Why should we need to know how long a job should take? The answer to this question lies in the importance of time in our everyday life. We need to know how long it should take to walk to the train station in the morning, one needs to schedule the day’s work and even when to take out the dinner from the oven.
In the business world these standard times are needed for:
planning the work of a workforce,
manning jobs, to decide how many workers it would need to complete certain jobs,
scheduling the tasks allocated to people
costing the work for estimating contract prices and costing the content in general
calculating the efficiency or productivity of workers – and from this:
providing fair returns on possible incentive bonus payment schemes.
On what are these standard times set? They are set, not on how long a certain individual would take to complete a task but on how long a trained, the experienced worker would take to do the task at a defined level of pace or performance.
Who sets these standard times? Specially trained and qualified observers set these times, using the most appropriate methods or techniques for the purpose i.e. “horses for courses”.
How it is done depends on circumstances that obtain. The toolkit available to the comprehensively trained observer is described below.
Activity Sampling is a statistical technique that can be used as a means for collecting data. It is defined as:
“A technique in which a large number of observations are made over a period of time of one group of machines, processes or workers. Each observation records what is happening at that instant and the percentage of observations recorded for a particular activity or delay is a measure of the percentage of time during which that activity or delay occurs.”
It is normally used for collecting information on the percentages of time spent on activities, without the need to devote the time that would otherwise be required for any continuous observation.
One of the great advantages of this technique is that it enables lengthy activities or groups of activities to be studied economically and in a way that produces statistically accurate data.