What is Method Study Objectives, Procedure, Factors

Table of Contents:-

  • What is Method Study
  • Foundations of Method Study
  • Overview of Method Study
  • Objectives of Method Study
  • Procedure of Method Study
  • Factors to be considered while conducting Method Study

What is Method Study

Method study is a systematic and scientific evaluation of existing and proposed plans and work performance, assessing improvements through an analytical, critical examination process. It encompasses a comprehensive investigation to improve the entire department, including the layout of machines, equipment, the flow of materials, and the movement of personnel. Method study has two levels of application:

(a) Motion study, and
(b) Micro-motion study.

Motion Study

This involves a more detailed investigation of individual operations or operators and the layout of materials, parts, or tools around a working bench or machine. It includes using jigs, fixtures, and consumables to perform the job effectively. The study of the environment, body postures, gestures, noise level, temperature, pressure, and humidity around the workplace are the significant concerns of motion study, now known as ‘ergonomics’.

Micro-motion Study

This involves the most detailed investigation of the movements of hands, arms, limbs, legs, head, etc., while performing a job. Tools such as motion pictures, cameras, and filmed records are used to study the micro-motions of a specified job.

Foundations of Method Study

Industrial engineers consider that Method Study rests on three pillars: Economic, Technical, and Human factors. Why are these factors referred to as pillars? The answer to this question is within the reader’s understanding. Yes, it has to address these three factors in equal proportions. Method Study is represented as follows:

Method Study involves analyzing the following points:

  • Economic factors
  • Technical factors
  • Human factors for Operation and Development

The procedure of Method Study consists of the following steps:

(a) Define the problem and select the work to be studied.

(b) Record all the relevant facts about the current method.

(c) Examine the facts critically and impartially.

(d) Develop the most practical, economical, and effective method that satisfies the three pillars: economic, technical, and human factors.

(e) Define the new and improved method so that it can be identified.

Overview of Method Study

Method study can be applied to layout, working conditions, movements, quality standards, designs, tools and equipment, and material handling, which may be detected to achieve improvements in short-term or long-term benefits. Thus, method study is defined as follows according to the I.L.O. – The systematic recording and critical examination of existing and proposed ways of doing work to develop and apply easier and effective methods and thereby reduce costs.

Readers may often need clarification on whether the method or time study should be initiated first. After understanding the terms time and method study, this question needs to be clarified, as work measurement (time study) is done for a definite method and task. However, an industrial engineer can critically examine the method’s effectiveness based on the time study. Because work measurement must be based on a standardized way, it would be absurd to standardize or find the best way.

The time taken for the job is essential in method study, so time study seldom precedes finding an improved method. For a new job, the method study should succeed the time study to normalise it. All the techniques of work study are, in fact, interrelated, and any separation is only for the convenience of decision. It is the same as questioning, ‘Is the seed first or the tree?’ The discussion is limitless in finding the exact answer. Hence, readers are again clarified that method study and time study are two different parts of work-study.

Objectives of Method Study

The method study is conducted with the main focus on the following objectives:

(a) To bring improvement in the process or procedure.

(b) To improve the workplace, workshop, working environment, layouts, etc.

(c) To bring economy through human effort, thereby enhancing efficiency and productivity.

(d) To reduce unnecessary fatigue.

(e) To improve human comfort while doing work.

(f) To set up better physical working conditions.

(g) To explore ways to use materials, tools, machines, men effectively, and their movements.

The Procedure of Method Study

Different authors have proposed slightly different steps for the method study procedure. Initially, ILO suggested a basic system consisting of five steps: Select, Record, Examine, Develop, and Define. Some authors have added a few more steps, including design, installation, implementation, maintenance, etc. However, the standard procedure consists of the following six steps:

  1. Select
  2. Record
  3. Examine
  4. Develop
  5. Install
  6. Maintain

These are briefly outlined in the following paragraphs. (Readers may remember these with the acronym SREDIM, which is made up of the first letters of the words, which means ‘to stab.’).

1. Select

Selecting a problem is more complex than one might think. Problem identification involves a deep understanding of the methods and procedures used to produce the product. However, industrial engineers have been provided with guidelines for selecting the problem and the tools for problem-solving. These are given below:

The Problem

The problem is selected from the area or process where the minuscule yield results or where the output loss is felt. The problem must be chosen so that it should be possible to solve and get a feasible solution. A problem that cannot be reduced to any impracticable solution should not be selected. For example, finding a generator that can start without external power and any power loss is impossible. Also, the problem chosen should be as small as possible. The selection of an issue of large volume, which involves many people, can only become a mess. The problem selected should be defined distinctly and precisely.

The Man

To solve the problem, the industrial engineer often needs to select an operator who can perform the modified method for defining the task and time study. The operator chosen should be representative, i.e., the selected one should resemble the group and be expected in all respects, such as efficiency, behaviour, skill, knowledge, etc. He should neither be highly skilled nor unskilled. A person should be both highly efficient and very low efficient, and so on. He should know all the parameters and phases of the work. An individual must be willing to work, and the task, related job knowledge, and concepts should be explained to him. He should be able to convince his co-workers of his achievements.

The Machine

Like the selection of a man, the engineer conducting the method study must also select a machine to decide on target fixation. The engine chosen should be new and old but in good operating condition. Conducting the study on several devices to avoid unilateral decisions is better. The machines should be accurate and repetitively give some results (precision) with good process capability.

The Material

Material with specified properties and good quality should be provided.

The Working Conditions

The method study should be conducted at various combinations of working conditions within ergonomically specified ranges. Also, the experiments should be carried out at different times of a working day, days of a month, and seasons if required before standardizing the methods.

