Work Study

A generic term for 'the study of work wherever it is done'.

The British Standards Institute Glossary of terms used in Management Services (BS3138 - 1992) defines 'Work Study' as:

'The systematic examination of activities in order to improve the effective use of human and other resources' - BS 11002

Work Study is as old as industry itself - the first man who succeeded in simplifying his job by the use of his reason can be considered its unconscious founder; for behind the many techniques which constitute the province of work study, and these and their regurgitations are still emerging in the 21st century, lies a basic scientific attitude. It is essentially a ruthless analytical and inquisitive approach to the use of manpower, materials and equipment coupled with a desire to apply the facts from such an inquiry to improve existing methods by the elimination of waste in every form. Such an attitude of mind has always been a prerequisite of industrial progress, but the techniques of work study are clearly evidenced to have made notable contributions to success.

The predominating techniques in the Work Study Practitioner's portfolio are Method Study and Work Measurement.

Both British and American pioneers should be researched by students developing work on this topic - the roots on the other side of the pond having been nurtured through the realms of Industrial Engineering.

The industrial world owes an incalculable debt to Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, for the development of what they christened 'Motion Study', an intensification of the broad pioneering method studies of Robert Owen, among many others.

As far as work measurement is concerned there is some evidence that hundreds of years ago monks recorded 'overall times' in the construction of stonework when building their monasteries. As far as it is known the earliest attempt at the more detailed timing of manufactory operators was made in 1760 by a Frenchman, Jean R Perronet, who made overall-timed studies of the complete cycle of operations in the manufacture of pins; it is believed that parallel developments were taking place in Britain, for a document exists suggesting that timed studies were not uncommon in British Industry in 1792. It is worthy of note that this is sixty years before the great American pioneers were born.

The document refers to the Old Derby China Manufactory -

'I, Thomas Mason, this 22nd day of December, 1792 solemnly pledge myself to use my utmost caution at all times to prevent the knowledge transpiring that I am employed to use a stop-watch to make observations of work done in Mr. Duesbry's manufactory; and to take such observations with the utmost truth and accuracy in my power and to give the results thereof faithfully to Mr. Duesbry.'

This 'oath' is interesting; it establishes two important points - that the object is to get accurate facts, and to report them objectively to management.

Two important bi-products of the use of Work Study principles and practice emerge and are inextricably linked to both national and personal well being - Productivity and Human Context.


Work Study
Method Study Work Measurement
to improve methods of production to assess human effectiveness
Resulting in the more improved Making possible effective use of
Material Planning & control
Plant & equipment Manning
Manpower & as a basis for sound incentive schemes
Higher Productivity
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