10 Steps to Improving Your Output Targets
How often have you heard or said something like "We are running behind again!" or "We are not meeting our output Targets", "The System says it should only take", "We have timed it and know how long it takes!". I've heard them quite a few times over the years and after a few questions and a little digging I come to largely the same conclusion each time, you're doing it wrong.
Many people mistakenly believe that by whipping out a stopwatch (or the timer on their mobile phone) and timing a couple of cycles of an operation they get the duration it should take and that's what goes into "the system" as a target, but, I'm sorry to say it won't, not remotely.
One of my jobs as part of my university course (I studded Manufacturing & Industrial Engineering) was at a vehicle manufacturer as an Industrial engineer working in the Time Study department – yes they had a department back then.
While explaining how to do a full blown Time Study here would be too much I thought that a few hints to help improve your method when you are capturing your times and setting your targets may be helpful so here goes:
The 10 steps of a Time Study
- Before you start anything, go have a chat with the person you are going to be work with, i.e. the person being studied, let them know what you will be doing & why. It's called being polite & and getting them involved will result in a far better study.
- Leave your stopwatch at your desk. The very 1st round of any time study is the study part of it. In lean we call it a GEMBA Walk, you must "Go See" what is happening. Take a pen & some paper (ideally already set up in steps) and spend time just watching what people are doing. Where are they moving, what tools, equipment, materials do they use. Understand what is going on.
- When you think you understand, then, and only then get out your pen and write down the steps you believe it will take, if you can scribble a flowchart of the operation down the left-hand side of the page and link the steps notes to the steps in the flowchart. (still no stopwatch).
- Review what you have written with a few more cycles of the work, you are looking for consistency in the operation. At each operation try to identify if that step seems to have any wasted movements or time locked in there, if it does or you believe it does make a mark and an estimate, I used to put a red W and a number e.g. W17 would signify I thought there were 17 wasted seconds in that stage of the operation or Non Value Add Time. It wouldn't be unusual for me to stop at this point and come back at a future date to reverify. Once you are happy it's time for the really important bit.
- Talk with the person you are reviewing and walk them through what you are seeing, ask their opinion, ask them if they can review to ensure you understand what is happening and have you captured the steps. It's not unusual for someone to point out you missed or miss understood something, be thankful for the help – it's a partnership. Only once you are clear move on.
- Now & only now are you ready for your 1st timing of the job. Here are some important things to remember, you are interested in timing the steps of the job, not the whole job. The aim of time study is to tune the process now just get an overall time. Ensure you have a stopwatch (not a phone!) that can keep at least 100 lap times. At the end of each step hit the lap time and record it against that step.
Atthe end, you can obviously note the total time taken. We do this because we want to identify which elements take the longest so if you want to tune it these may be the areas but remember you have already noted the wasted time estimates so if you have a step that is 45 seconds and you think there are 17 seconds of waste then you can save over 35% of the time on that task.
- Never ever ever just take 1 timing, you should do ideally at least 3 in my view to cater for variations in time of day (did you take your readings at the start/middle/end of the day), people or the direction of the wind. The fact is there is natural variation within your processes and some other variations that you may apply 6 sigma tools to reduce later. Understand the variations and see how big a range there is in the numbers to create the 'standard time.
- Discuss your finding s with the person doing the job again and once again get their input into what you have seen in terms of way of working, mode of operation, waste and so forth.
- You should apply an efficiency factor based on how hard you believed the individual was working & if you felt they could keep that pace up during the entire day, obviously a machine can but what about the person loading/ unloading or doing a manual operation?
- Write up your findings, these should include the times, highlighting of any waste you believe can be removed and changes to the way of working/layout or organisation of the work area, think LEAN 5s for this section, it is at its heart Industrial engineering.
1. Set up
3. Strip down
You should account for these in your timings and your systems
1. Explain what you are doing & why
2. Get their input in advance
3. Show them your results
Remember it's a partnership!
1. Don't turn up and wipe out the stopwatch
2. Don't turn up unprepared
3. Don't get in the person's way
Remember they are trying to do their best work, help them!
I am also prone to take my study and go back to review again, this time without telling the operator and ensuring that they are unaware they are being
Out of this exercise, you will get not only really accurate timings but an understanding of the steps in the process, this helps in training others as well and you get to identify waste elements that you can take into a Lean 5s, waste reduction Kaizen or 6 sigma events to further improve the process. Put the initial timings into the system and as you improve the process update the system. When you believe you have hit the limit you will be able to accurately measure your improvement as well because you have the base data.I hope you see that just pulling out a stopwatch, grabbing an overall time and walking away is a massive disservice to you, the people trying to achieve the work and the organisation. By doing the process correctly you get accurate times and identify waste that you can remove but importantly you can do it as a team.
Getting things set up well for your time study is important, to help you on your way feel free to download our Free Basic Time Study Sheet Template which will get you off to a good start, you are free to modify it as you feel you need to.
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