Avoid 3 Common Pitfalls in Manufacturing Time Studies

posted on: Saturday September 26, 2015

Before doing a time study, make the proper preparations to save time and money, including a multi-functional solution.

08-abouta_1In an effort to support “Continuous Improvement,” manufacturers are employing time studies to help drive improvement. A bit different from the motion studies of the 19th and 20th centuries, time studies ascertain how long it takes to do a job. It reveals how a process is working as well as opportunities for greater efficiencies.

Work is not set of disconnected tasks, but rather a process. There is a lot that goes into a time study, and without the right preparation, obstacles and mistakes can be costly. Therefore, it is important to plan ahead to avoid these common pitfalls in your time study.

Pitfall 1: Ill-prepared answers, especially for concerned employees. Solution: Have a clear understanding of why the study is being conducted.  Your first step is to articulate in writing why you’re doing the study. Remember, when you roll this out, your employees are going to have concerns. An employee may ask what happens if he for some reason is not able to do his “usual” level of work during the study. Be prepared to explain that the procedure allows for breaks, questions, meetings, and so on; the test measures how long transactions take, not how fast the employees are.

Pitfall 2: Inconsistent data and fumbling to record. Solution: Articulate what you’re measuring.  What is the scope of work each job entails? How would your employees describe 80% of their work day? Are you recording everything throughout the day, including meetings and breaks, or just the work itself? Consider details like how often employees have to ask a peer or supervisor a question; what is the wait time when data is being pulled; how many phone calls and inquiries come in from others?  You also want to know how finely you’re detailing your tasks. For example, are you measuring how long maintenance takes as a whole, or are you recording each individual task that falls under the category of maintenance?

Pitfall 3: Data does not reflect true state of facility. Solution: Be smart about when you record your results and who you measure.  There are two time factors to consider when doing these studies. 1. Most businesses experience a natural flux in busy vs slow times. Choose a season that will give you the most accurate results for your intended purpose. Some companies record both busy and slow times. 2. Give the process a couple of days before you record your results. The first couple days won’t give you the most accurate data. Let things settle down while you begin the process, and then use the results recorded from there on out. It does take up time and resources, but it will give you more accurate data in the end, and even give the recorder a chance to smooth out the process. As for the people, remember to use a random sample. You will not get accurate measures if you only look at the best or worst people. Additionally, the larger the population you measure, the more accurate your results will be.

Solutions When it’s time to assess your solutions, one of the easiest tools to implement is an electric tugger. It is by far one of the most efficient pieces of equipment used in manufacturing. It’s attached to a cart (or carts) and is easily operated to haul thousands of pounds around a facility. It maneuvers around tight corners and fits through narrow walkways.  Here are a few ways it improves time:

  • Cuts back on labor. One person can easily accomplish what would normally require several people.
  • Improves speed. Used strategically, one or more power tugs helps reduce WIP and accomplish first-in-first-out.
  • Drastically cuts walking time. The ability for one person to pull multiple loads in one trip has monumental impacts on walking time.
  • Reduces fatigue. The power tug operator experiences no strain when using the equipment to push or pull. Manual pushing and pulling significantly slows and tires workers.

These are just a few highlights of how electric tuggers improve time and efficiencies. (For more details, read here.)  If you’re practicing continuous improvement, talk to Load Mover, Inc. about your pushing and pulling tasks. They are field experts who understand your process. They will determine your “Draw-Bar Pull” to recommend a unit that will have the best ROI. Call 952-767-1720 or email info@loadmoverinc.com.