The Importance of Time Studies in Manufacturing
Time is relative, and nowhere is this more evident than a factory environment. Depending on the task, situation, criteria, and other variables involved, the concept of time can vary significantly across manufacturing operations. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most important variables for producers to quantify and monitor. After all, time is also money.
To understand time in a manufacturing context, it’s important to consider time-sensitive tasks and their impact on operational efficiency. Simply put, how long does it take you to achieve X, and what’s the transitive Y value of that time?
Where does time play a significant role in your factory operations? How should it be measured? And what does the value in a time study represent? The primary ways time is spent in a factory setting include:
- Production time. The total time it takes to turn materials into an assembled product. Production time is measured from the point raw materials enter the production process to the moment finished goods leave the assembly line. Reducing production time helps reduce costs and increase flexibility.
- Maintenance time. The time it takes to service a machine back to a benchmark operational standard. To calculate it, measure the number of hours spent on maintenance activities. Since maintenance time often equates to downtime, reducing it helps save money and increase profits.
- Changeover time. The time it takes to change dies or pivot a production line. It’s measured by the speed or time it takes to switch from one part of the production process to another. Measuring changeover time helps determine which production processes or components are optimized for efficiency and which contribute to time waste.
- Takt time. The time constraint set by a customer’s demand for a product. The best calculation method is to divide available daily production time by customer demand. For example, if a factory operates for eight hours and must produce 200 products by the end of the day, it will have to complete one product approximately every 2 1/2 minutes. By accurately measuring takt time, manufacturers can reduce bottlenecks, locate areas of inefficiency, and increase output.
- Motion time. The time it takes workers to complete physical jobs. Measuring how long it takes each employee to complete specific tasks identifies the motion time associated with each duty. This helps pinpoint areas in which employees need additional training or extra assistance.
- Transport time. The time it takes to get materials and products to and from the production facility. Reducing transport time helps increase output and improve customer relationships. That said, improving transport time sometimes involves an increase in logistics costs. It’s up to manufacturers to perform a cost-benefit analysis.
All these processes are measured in the time it takes to complete them, but a time study includes many other metrics as well, including cost, revenue, demand, and waste. In measuring and controlling time as a variable, manufacturers can control many different outcomes. And, not coincidentally, minimizing the time spend tends to maximize the associated transitive variable.