Sunday, June 12, 2016

Method Study

Efficiency Improvement Technique of Industrial Engineering
Method study is production, service or business process improvement technique


Method study is the systematic recording and critical examination of ways of doing things in order to make improvements[1].

We can generalize it as:
Method study is the systematic recording and critical examination of production, service and business processes in order to make improvements.

Method study is also known as methods engineering. The following  definition,  appears in the 3rd edition of the Industrial Engineering Handbook [2]:

The technique that subjects each operation of a given piece of work to close analysis to eliminate every unnecessary element or operation and to approach the quickest and best method of performing each necessary element or operation. It includes the improvement and standardization of methods, equipment, and working conditions: operator training; the determination of standard time; and occasionally devising and administering various incentive plans.

This definition, however, tends to define methods engineering rather narrowly. It states that methods engineering is limited to operations or pieces of work, but recently the trend has been to address broader areas, such as production processes, the factory in total, or large scale work systems that involve a lot of people and extensive equipment[3]. 

The basic approach suggested for the method study consists of eight steps.









Brief explanation of the eight steps


The process to be studied to selected and its boundaries are to be defined


The process is to be recorded in specified charts and diagrams.

Process charts
Flow charts
Flow diagram
String diagram

A variety of techniques for analysis and charting have for a long time been established as IE techniques. Among the methods of analysis, process analysis, operation analysis, motion study, time study, work sampling, and flow analysis are widely used. Similarly, among the charting techniques, process charts, pitch diagrams, multiple activity charts, process charts, and machine sequential charts are used. From among these various techniques, the appropriate one will be chosen, based on the object being analyzed [3].


A process or method has activities.
The activities are categorized into action activities and idle (inventory) activities.
Action categories are subdivided into i) MAKE READY activities, (ii) Do operations iii) PUT AWAY activities

Each activity is subjected to a series of questions:

A. Purpose
          What is done?
          Why is it done?
          What else might be done?
          What should be done?
B. Place
          Where is it done?
          Why is it done there?
          Where else might it be done?
          Where should it be done?

C. Sequence
          When is it done?
          Why is done then?
          When it might be done?
          When should it be done?
D. person
          Who does it?
          Why does that person do it?
          Who else might do it?
          Who should do it?

E. Means
          How is it done?
          Why is it done that way?
          How else might it be done?
          How should it be done?

These questions in the above sequence must be asked every time a method study is undertaken.  They are the basis of successful method study.


The shortcomings of the present process are brought out by the systematic questioning process that is combined with a knowledge relevant to the process being examined. Industrial may have the knowledge required or may not have the adequate knowledge. They need to have a knowledge library to support their effort as well as access to the experts during the study period. Alternatives to the current activities which have the shortcomings are to be generated during this stage.


Alternatives are to be evaluated at this stage to find their contribution to the efficiency of the process as well as effectiveness.


The new method or process suggested has to be put down standard process sheets that are issued to the shop or department.


Industrial engineers of methods study persons have to train the operators and their supervisors in the new method and participate in installing the method.


Industrial engineers have to conduct a periodic review of methods to observe modifications brought into the installed methods by operators and supervisors and if they are beneficial, they have to be made part of standard operating procedure (SOP). If they are not beneficial, supervisors are to be informed of the same to bring the method back to SOP.

Approaches to Analysis

Eliminate, Combine, Rearrange, Simplify (ECRS). 

When thinking about how to improve a certain process or operation, an efficient way is to consider how to eliminate, combine, rearrange, and simplify (in that order) the components of the process or operation. If an operation  can be eliminated, the  elements and equipment related to that operation  can be eliminated at the same time. For this reason, elimination of operation in a process or method usually produces the best improvement results, and should therefore be the first activity considered.
Next consideration is how to combine. By finding opportunities to combine operations, tools, jigs, or parts and to perform simultaneous processing, we can often expect to reduce the amount of material handling as well. In addition, by rearranging, a better sequence for operations  frequently results in the elimination of  redundant work.
After these steps—eliminate, combine, and rearrange operations have been completed, simplify will be considered. Simplify implies operation improvement, or kaizen (in Japanese terminology), and involves establishing the operation and its elements in a very concrete and practical way of  positioning of parts and materials, the layout of the work area, the use of appropriate jigs and tools, etc.

The 5W1H Method.

