Development of the Predetermined Time Systems

  • Development of the Predetermined Time Systems

  • Development of the Predetermined Time Systems

Development of the Predetermined Time Systems


Taylor’s proposals for scientific management spread rapidly among North American businesses; however, not always in the manner he intended: “Scientifically based management and work methods demand […] a comprehensive change in the concepts of duty, work and responsibility by both the workers and management”, he had written in 1911, and requires “intimate cooperation” of workers and businessmen.


In many places, the reality was different. The stopwatch governs the workers, treating them like children with deadlines that are often difficult to meet. Many employees also complain about the monotonous workday, which demands from them nothing more than repetitive, mindless movements. Once again Taylor’s strict-interpreted ideas fall under serious criticism.


This criticism does not escape the US Congress either. It arranges a commission to inspect the activities in American industrial businesses. During the war in 1914, the commission sets to work with the economist Robert Franklin Hoxie as chair. After investigating 35 industrial companies, the commission hands down a crushing judgement: The rationalization brought about by scientific management leads to an excessive burden on the workers, fails to preserve a humaneness in work and has a demotivating effect on the workforce – the final report concludes in its findings. Even though the commission’s study is criticized both in content and procedure from many sides, Congress enacts as a result a law prohibiting stopwatch time studies in all public businesses. This law attracts many researchers to movement studies. Under the term ‘movement economy’, numerous experiments occur in the 1920s to determine fixed rules for the most efficient movements.


The studies already designed by Frank B. Gilbreth serve as a guide. His coworker, Asa B. Segur, builds upon Gilbreth’s research in basic elements of movement, which make up all human movements. Segur also builds upon a symbolic language, developed by him, with which work methods could be clearly described for the first time. After many years of research he succeeds in assigning time values to the movement elements. Movement series can now also be evaluated quantitatively.


When Segur publishes his work in 1926 under the title “Motion Time Analysis” (MTA), he developed the first Predetermined Time System (PTS). It is used by most branches of US industry all the way into the 1930s.


Segur is able to prove with his PTS that the execution time required by people with the same skills, abilities and physical stress to carry out a task depends on the method used. Logically, the focus of this research shifts to the ergonomists. “Time and Motion Studies” remain at the forefront until 1928, and professional literature reports above all about the movement analyses “Motion and Time Studies”.

Following this is a series of further PTS such as MTS (Motion Time Survey), commissioned by the company General Electric. The most well known from those years is Work Factor (WF), a process established in 1934 by Joseph H. Quick.


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