2. Record

After selecting a particular task for study, it is essential to record the relevant facts regarding different inspection parameters, processes or procedures, transport constraints, and various basic resource availabilities and requirements. Effective recording methods, charts, and diagrams can help make decisions quickly, easily, correctly, and timely. Various charts available and in everyday use are explained in two categories, Type-A and Type-B, as follows:

Charts Type-A: These types of charts show the process required by the task as per their sequence.

  1. Outline process chart
  2. Flow process chart-man type
  3. Flow process chart-material type
  4. Flow process chart-machine type
  5. Two-handed process chart

Charts Type-B: These charts show the process on a time scale according to their sequence.

  1. Multiple activity chart
  2. SIMO chart
  3. PMTS chart

Apart from the above charts, a few diagrams are seldom used in work-study. They are:


  1. Flow diagram
  2. String diagram
  3. Cycle graph
  4. Chronocycle graph
  5. Travel chart
  6. Rel chart

3. Examine

After adequately recording the data, it is essential to examine these facts critically. All “ifs” and “buts” need to be brainstormed, and conclusions are to be drawn. These conclusions should be evaluated thoroughly from all angles to choose the best alternative. The pros and cons of each option should be documented, and a comparison chart is to be prepared if there is more than one good alternative by choosing suitable parameters for rating.

4. Develop

Develop the most efficient alternative with a high degree of accuracy. Measurements should be made impartially, ensuring there are no human errors during the development of the method. It is crucial to consider economic, technical, and human aspects during development. The process should be clearly defined after development. Also, the amount of the job involved and the standard should be calculated.

5. Install

Create an implementation plan and install the new method. Choose a suitable period to monitor the progress and efficiency of the way. Industrial engineers have frequently reported resistance to new methods from employees. No doubt, static friction is more than dynamic friction. Similarly, human reactions to any new thing can be challenging. Records and comparison charts will undoubtedly become valuable tools to convince and authenticate the new method.

6. Maintain

The final step of method study is, in fact, the most challenging part—implementation and maintenance. Progress should be recorded regularly and evaluated at suitable intervals. It should be declared or standardised after a sufficient number of production runs and test readings. However, gaining acceptance from various supervisors, workers (sometimes even from the union), and management is essential. Maintaining relationships with workers and supervisors is crucial to sustaining the new method.

Factors to be considered while conducting Method Study

While conducting a method study, an engineer has to consider the following types of factors, which form an acronym “METHOD” by the first letters of the factors:

  1. Motion economy factors
  2. Economic factors
  3. Technical factors
  4. Human factors
  5. Operational complexity
  6. Delays

1. Motion Economy Factors

When studying a specific job, it is essential to consider the possibility of reducing the number of motions involved. Micro-motion studies of routine tasks often reveal numerous unnecessary movements. By optimizing these motions, human energy can be conserved and redirected toward increased productivity. Various operations with repetitive nature, like packing, counting, and component assembly, have benefited from micro-motion studies, leading to the implementation of more efficient and streamlined methods. A notable example is Gilbreth’s work in bricklaying, where efficiency was nearly tripled through practical applications of motion economy principles.

2. Economic Factors

Evaluating whether conducting a motion or micro-motion study is economically justified is crucial. If the selected work for investigation yields only minimal cost savings, it may not be worthwhile. To illustrate, a Hindi saying, “Char anna murgee ke liye barah anna masala,” meaning spending 75 paise on spices to cook a chicken worth 25 paise, is foolish. In other words, it’s a loss of dollars for pennies. Therefore, engineers must estimate or forecast the potential additional productivity, cost savings, and resource conservation resulting from the method study of a job. Factors such as removing movement bottlenecks, optimizing processes, and improving layouts and operational sequences should be considered regarding their impact on the overall economy.

3. Technical Factors

Upon developing and implementing a new method, assessing the availability of adequate technical know-how and technological resources is essential. This consideration narrows down the scope for selecting new method developments. Techniques such as machine replacement analysis, job project scheduling, and other operational research methods are available to evaluate technical factors. In many cases, technological factors and economic factors are intertwined. It may be highly economic in some instances, hardly economic in others, and sometimes, there may be no effect when technological improvements are made. However, the impact of this factor depends on company policies and the prevailing situations.

4. Human Factors

Evaluating these factors is challenging for an engineer because they are associated with physiological, psychological, and anatomical features. However, researchers have shown that these difficulties can be overcome to some extent through scientific methods such as ergonomics. There will be few problems evaluating and implementing new strategies by human factors if workers and their representatives are included in the process, participating from the problem formulation stage (selection) to implementation (installation and maintenance). Complete and active participation from the workers’ side, along with due consideration of their views by management, would reduce difficulties and create the impression among workers that the new methods are for their betterment.

5. Operational Complexity

Operations vary in complexity; some are easy to operate, while others are more complex. There are flexible and rigid operations and grey-collar and white-collar tasks. When conducting a method study for a job, managers often need to pay more attention to considering operational complexity and flexibility. The engineer is responsible for providing a detailed operational flexibility or complexity description, facilitating critical examination under these constraints. Failing to address such issues during method development can render all efforts futile. The money, energy, and time spent on such research may go to waste if problems arise after implementation. The Japanese emphasize planning at the machine table rather than the office table.

6. Delays

There are three types of delays. The first is an unavoidable delay, where the operation or operator inevitably waits for the material to arrive, for his turn to perform a job, etc. The process necessitates this delay; heat-treated products must cool before operating on a specific machine, and welded joints must cool before being processed, etc. In the second type, avoidable delays can be eliminated through proper planning. For example, a machinist need not wait if brooming or cleaning is done before his arrival. The third type of delay is ‘planned rest pauses.’ These are also inevitable but somewhat flexible, allowing their schedules or durations to change by ergonomics studies. Industrial engineers conducting method studies must consider these delays when developing new methods.

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