Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Function of Methods Efficiency Engineering

The Function of Methods Efficiency Engineering

Methods efficiency engineering is an offshoot  of scientific management. It offers a logical and systematic procedure for reducing costs, increasing production without an impairment to quality.  Methods efficiency engineering may be applied with equal success to repetitive work or to jobbing work, to simple, easily understood operations or to complex, specialized jobs. It is applicable to all man machine systems, manual work or automated work.

Definition of Methods efficiency engineering.  Briefly it may be said that Methods efficiency engineering is the industrial science which is chiefly concerned with increasing the efficiency of resources used in a method.

Methods efficiency engineering is the technique that subjects each operation of a given piece of work to close analysis in order to eliminate every unnecessary operation and in order to approach the quickest and best method of performing each necessary operation; it includes the standardization of equipment, methods, and working conditions ; it trains the operator to follow the standard method; when all this has been done,  it determines by accurate measurement the number of standard hours in which an operator working with standard performance can do the job. Methods efficiency engineers also devise a plan for compensating labor that encourages the operator to attain or to surpass standard performance.

A methods efficiency study always begins with a careful primary analysis of existing conditions. The reason is that the existing system is taken as an effective system that is producing the required output at quality acceptable to the customers. The first factors that are considered are the number of pieces made or the yearly activity, the length of the operation, and the hourly rate of the operator or operators doing the job. This information permits the computation of the yearly cost of the job. An estimate is next made of the probable improvement that methods study can make. This in turn determines the kind and amount of methods-engineering work that can profitably be undertaken.

One or more types of process charts are drawn up for the purpose of presenting the study problem clearly. Then complete information is compiled for each operation concerning such points as the purpose of the operation,tolerance requirements, material and material handling, and tools and equipment used. Not infrequently this part of the study requires more time but essential to accomplish greater results in the succeeding steps.

As a part of methods efficiency engineering, motion study, that is study of motions of the operator is made. In motion study, each individual motion used in doing the work is considered in detail to try to shorten the motion or to eliminate it altogether. Motion study devises an easier and less fatiguing pattern of motions to do the job.

After the new method has been devised, equipment and conditions must be standardized (planned and provided to all operators doing the job) so that the method can always be followed. Information and records describing the standard procedure must be carefully made and preserved; for experience has shown that, unless this is done, minor variations usually creep in and in time cause a major problem. If standard method is available in a written form, frequent audits can be done to make sure it is being followed.

The operator or operators must next be taught to follow the new method. This may be done by verbal instructions, demonstrations at or away from the workplace, instruction sheets or operator process charts ; or by the highly successful procedure that employs motion pictures.

Operator training is an absolute necessity where methods have been devised by motion study. The best way of making each motion for each bodily part employed is carefully worked out by means of analysis and observation or motion-picture analysis, and a method that eliminates all useless or unprofitable motions is devised. This requires a few hours to several days of concentrated study. Therefore, operators have to be carefully trained to use the newly designed motion pattern to reach maximum production.

When the new and improved method has been devised and put into effect, the time required to do the work is carefully measured, usually by stop-watch time study. This measurement  is based upon the standard performance that is expected from an operator who has been working at the class of work long enough to know it thoroughly, who is not unfitted for the work by nature, and who possesses normal intelligence and enough education to perform satisfactorily the work at hand. The final time value that is established includes allowances for time lost due to fatigue and personal and unavoidable delays.

When the method is applied to an entire line of similar but varied work, time values are usually computed from time formulas. Time formulas are useful mathematical devices that the methods engineer employs to reduce the amount of time required to establish time values.

When the best method that can be worked out at the time is devised, the operators trained, and a correct time allowance established, a procedure is next devised which will insure that the method is followed and that standard production is attained. This procedure usually takes the form of an incentive plan. Close supervision is also required to ensure that operators understand and use the newly designed method or motion pattern.

Explanation of the Term "Methods efficiency engineering." 

The term " Methods efficiency engineering" is of comparatively recent origin.

When trained methods efficiency engineer brings to his job an extensive knowledge of fundamental waste-eliminating practices, every body will recognize its utility in the organization.

Development of Methods efficiency engineering - History

Rate Setting History

Probably the oldest wage-payment plan to be used by man was not day work, as might be supposed, but piecework. In going back to primitive times, the imagination must be largely relied upon, but it seems reasonable to assume that the hunter, for example, contracted with the arrow maker on a piecework basis. When he brought in a deer, he would offer it in exchange for, say five arrows. This was nothing more or less than piece work. The arrow had a definite piece rate equal to one-fifth of a deer. The value of the arrow was probably determined from a vague conception of the average time required to produce an arrow in comparison with the average time required to kill a deer. It is doubtful if this thought was ever expressed in so many words, but it is likely that it formed the basis for determining the rate of exchange.

