 – Allowance Percentage)


  • Normal Time is the adjusted cycle time that incorporates performance ratings and personal allowances.
  • Allowance Percentage is the cumulative sum of allowances for factors such as machine interference, process delays, contingencies, and special circumstances.

This formula ensures that the resulting standard time accurately reflects the true time required for a qualified worker to complete the task or operation under typical working conditions, factoring in the realistic challenges and disruptions that may arise during the production process.

Frequency and Process Cycle Considerations

It is crucial to recognize that not all tasks or operations within a process cycle occur with equal frequency. Some may be repeated multiple times within a single cycle, while others may occur only intermittently or at specific intervals. 

Failure to account for these frequency variations can lead to skewed standard time calculations and, consequently, inaccurate productivity assessments.

To address this challenge, time study practitioners must carefully analyze the process cycle and identify the frequency at which each task or operation occurs. 

This information is then incorporated into the standard time calculation, ensuring that the resulting metric accurately reflects the true time required for the entire process cycle.

By meticulously accounting for these frequency variations, organizations can obtain a comprehensive and holistic understanding of the process cycle, enabling them to identify bottlenecks, optimize workflows, and make informed decisions regarding resource allocation and production scheduling.

Throughout this phase, it is imperative to maintain a high degree of precision and attention to detail. The standard time calculation is not merely a numerical exercise; it is a distillation of the intricate interplay between human performance, process constraints, and operational realities. 

Applications of Time Study Data

The transformative power of time study analysis extends far beyond the mere calculation of standard times. 

Indeed, the true value of this methodology lies in its ability to provide a comprehensive and data-driven foundation upon which organizations can build a multitude of operational improvement initiatives. 

From optimizing production schedules and streamlining workflows to enhancing workplace ergonomics and driving continuous improvement, the applications of time study data are both vast and far-reaching. 

Let us check out the key areas where this information can be harnessed for operational excellence.

Production Planning and Scheduling

Effective production planning and scheduling are critical components of any manufacturing or service operation, as they directly impact delivery times, resource utilization, and overall operational efficiency. 

Time study data plays a pivotal role in this domain by providing accurate estimates of task durations and process cycle times.

Armed with this information, organizations can develop realistic and achievable production schedules, minimizing delays and maximizing throughput. 

Labor Utilization and Capacity Planning

Talking about industrial engineering, time study data serves as a cornerstone for optimizing labor utilization and capacity planning. 

By establishing standard times for tasks and operations, organizations can accurately assess their workforce’s capacity and identify opportunities for improved resource allocation.

This data-driven approach enables organizations to balance workloads effectively, ensure equitable task distribution, and implement workforce leveling strategies. 

Process Improvement and Workflow Analysis

Time study analysis is an invaluable tool for identifying inefficiencies and opportunities for process improvement. By meticulously analyzing cycle times and task durations, organizations can pinpoint non-value-added activities, redundancies, and bottlenecks within their workflows.

This granular level of insight empowers process improvement teams to streamline operations, eliminate waste, and optimize workflows for enhanced efficiency and reduced lead times. 

Plant Layout Optimization

The physical layout of a manufacturing plant or service facility can significantly impact operational efficiency, material flow, and worker productivity. 

Time study data plays a crucial role in optimizing plant layouts by providing insights into the time and effort required for material handling, equipment changeovers, and worker movements.

By analyzing these factors, industrial engineers can identify opportunities to reduce non-value-added movements, minimize transportation distances, and optimize the spatial arrangement of workstations and equipment. 

Ergonomics and Workplace Design

In addition to optimizing plant layouts, time study data offers invaluable insights for enhancing workplace ergonomics and designing safer, more comfortable, and more productive work environments. 

By carefully observing worker movements, postures, and actions during the time study process, organizations can identify tasks or operations that may pose ergonomic risks or contribute to musculoskeletal disorders.

Armed with this knowledge, ergonomics specialists can collaborate with industrial engineers and process improvement teams to redesign workstations, modify equipment, and implement ergonomic interventions that reduce physical strain, improve worker comfort, and mitigate the risk of work-related injuries.

The applications of time study data extend far beyond manufacturing, with service industries and business process optimization also benefiting from this powerful methodology. 

By leveraging the insights derived from time studies, organizations across various sectors can drive operational excellence, enhance customer satisfaction, and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

Continuous Improvement with Time Studies

In the relentless pursuit of operational excellence, time study analysis emerges as a powerful catalyst for driving continuous improvement initiatives.

Time study data is not merely a snapshot of current performance; it is a living, breathing foundation upon which businesses can build, iterate, and refine their processes with surgical precision. 

By embracing time study analysis as a cornerstone of their continuous improvement efforts, organizations can unlock a virtuous cycle of optimization, innovation, and sustained competitive advantage.

Parting Notes

As we conclude our exploration of time study analysis, I am reminded of the profound impact this methodology has had on countless organizations, both in my personal experience and throughout the annals of industrial history. 

From the pioneering work of Frederick Winslow Taylor to the modern-day applications in lean manufacturing and continuous improvement, time study analysis has proven itself to be an enduring and invaluable tool in the pursuit of operational excellence.

Yet, as with any powerful tool, its true potential lies in the hands of those who wield it. It is my fervent hope that the insights and best practices shared throughout this comprehensive guide will empower organizations and practitioners alike to harness the full power of time study analysis, driving transformative change and unlocking new realms of productivity, efficiency, and competitive advantage.

Time study analysis is not a destination, but rather a compass that guides us along this ever-winding path. 

Embrace it, refine it, and make it your own, for in doing so, you will unlock the true potential of your organization and pave the way for a future marked by innovation, growth, and sustained success.

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