‘Motion and Time study’ as the word implies simply is the study of the job you perform and how much time you take. Motion and Time have a multi-dimensional behaviour for the same environment from the many Sci-Fi movies we have seen over the years. “Thanos” a fictional character in the movie “The Avengers: End Game” wiped out half the population with a snap of his fingers with the intent to solve most of the problems faced by mankind. The Avengers on the other hand snapped to remove the bad guys and focused on identifying ways to address chaos through science and technology. Organizations today are no different in their thinking. When the going gets tough, organizations are forces to cut costs even if it is to be like “Thanos”. When demand is high and supply must be matched, organizations look for ways to become more productive through automation and go the extra mile. Motion and time Study (MTS) are a group of measurement techniques that have been around since the industrial revolution started in the late 1800s and are more like the infinity stones shown in the movie, each powerful to serve a specific purpose. For many out there, Motion and Time study may seem to be losing relevance with machines taking over everywhere and data collection become more automated but like the infinity stones have been around for generations, MTS is no different. Call me a movie buff if you want to, but the truth is that the real movie today in organizations is about digital transformation and you will either watch it or play a part in it.

Movies have Flashbacks and the motion and time study movie is no different. If you have watched the movie ‘Cheaper by the dozen’, MTS before 1970s focused a lot on having people doing tasks in “one best way” to get maximum productivity. The ‘one best way’ also promoted competition among people and hence came incentive schemes, wage agreements and work standards. Productivity Norms (another name for work standards) and Incentives worked in the pre-computer era to a large extent because most products made had longer lifecycles and not much customization was expected by the end consumer. Also, since most of the work was manual in nature, manpower productivity was a key strategic differentiator in the age of mass production. Fast Forward to 2020, customization and choice are the drivers for successful products. We grew up watching TV and literally had little or no choice especially when watching with parents but today in the age of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video’s, you have mind boggling flexibility to customize, pay only for what you use and often your own TV too. Going back into our flashback, with the invention of computers, machines started becoming cheaper in the 70s and capital expenditures with globalization initiatives took centre stage. Motion and time studies were more used to identify automation areas rather than increase the speed of the worker. Fast Forward again to 2020, we are talking about the Fourth Industrial revolution widely known as Industry 4.0 which is a world of Cyber physical systems. In the Industry 4.0 Era, machines are talking to machines and the rate of automation has been increasing rapidly at a much faster pace than we expected. This rapid change is what has initiated the need for companies to start thinking about digital transformation. Motion and Time Study techniques can help organizations create a solid foundation and roadmap for starting the digital transformation journey.

For those of you who are totally new to this subject, Motion and time Study has many names. Some of the commonly used synonyms are “Time and Motion Study”, “Work Study”, “Work Measurement” or just “Time study”. As per Ralph Barnes, Motion and Time Study is defined as the analysis of the methods, of the materials, and of the equipment’s used, or to be used , in the performance of a piece of work – an analysis carried on with a purpose of (1) finding the most economical way of doing this work; (2) standardizing the methods, materials, tools, and equipment; (3) accurately determine the time required by a qualified person working at a normal pace to do the task; and (4) assisting in training the worker in the new method. Because digital transformation will look different for every company, it can be hard to pinpoint a definition that applies to all. However, in general terms, we define digital transformation as the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business resulting in fundamental changes to how businesses operate and how they deliver value to customers.

Almost everyone looking to start on a digital transformation journey ends up asking “Where do we start?” and this is the question Motion and Time Studies can answer. Adopting the definition of MTS to the modern era, the purpose of doing an MTS for digital transformation is to analyse work flows, processes and tasks in every function of the organization and find out where to start the digital transformation – (1) in the most economical way; (2) standardize for flexibility; (3) accurately determine the speed rather than just time; and (4) assisting in learning new skills faster.

  • In the most economical way: Agile is the way forward today with doing small sprints to achieve economical outcomes even if it means that sprints may lead to failures instead of success. You are better off losing 50% of a 100 Dollar bill as against 50% of a million-dollar bill. Digital transformation in an organization can have multiple starting points but MTS can help you identify where it will matter the most and provide you short term business benefits too.
  • Standardize for Flexibility: Market Demand is more uncertain today than linear. Standardization in the digital transformation is no more about the “one best way” for higher productivity but rather “multiple best ways” that can allow every stakeholder to achieve higher productivity. Flexibility is more about customization today and is the key to organizations gaining a strategic advantage. Digital transformation ultimately should allow flexibility to scale resources (supply) up or down depending on the output (demand) required. MTS enables in identifying the extent to which standardization is needed for systems to remain flexible.
  • Accurately determine the speed rather than just time: Time within many organizations today is thought about in Silos. Most productivity improvement projects are about reducing time for a process or task. However, not much thought is given to whether these continuous improvements are yielding higher speed and helping the organization accelerate forward. Digital Transformation ultimately should increase the speed with which you can respond to market demand. Motion and Time Study not only assist in capturing time in silos but also assists in identifying focus areas that will increase the speed.
  • Assist in Learning new skills faster: Learning new skills is inevitable in the world of Cyber physical systems or Internet of things where technology is constantly changing. For sustainability, it is inevitable for organizations to invest in upskilling existing people as people with right basic skills is a challenge for most organizations. Motion and time studies create a foundation to capture multiple possibilities of carrying out an operation thereby creating a learning simulation framework ultimately enabling to learn new skills faster and fail faster.

At the end of the day, digital transformation journeys can become very costly and fail if they do not provide business benefits or strategic differentiation. Motion and Time study can be that solid foundation to prevent failures and enable a successful journey.

Nikhil Joshi has a background in Industrial Engineering and is the Founder & CEO of SNic Solutions, a consulting and technology solutions firm focused on applying the science of Industrial Engineering, Operations Management and Supply Chain Management to improve Operational Excellence in Organizations.

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