Throwback Thursday: This 1946 GM Video Promoting Time & Motion Study is Dated Yet Current
For today’s Throwback Thursday, I somehow stumbled across this video on YouTube… it’s a video from 1946 that was produced by General Motors, their industrial engineering staff, the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University), and the University of Iowa.
It’s a somewhat awkwardly staged dinner party with a colleague and his wife, where the conversation, of course, turns to time and motion study and finding a better way to do things. This was after Bob was done annoying his wife, Marge, with talk about finding a better way to manage the home (and he experimented with ways to set the table).
Marge: “Oh Bob, women can’t run a house like a factory.”
Bob: “Why not?
Again, it’s 1946… the context is pretty dated, between the family roles and the smoking around the dinner table.
But, it’s fun to watch and think about parallels that people might have, today, about Lean.
Bob promised to “lay off the shop talk while we’re eating.” But, as soon as they were done… there was the shop talk!
Some of the dialogue between Bob and his guest, Dick — apparently they work together.
Dick: No, thanks. How’s the new job?
Bob: I like it. It’s OK.
Dick: You can have it. I wouldn’t trade with you.
Bob: You don’t realize what motion study can do, Dick. It works out just like, well, like better machines and better methods.
Times have changed. It’s a lot different than it was in the old days. Now we’re able to produce more and more stuff with less and less effort on the part of the guys who do the work.
That’s what motion study’s for. We find out how the machines and tools and the methods of using them should be changed to make it easier for the operator, as I say, it makes your job as a foreman a lot easier.
Dick: Well, it sounds good.
Bob: It’s more than sound. I can prove it.
Producing more (assuming it’s needed by the customer) with less effort… that sure sounds like Lean.
Making the work easier… that’s Lean.
But, one way “times have changed” is that the old days had the efficiency expert, Bob, figuring how people should do their work. In a Lean culture, we involve the operators and employees to make their own work easier. Read my blog post about that change in mindset here.
Dick is skeptical:
Dick: Still doesn’t make sense to me. More production equals more work in my language yet you claim it’ll make jobs easier and still get results.
Bob: Sure. A man can produce more without working a bit harder.
There’s often this concern in hospitals, circa 2015… more patient care means more work or working harder? Not when you improve and redesign work, reducing waste, through Lean.
Since Dick needs some convincing, Bob pulls out a “pin board” training game where your job is to put the pins or pegs into the holes as quickly as possible.
Today, Toyota uses a similar type of peg board in some of their visitor centers, as a sort of test… how quickly can you turn over all of the pegs?
GBMP uses a the same peg board from the GM video and demonstrate “standardized work,” as you can see in this video:
You can buy the peg board and a full training video directly from GBMP.
But back to the video, Bob has Dick try the pins. It took him 40 seconds.
Bob continues to annoy Marge with his suggestions that she’s wasteful… that’s more of the old “time study man” approach than it is Lean.
Bob: Sure. You girls might like to try it later on. I still say a little motion study around the house would help your housework.
Ann: Listen to the man. Nothing would make housework easy except more things that work when you push a button.
Marge: That’s what I keep telling, Bob. He claims there’s a lot of waste motion around the house. You should have seen him trying to set this table, studying his motions.
Ann, though, falls into the trap of wanting automation as a way of making work easier…
Bob suggests that Dick try the pin board again, using both hands, and it takes 34 seconds, down from 40.
Dick’s wife Ann tries the game, using the same method and it takes her 33 seconds. I’d say the difference between 34 and 33 seconds is “noise” or “common cause variation,” not Ann being faster.
Bob emphasizes that using the same methods gets the same results. “It’s not the operator, but the method.” That sounds like modern Lean thinking.
They try another method… 23 seconds! It was the “easiest” method.
Bob then explains a workplace improvement scenario about one employee having trouble keeping up. She had a different method than the other “girls.” He tells another story about making the work easier by reducing wasted motion.
That’s Lean… the idea of reducing waste and making work easier. The difference, again, is how you go about it… the expert telling people how to work or engaging and facilitating the employees to figure it out themselves? The Lean approach, with “Kaizen” and a focus on everybody participating in improving, thinking and being creative about their own work, that’s how Toyota built upon the class time study methods that we see and hear about in that old-timey video.