Lecture 6

Motion Study

Motion study is a technique of analyzing the body motions employed in doing a task in order to eliminate or reduce ineffective movements and facilitates effective movements. By using motion study and the principles of motion economy the task is redesigned to be more effective and less time consuming.

The Gilbreths pioneered the study of manual motions and developed basic laws of motion economy that are still relevant today. They were also responsible for the development of detailed motion picture studies, termed as Micro Motion Studies, which are extremely useful for analyzing highly repetitive manual operations. With the improvement in technology, of course, video camera has replaced the traditional motion picture film camera.

In a broad sense, motion study encompasses micro motion study and both have the same objective: job simplification so that it is less fatiguing and less time consuming. While motion study involves a simple visual analysis, micro motion study uses more expensive equipment. The two types of studies may be compared to viewing a task under a magnifying glass versus viewing the same under a microscope. The added detail revealed by the microscope may be needed in exceptional cases when even a minute improvement in motions matters, i.e. on extremely short repetitive tasks.

Taking the cine films @ 16 to 20 frames per second with motion picture camera, developing the film and analyzing the film for micro motion study had always been considered a costly affair. To save on the cost of developing the film and the cost of film itself, a technique was used in which camera took only 5 to 10 frames per minute. This saved on the time of film analysis too. In applications where infrequent shots of camera could provide almost same information, the technique proved fruitful and acquired the name Memo Motion Study.

Traditionally, the data from micro motion studies are recorded on a Simultaneous Motion (simo) Chart while that from motion studies are recorded on a Right Hand - Left Hand Process Chart.


On analysing the result of several motion studies conducted, Gilbreths concluded that any work can be done by using a combination of some or all of 17 basic motions, called Therbligs (Gilbreth spelled backward). These can be classified as effective therbligs and ineffective therbligs. Effective therbligs take the work progress towards completion. Attempts can be made to shorten them but they cannot be eliminated. Ineffective therbligs do not advance the progress of work and therefore attempts should be made to eliminate them by applying the Principles of Motion Economy. Table gives different therbligs along with their symbols and descriptions.

SIMO Chart

It is a graphic representation of an activity and shows the sequence of the therbligs or group of therbligs performed by body members of operator. It is drawn on a common time scale. In other words, it is a two-hand process chart drawn in terms of therbligs and with a time scale, see Figure.

Making the Simo Chart. A video film or a motion picture film is shot of the operation as it is carried out by the operator. The film is analyzed frame by frame. For the left hand, the sequence of therbligs (or group of therbligs) with their time values are recorded on the column corresponding to the left hand. The symbols are added against the length of column representing the duration of the group of therbligs. The procedure is repeated for the right hand and other body members (if any) involved in carrying out the operation.

It is generally not possible to time individual therbligs. A certain number of therbligs may be grouped into an element large enough to be measured as can be seen in Figure.

Uses of Simo Chart

From the analysis shown about the motions of the two hands (or other body members) involved in doing an operation, inefficient motion pattern can be identified and any violation of the principle of motion economy can be easily noticed. The chart, therefore, helps in improving the method of doing an operation so that balanced two-handed actions with coordinated foot and eye motions can be achieved and ineffective motions can be either reduced or eliminated. The result is a smoother, more rhythmic work cycle that keeps both delays and operator fatigue to the minimum extent.

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