What is Work Measurement?

Work Measurement

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Work Measurement

Work measurement refers to the process of establishing the time that a given task would take when performed by a qualified worker, working at a defined level of performance. The objective is to determine the amount of time required for an average worker to complete a specific job under specific conditions. This allows organizations to plan, control, and improve their operations more effectively.

Work measurement can be useful for several purposes:

  • Productivity Analysis: It helps in analyzing the productivity of workers by comparing the standard time with the actual time taken to perform a task.
  • Cost Estimation: Knowing how long tasks take helps in better labor cost estimation for bidding, pricing, and other financial planning activities.
  • Scheduling: Work measurement data can be used for effective planning and scheduling, allowing an organization to make better use of resources.
  • Performance Evaluation: It provides an objective basis for comparing the performance of workers involved in the same or similar tasks.
  • Labor Relations: If applied fairly, work measurement data can provide an objective basis for wage and incentive schemes, which can be beneficial in labor relations.

There are various methods of work measurement, some of which are:

  • Time Study: Involves directly observing and measuring a worker’s time to perform each element of a task.
  • Predetermined Motion Time Systems (PMTS): Uses predefined tables to establish the time required to perform basic motions, like reach, move, turn, etc., and sums them to determine the total time required for the task.
  • Work Sampling: A statistical technique that involves random observations to estimate what proportion of time workers spend on different activities over a given period.
  • Standard Data: Relies on historical data to predict the time it will take to complete a task.
  • Comparative Estimation: Involves comparing a new task with a task already measured to estimate the time requirements of the new task.
  • MOST (Maynard Operation Sequence Technique): A more advanced predetermined motion time system that focuses on the sequence of motions involved in a task to predict how long it will take.

Each of these methods has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the choice of method may depend on the specific needs of the organization, the nature of the work, and the accuracy required.

Example of Work Measurement

Let’s use a simple example to illustrate how work measurement might be applied in a real-world context.

Imagine a manufacturing company that produces wooden chairs. The company wants to improve its productivity and profitability. The assembly line has a particular workstation where employees attach the legs to the chair’s seat. Management wants to standardize the time it takes to complete this specific task.

Method: Time Study


  1. Preparation: Management selects an experienced worker who is familiar with the task. All the tools and materials needed for the task are prepared in advance.
  2. Observation: A time-study engineer uses a stopwatch to record the time it takes for the worker to attach each leg to the chair’s seat. The process is repeated multiple times (say, 30 cycles) to gather sufficient data.
  3. Data Analysis: The times are analyzed to calculate an average time per cycle. Suppose the average time per chair is found to be 5 minutes.
  4. Add Allowances: The 5-minute average might be adjusted for fatigue, personal needs, or other interruptions, perhaps adding an extra 1 minute, making it 6 minutes.
  5. Standardize: The 6-minute time becomes the standard time to attach the legs to one chair at that specific workstation.


  1. Productivity: Now, if an employee can attach legs to 8 chairs in an hour (i.e., 48 minutes of work), their productivity can be evaluated against the standard time (6 minutes x 8 = 48 minutes).
  2. Costing: Knowing that it takes 6 minutes per chair helps in labor cost estimation. If the labor rate is $20/hour, the labor cost per chair for this task is (20 x 6) / 60 = $2.
  3. Scheduling: If an order of 100 chairs comes in, management knows that 100 × 6 = 600 minutes or 10 hours of labor are needed at that workstation.
  4. Performance Incentives: Workers who consistently perform the task in less than the standard time might be given financial incentives, thereby boosting productivity.
  5. Improvement: The data can be used to identify opportunities for process improvements or training needs.

By using work measurement techniques like Time Study, the company can make informed decisions that help in resource allocation, performance assessment, and overall operational efficiency.

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