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MTM – Work design productive and safe

"Motion Time Analysis": The historical roots

Foto: Bosch Archiv
 Bosch Archiv


The age of the Industrial Revolution changed the world. When James Watt had his low-pressure steam engine patented in 1769, he ushered in the greatest technological revolution in history. That this gradual mechanization of factory work would require a new corporate culture was initially recognized by very few businessmen.


Increasingly work organization moved to the center of a still young discipline: scientific management. Its founder, Frederick Winslow Taylor, was the first to recognize the significance of optimized work methods and the necessity of time studies. Beginning in 1901 he dedicated himself mainly to researching work organization. Numerous measurements should yield objective production times for precisely defined operations. Taylor was the first to develop a comprehensive study of the science of management. But its effects remain debated - even today.

The optimal work method

As Frank Bunker Gilbreth was watching masons working, it occured to him that each one was wasting energy. He became determined to find the optimal work method. In contrast to Taylor, Gilbreth is not so much interested in increasing performance as he is in optimizing the work method and workplace design. He began to focus on such things as fatigue-free work and instructing workers in his research. Gilbreth established motion studies. He used for this both film and a running timekeeper. According to his theory, all human motions can be traced back to 17 elemental motions (therbligs).
To calculate the optimal work method he now eliminated every therblig that didn't serve the ongoing process.
Thus was found the raw material for developing the MTM method. 

Numerous researchers turn to motion studies to establish rules for the most time- and energy-saving motion sequences. Asa Bertrand Segur succeeded in allocating time values to the therbligs. It was now possible to evaluate motion sequences quantitatively as well. In 1926 he published his work under the title "Motion Time Analysis" (MTA). Segur demonstrated that the execution time that people with the same skill, same abilities and same physical loads need to perform a task depends on the method used.

MTM stands for Methods-Time Measurement

World War II was an unprecedented challenge for US industry: productivity had to quadruple within a very short time – without pushing the employees too hard. In 1940 Herold Bright Maynard together with John Lenhard Schwab and Gustave James Stegemerten developed the foundation of MTM: Everywhere in the US the researchers filmed employees from various manufacturing industries at work. They deciphered elementary hand and finger motions as well as visual functions and later also body, leg and foot motions. Thus all elementary motions were defined.
Maynard, Schwab and Stegemerten geared their system for the performance of an average trained worker, leading to the establishment of the first human standard performance. Their book "Methods-Time Measurement" appeared in 1948.

The industrial engineers in America quickly recognize the advantages of MTM. The ability to pre-plan work processes in detail now enabled businesses a new level of precision management. What's more engineers and designers now had an instrument to develop products which could be manufactured and assembled more cheaply. 

In 1951 Maynard founded the "U.S. MTM Association for Standards and Research" in New York. The three MTM developers transferred the copyright to this non-profit organisation. American consultancy firms brought MTM to Europe in the 1950s. The first national MTM Association in Europe was founded in Sweden in 1955, then in Switzerland in 1957, then in Holland and France. In 1957 in Paris all national MTM associations agreed to found an International MTM Directorate, charged with overseeing the copyright.

The German MTM Association

Today the German MTM Association has over 600 company members, including Airbus, Daimler, Bosch and VW, but increasinly also members from the service, administration, education and research sectors. Alone in Germany the company members represent more than 3.2 million employees. In Germany and around the world highly qualified MTM engineers advise and support company project teams on-site. All measures are implemented in close cooperation with management, staff and work councils.

The German MTM Association also develops MTM expertise in the companies themselves. With MTM Practitioner training and the qualifications for European Industrial Engineer built upon it, experts and managers become proficient in methods they can use universally, regardless of the industry. In 2004 the German MTM Association launched the MTM Junior concept and now offers courses in basic MTM and basic IE at more than 60 universities, colleges and vocational schools. Alone in 2012 around 800 students successfully completed the compact course. For the first time, in August 2012, graduates of the new, course-related training course at the University of Applied Sciences Amberg-Weiden were certified as Junior Industrial Engineers.

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