Once the rate was established, the tune spent by the arrow maker in making an arrow and the time spent by the hunter in bringing in a deer were not considered by the contracting parties. If the arrow maker, for example, were industrious and skilled, he produced a number of arrows during the day and thus was able to receive a considerable amount of other material products in return. If he were lazy or unskilled, he would turn out only a few arrows and in consequence had to be satisfied with a bare living.

Day work probably came into being only when one "man desired to pay another man to work for him at a variety of tasks or to retain his general services to use or not at his discretion. Servants, for example, were paid on this basis. As industry began to grow, day work was used more and more, probably because this was the easiest method of payment where a variety of work was handled. Supervision was direct in most cases, labor was plentiful, and fear of dismissal furnished the incentive to produce.

At the same time, piecework payment was used in a number of instances. The weaver who worked a loom in his own home was paid for what he produced and not for the number of hours he spent at work.

As industrial units became larger, the work became more complex, and it was commonly felt that all work except simple, highly repetitive jobs had to be done on a day work basis. As the work became more complex, however, supervision became more difficult, and the need for piecework or some plan that encouraged a definite output by the workers was felt more keenly. It was only natural therefore that this situation resulted in attempts to introduce incentives.

The first attempts at incentive installations were altogether different from the present-day practices. Piecework, because it was simple, was the commonly used plan, and the duty of establishing piece rates was given to the foreman as a sort of extra duty. The foreman soon found himself with an unsatisfactory condition on his hands. In the first place, he usually had many duties of a pressing nature claiming his attention, and he had little or no time to devote to careful rate setting. In the second place, even when he found time to give to the setting of a rate, he had no accurate way of doing it. No instructions as to proper rate-setting procedure were given him because none had been developed. He was expected to base his rates upon records of past performance and his own judgment of what a man could accomplish if he worked with an honest effort.

These two factors proved to be utterly unreliable. Records of past performance told only how much was produced and gave no indication of the conditions under which the work was done or of the method used by the operator. Under the stimulus of an incentive, the operator could almost always devise a better method and, by working steadily with a good effort, could make earnings that often exceeded those of the foreman.

As soon as the foreman realized that past records were at best only a guide, he attempted to judge from his general knowledge of the work what degree of improvement could be expected. This, of course, was a step in the right direction, but it did not go far enough. On some jobs, the method used could not be much improved; and hence the rate that allowed for improvement was too low, and the worker's earnings suffered. Again, an improvement beyond that which the foreman anticipated made high earnings possible and increased the dissatisfaction of the worker with the low-rated job.

On the one hand, the foreman was assailed by the worker to raise the low rates. On the other, he was called "on the carpet  by his employer because certain rates, and hence earnings, were too high. In these circumstances, the foreman did the only thing he could do. He raised the low rates where he had to and cut the high rates wherever earnings were excessive.

The result was what might be expected. The raising of the low rates was regarded by the worker as a proper correction of an error of judgment, whereas the lowering of the high rates was regarded as an indication that a man was to be permitted to earn only" so much and that there was no use trying to earn more. This, of course, defeated the purpose of incentives which was to stimulate production. When this was pointed out to the harassed foreman by the employer, he could only say that he was doing the best he could under the circumstances and that he would try to find time to do a more careful job in the future.

All this time, competition was becoming increasingly keen. The need for incentives was felt most strongly, and the importance of proper rate setting caused a search for a better way of handling the matter. It was reasoned that, although the foreman knew more about the work than anyone else, he had little tune to devote to rate setting. The solution to the problem therefore appeared to lie in selecting another man who knew nearly as much about the work and giving him the task of rate setting as a full-time job. Thus the position of rate setter was established.

The new setup gave somewhat better results, but conditions were far from satisfactory. The rate setter relied on records and judgment for establishing rates just as the foreman had done. Records of past performance, however, were no more reliable than they had ever been; and although the judgment exercised was somewhat more mature owing to the greater amount of time spent on considering the job, the results that were obtained were not appreciably better from the worker 's standpoint.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, therefore, the more progressive plants began to feel the need for a better, fairer, and more accurate method of handling the rate question. The problem was attacked independently in a number of plants in USA and abroad, and various solutions were offered
which have contributed to a greater or lesser extent to methods-engineering practices. One attack, for example, was to attempt to equalize the inconsistencies of poor rate setting by the wage-payment plan; and this led to the development of such well-known plans as the Halsey premium plan and, later, the Rowan plan.