This is a rationalizing step. For every operation and every element, the rationale of doing it and doing it in a particular way is identified in this step. The ideas is that some operations or elements do not have sufficient rationale to exist.
To accomplish the important step of verifying the necessity of existing work elements, the 5W1H method is effective.This method entails a clear definition of the conventional 4W1H (What? Where? Who? When? How?) in regard to the process or operation being studied, and in addition the question: Why?  The technique of seeking improvement ideas through the combination of the 5W1H method and ECRS can be quite useful.

Principles of Methods Efficiency Engineering Or  Industrial Engineering Review of Methods

For successful work in any field, it is important to define beforehand what is to be accomplished. The goal-determination step includes:

1. General goal: Most industries have as a goal a better product for a lower cost. For industrial engineering projects, the general goals most of the times are going to be cost reduction and increased productivity.
2.After the general goals is decided the next decision is "where to start the work?" Will it be  single operation or full process.?
3. For each specific problem, a specific goal is to be determined.

Some of the specific goal alternatives are:

Eliminate time spent in obtaining and tools
Reduce discomfort of the operator
Improve the organization of the workplace
Eliminate some make-ready time.
Eliminate some put-away time.
Reduce operator delay
Reduce total cycle time.
Reduce scrap.

Principles of  Methods Efficiency Design

1. Change the material being used or contemplated to help meet the goal for the operation being studied.
2. Change the present or contemplated design of product to help meet the goal for the operation being studied.
3. Change the present or contemplated sequence of modification work on the material or product to help meet the goal of for operation being studied.
4. Change the equipment used or contemplated  for the operation to help meet the goal for the operation being studied.
5. Change the method or hand pattern used or contemplated for the operation to help the goal for operation being studied.

(Source: Gerald Nadler, Motion and Time Study, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1955,   p.193. Nadler in turn gives credit to Marvin E. Mundel, Motion and Time Study Principles and Practice, Prentice-Hall, New York, 1950, pp. 23-26.)

Principles of Motion Economy.  

These principles have been organized into  the following categories: (a) body movements, (b) positioning of jigs, tools, and materials, and (c) design of jigs and equipment.The Gilbreth introduced these principles.  Ralph M. Barnes, Benjamin W. Niebel, Marvin E. Mundel,  have  refined  these principles. These principles apply to actual human motions and hence are applicable at elemental level.


Brainstorming is a method to involve many persons connected with the method in improvement process.
Brainstorming can be a powerful method for bringing out creative ideas from people. This technique was developed by A. F. Osborne. It is based on the formation of a team consisting of several members who will be working to come up with improvement ideas and plans. If the team is made up of representatives from different areas of the company, ideas created from synthesis of  different perspectives will emerge and good results can be obtained. During brainstorming, to encourage creative thinking some rules for are specified.  They include:keep a record of all ideas,  do not criticize the ideas of others, it is acceptable to support the ideas of others, extreme ideas are permitted, try to generate as many ideas as possible and  limit the brainstorming session to a set length of time.

Management of Method Study by Industrial Engineer

Management involves three categories of skills: technical, human and conceptual skills. An industrial engineer needs to know the potential of method study and the procedure of applying it. It is a conceptual skill. A method study is applied to a process having specific technology. To improve the process, the industrial engineer has to manage the participation of the persons with the deep knowledge of the technology. To contribute to the method study process in a meaningful way and also to manage the process of participation of various technology people, industrial engineer needs to have the required technical skill of the process or method to be improved. Human skills are required to create the ideal environment in which the operator, the supervisor, other technical experts and the industrial engineer interact, come out with the improved solution, install it successfully and provide the anticipated benefit of the new method.

Scope for Methods Studies and Methods Efficiency Engineering

Akiyama and Kamata write: "Present day work systems may not be perfect. In newly built work systems, many imperfect points remain, and there will be room for further enhancement through improvement activities. The function of methods engineering is then to be employed continuously to raise these imperfect work systems ever closer to perfect systems (or as Toyota expresses it:“The relentless pursuit of perfection”). '"[3]


1. George Kanawaty (Editor), Introduction to Works Study, Fourth (Revised) Edition, ILO Geneva, 1992
2. Maynard's Industrial Engineering Handbook, 3rd Edition
3. Maynard's Industrial Engineering Handbook, 5th Edition

Case Study
Maynard at Giant Eagle - A Retailer - 2005 case

Related Knols 

Updated  12 June 2016, 18 Feb 2012


Originally posted in Knol method-study
Knol number 9

1 comment:

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