Method study is more of a systematic approach to job design than a set of techniques. It is defined as the systematic recording and critical examination of existing and proposed methods of doing work, as a means of developing and applying easier and more effective methods and reducing costs (Work study definition by ILO). The method involves systematically following six steps:
a. Selection of work to be studied: Most operations consist of many discrete jobs or activities. The first stage is to select those jobs to be studied that will give the best returns for the time spent. For example, activities with the best scopes for improvement, those causing delays or bottlenecks or those resulting in high costs.
b. Recording of all relevant facts of current method: Method study uses formal techniques to record the sequence of activities, the time relationship between different tasks, the movement of materials, the movement of staff.
There are many techniques used in method study.
c. Critical examination of those facts: This is the most important stage in method study. It is used to critically examine the current method by seeking answers to questions:
- The purpose of each element
- The place
- The sequence
- The person
- The means
d. Development of the most practical, economic and effective method: This stage is used to develop a new and better method of executing the task, by taking into account the results of critical examination. The new method is developed by a combination of entirely eliminating some activities, combining some parts, changing the sequence of some activities and by simplifying the content of others.
e. Installation of new method: This step involves project managing the changes and ensuring that everybody involved understands the changes involved. In other words they understand the new method, which is doing what, the differences compared to the old method and crucially the reason for the changes. Training is an important part of this stage particularly if the new method involves radical changes. Providing modified equipment, components and layouts may also be involved.
f. Maintenance of new method and periodic checking: Monitoring of how effective the new method is and how personnel have adapted is very important. One aspect that is sometimes overlooked is to check what effect the new method has on other activities. For instance, it may be that whilst the new method is successful in eliminating a bottleneck in a particular area, the bottleneck has moved elsewhere in the process. By periodic checking the new method and its effects, management can ensure that overall efficiency is improving rather than deteriorating.