Taylor's Pioneering Efforts in Methods Improvement

Taylor used stop watch time study of understand the best practices of doing work at elemental level. Through the study of work and output using time study, Taylor found that the men he studied were not of constant effectiveness but gave performances that were good, bad, and indifferent. Some were following improper methods, many did not take full advantage of their tools and equipment, and all were subject to many interruptions. Hence, Taylor often found that a man could do two or three times as much as he had previously done in a day. Taylor carefully selected individual workman and made them produce the expected output under the guidance of scientific management specialists. As one person produced according to the expected output, he trained one more man. In this manner gradually more and more operators were trained to produce the increased output. Since those days, time study has increased the productivity of industry manyfold. It has resulted in improved conditions, standardization, reduced costs, better production control, and better satisfied labor wherever it has been properly applied, and it has been applied to nearly every class of work.

Taylor' s system was to give the workman a definite task to be accomplished in a definite time in a definite manner. The workman was told in detail how to do the job. The method was established by careful study.

Taylor's original procedure forms the basis of methods engineering. It has been improved upon by those who came after him, as is the case when any new science is developed. The most remarkable part of his work, however, is that surrounded by chaotic, hit-or-miss procedures, he originated, described, or predicted practically all the developments that have since taken place. This perhaps is the greatest tribute to the ability, clear thinking, and foresight of Taylor that can be made.

Taylor stressed the importance of improving method of doing the job and he used stop watch time study for that purpose. But his stop-watch time-study procedure was so striking and  many  overlooked the importance of careful methods study and became engrossed with the details of accurately measuring the time for doing the job and providing output targets to workers based on the times set.

Frank B. Gilbreth  stressed the importance of the detailed study of methods and thereby made a distinct contribution to methods efficiency engineering . As an apprentice bricklayer, he became impressed with the fact that most brick- layers had their own way of doing a job. Being very observant, he noticed further that each worker had three ways of doing the same job: one that he taught to other inexperienced workers, one that he used when working slowly, and one that he used when working at his normal speed. Gilbreth became interested in the reasons underlying this, alalyzed the work of number operators and developed the technique of motion study.

The Gilbreths established a laboratory and studied motions by laboratory methods. As a result, they made a number of fundamental discoveries and originated the concept of therbligs, or basic divisions of accomplishment. They were the first to recognize that there are certain definite principles which govern efficient working practices, and they developed several techniques for studying the motions used in performing operations. Of these, the motion study made with the aid of motion pictures, often called the "micromotion technique' is the best known and most used. Of the originality, soundness, and value of their contribution to methods engineering, there can be no question.

As has been pointed out, Taylor's original work forms the basis of modern Methods efficiency engineering. Paralally, the developments made by the Gilbreths are also widely known.

Motion study was improved further.  Better designs of industrial motion-picture equipment permit the wider use of the motion picture at a greatly reduced cost. The element of time has been tied in with the concept of therbligs, or basic divisions of accomplishment, thus offering a new and valuable approach to methods study. The leveling principle permits adjusting the time data obtained from a study taken on any kind of performance over a wide range to a standard level with a high degree of accuracy, thus permitting the setting of accurate and consistent rates. Finally, time-formula derivation has been developed to a point that makes possible the quick and accurate setting of a large number of rates or time allowances with a minimum of engineering effort. In spite of the progress that has thus far been made, the motion study procedure, at the present time, is constantly being revised and improved, as is any profession or procedure that is in everyday use.

Methods Efficiency Engineering

Methods efficiency engineering is now  a carefully planned, systematic procedure. Process charts have been developed to a state of greater flexibility and have become more useful for general analysis purposes.  It is entirely probable that as new ideas are advanced and new developments made the present technique will be still further improved upon in the future. The technique is, however, capable of being applied to all kinds of work, and its application results in major improvements in operating methods.

Economic Function of Methods efficiency engineering

Under modern business conditions, one of the major problems which faces the managers of industry is that of constantly reducing costs. Markets are restricted for any product  because many individuals are economically unable to purchase the product at the current market price. Even in periods of prosperity, millions of people are able to supply themselves with only the barest necessities of life because of high prices of many items.

