Friday, October 25, 2019

MOTION STUDY - Frank B. Gilbreth - Part 1


Published in 1911 by D Van Nostrand Company, New York


THE phrase "Motion Study ' explains itself.

The aim of motion study is to find and perpetuate the scheme of perfection. There are three stages in this

1. Discovering and classifying the best practice.

2. Deducing the laws.

3. Applying the laws to standardize practice, either for the purpose of increasing output or decreasing hours of  labor, or both.

Standardizing the trades is the world's most important work to-day, and motion study is the first factor in that  work.

In presenting this material I have attempted to show the necessity for Motion Study and the savings that are possible by the application of its underlying principles.





PROFESSOR Nathaniel Southgate Shaler astounded the world when he called attention to the tremendous waste caused by the rain washing the fertile soil of the plowed ground to the brooks, to the rivers, and to the seas, there to be lost forever.

This waste is going on in the whole civilized world, and especially in our country. Professor Shaler's book, "Man and the Earth," was the real prime cause of the congress that met in Washington for the conservation of our natural resources. While Professor Shaler's book was right, and while the waste from the soil washing to the sea is a slow but sure national calamity, it is negligible compared with the loss each year due to wasteful motions made by the workers of our country. In fact, if the workers of this country were taught the possible economies of motion study, there would be a saving in labor beside which the cost of building and operating tremendous settling basins, and the transporting of this fertile soil back to the land from whence it came, would be insignificant. Besides, there would still be a surplus of labor more than large enough to develop every water power in the country, and
build and maintain enough wind engines to supply the heat, light, and power wants of mankind.

There is no waste of any kind in the world that equals the waste from needless, ill-directed, and ineffective motions. When one realizes that in such a trade as brick-laying alone, the motions now adopted after careful study have already cut down the bricklayer's work more than two-thirds, it is possible to realize the amount of energy that is wasted by the workers of this country.

(Visit  Industrial Engineering in Civil Engineering for further developments)

The census of 1900 showed 29,287,070 persons, ten years of age and over, as engaged in gainful occupations. There is no reason for not cutting down the waste motions in the vocations of the other almost half (49.7 per cent) of the population ten years of age and upward who do not engage in gainful occupations. The housekeepers, students, etc., on this list have as much need for motion saving as any one else, though possibly the direct saving to the country would not be so great. But taking the case of the nearly thirty million workers cited above, it would be a conservative estimate that would call half their motions utterly wasted.

As for the various ways in which this waste might be utilized, that is a question which would be answered differently by each group of people to whom it might be put.

By motion study the earning capacity of the workman can surely be more than doubled. Wherever motion study has been applied, the workman's output has been doubled. This will mean for every worker either more wages or more leisure.

But the most advisable way to utilize this gain is not a question which concerns us now. We have not yet reached the stage where the solving of that problem becomes a necessity far from it! Our duty is to study the motions and to reduce them as rapidly as possible to standard sets of least in number, least in fatigue, yet most effective motions. This has not been done perfectly as yet for any branch of the industries. In fact, so far as we know, it has not, before this time, been scientifically attempted. It is this work, and the method of attack for undertaking it, which it is the aim of this book to explain.


Motion study as herein shown has a definite place in the evolution of scientific management not wholly appreciated by the casual reader.

Its value in cost reducing cannot be overestimated, and its usefulness in all three types of  management Military, or driver; Interim, or transitory; and Ultimate, or functional is constant.

In increasing output by selecting and teaching each workman the best known method of performing his work, motion economy is all important. Through it, alone, when applied to unsystematized work, the output can be more than doubled, with no increase in cost.

When the Interim system takes up the work of standardizing the operations performed, motion study enables the time-study men to limit their work to the study of correct methods only. This is an immense saving in time, labor, and costs, as the methods studied comply, as nearly as is at that stage possible, with the standard methods that will be synthetically constructed after the time study has
taken place.

Even when Ultimate system has finally been installed, and the scientifically timed elements are ready and at hand to be used by the instruction card man in determining the tasks, or schedules, the results of motion study serve as a collection of best methods of performing work that can be quickly and economically incorporated into instruction cards.

Motion study, as a means of increasing output under the military type of management, has consciously proved  its usefulness on the work for the past twenty-five years. Its value as a permanent element for standardizing work and its important place in scientific management have been appreciated only since observing its standing among the laws of management given to the world by Mr. Frederick W. Taylor, that great conservator of scientific investigation, who has done more than all others toward reducing the problem of management to an exact science.


Now tremendous savings are possible in the work of  everybody, they are not for one class, they are not for the trades only; they are for the offices, the schools, the colleges, the stores, the households, and the farms.  But the possibilities of benefits from motion study in the trades are particularly striking, because all trades, even at  their present best, are badly bungled.

At first glance the problem of motion study seems an easy one. After careful investigation it is apt to seem too difficult and too large to attack. There is this to be said  to encourage the student, however:

1. Study of one trade will aid in finding the result for all trades.

2. Work once done need never be done again. The final results will be standards.


We stand at present in the first stage of motion study, i.e., the stage of discovering and classifying the best practice. This is the stage of analysis.

The following are the steps to be taken in the analysis:

1. Reduce present practice to writing.

2. Enumerate motions used.

3. Enumerate variables which affect each motion.

4. Reduce best practice to writing.

5. Enumerate motions used.

6. Enumerate variables which affect each motion.

Please Give Your Comments.

What is the relevance of Gilbreth's initial writing on Motion Study today?
What are new developments in this area?
What are new scientific discoveries related to human effort productivity?
What are new developments in human effort productivity engineering?
What are new development since human effort productivity management?

MOTION STUDY VARIABLES - Frank B. Gilbreth - Part 2

Human Effort Industrial Engineering - Introduction

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Updated 26 October 2019, 11 September 2019,   22 July 2018
30 September 2017, 19 August 2015

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