In any country, there are the fewest individuals in the highest group of income  and the greatest number of people are in the lowest group with some groups of people at intermediate income levels. At each level, there is a group with a certain purchasing power.

The consumers at any economic levels but the highest few have only a limited amount to spend. All kinds of products are offered to them in various enticing ways. Competition as a result is keen and ruthless. The only way an industrial unit an hope to survive under these conditions is constantly to seek to keep production costs as low as possible.

Not many years ago, when cost reductions were necessary for one reason or another, they were obtained by reducing wages. The possibilities of obtaining cost reductions by increasing the production of the workers were not at the time generally recognized. Recently, however, there has been a marked change. The employer has come to realize that the worker is also a consumer and that, if wages are reduced, purchasing power is reduced. Therefore, a better way toward cost reduction lies in waste elimination so that greater production is secured with less effort.

Methods efficiency engineering is primarily concerned with devising methods that increase production and reduce costs. Hence, it plays an important role in determining the competitive position of a plant. As competition appears to be becoming keener, it is probable that Methods efficiency engineering will become increasingly important.

Methods efficiency engineering in an industrial unit can never be considered as completed. Costs that are satisfactory and competitive today become excessive in a comparatively short time because of the improved developments of other units of the industry. If the producer who is in a good competitive position today decides that his costs have reached rock bottom and that no further attempt to improve them is necessary, within a short while he is likely to find himself facing loss of his commercial standing as owner of an efficiently managed plant. Only by constantly seeking to improve can any unit safeguard its competitive position. Conditions in industry are never static, and steady progress is the only sure way to success.

Although cost-reduction work is important as a factor for survival, an even more important advantage accrues when really worth-while savings are effected. There are  various economic strata of society. Assume that a certain company is manufacturing a product that, although universally desirable, is priced so high that only those individuals in group C or higher can purchase it. The market for the product is thus rather limited.

If, however, properly conducted cost-reduction work permits the lowering of the selling price so that the individuals in group D can purchase the product, the market is at once greatly expanded, perhaps doubled or even tripled. Henry Ford was among the first to combine recognition of this principle with the courage to act upon it.

In actual practice, society is not divided into definite groups, but incomes range, in small steps, from next to nothing to the highest. Hence, each time the selling price of a product is reduced, even though it is as little as 1 per cent, the product is brought within the reach of more people. Therefore, it may be seen that cost reduction as a means of increasing the distribution of the product is at all times important.

Methods efficiency engineering and Shop Supervisors

The methods efficiency man is by no means the only one who takes an interest in establishing economic costs and improving methods. The foremen, the tool designers, and the other shop supervisors all realize the importance of keeping costs upon a competitive level. Very often they make worth-while improvements in manufacturing methods. The differences between the methods efficiency man and the other shop supervisors are two. In the first place, the methods man devotes all his time to methods work, whereas the other supervisors have numerous duties, which force them to consider methods work as incidental to their major activities. In the second place, the methods, man conducts his methods studies systematically and makes improvements as the result of applying a carefully developed technique. This technique is based upon a large amount of specialized knowledge which can be acquired only by special study and training. Therefore, unless a course in Methods efficiency engineering has been given to the other shop supervisors, their improvements are less certain and are due more to inspiration than to deliberate intent.

For these reasons, the major part of methods improvement is usually made by methods engineers. This is not a necessary condition, however; for the principles that they use can be learned by the other supervisors and can be applied, in part at least, during the course of their other work. Certain progressive organizations have realized this and have given methodsengineering training in more or less detail to their various key supervisors. The results, as may be expected, have been gratifying, and methods-improvement work has received a marked impetus (Maynard 1938).

It is hoped that this technique will be used by shop supervisors such as foremen, tool designers, and so on, as well as by methods engineers; for if the principles of methods efficiency work are understood throughout an organization, that organization will be in a good position to meet competition, depressions, or any other economic disturbances which may come its way.

Alan Mogensen advocated work simplication methodology. In this method, he used to conduct method work shops based on process chart to supervisors and operators and used to improve processes with the involvement of the trainees. He was very successful in this endeavor for three decades and his methods was adopted by Training Within Industry (TWI) program and then from them by Toyota Motors. Now, industrial engineering is being taught in undergraduate engineering programs to make all engineers practice industrial engineering and also to train their supervisors and operators.

Adopted based on the first chapter of Maynard's Operation Analysis
Revision made on 23 Nov 2013
Revision made on 16 Feb 2014, 11 April 2015 (Further rewriting to be done)

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