Historical Development from MTM-1 to the Framework of MTM Building Block Systems

  • Historical Development from MTM-1 to the Framework of MTM Building Block Systems

  • Historical Development from MTM-1 to the Framework of MTM Building Block Systems

Historical Development from MTM-1 to the Framework of MTM Building Block Systems

Historical Development from MTM-1 to the Framework of MTM Building Block Systems

The essential impulse for the development of MTM came from Fred W. Taylor (1856 – 1915) and, in particular, Frank B. Gilbreth (1868 – 1924). Gilbreth came to the realization that the run time for a process controlled by a person (manual activity)


  • with the same practice (skill)
  • with the same qualification (ability) and
  • with the same effort (exertion)


within reasonable limits is solely dependent upon the method utilized to complete the task.


Today, we know that this is a very “mechanical view”, which ignores many other influences, for example, the motivation of the operator, environmental factors or the characteristics of the object to be worked upon. However, it is correct that the method utilized is a very significant factor. In filming numerous Motion Sequences, Gilbreth determined that human motions can be reduced to 17 motion elements, which he called therbligs, a name he derived from rearranging the letters of his own last name. These 17 motions were the “precursors” of the MTM Basic Motions.


Gilbreth and his colleagues conducted motion studies with the help of these therbligs in order to find the methods leading to the shortest times for executing tasks. They attempted to eliminate all therbligs which did not contribute to completing the task. A motion analysis was conducted for the right and left hand. This explains why this form of analysis of human Motion Sequences is referred to as two-hand analysis. The following example illustrates the principle of two-hand analysis.


Task: Drive in screw (M8 × 40) with a screwdriver
No. Left hand Right hand
1 hand motion empty ―> screw
2 Grasp
3 screw ―> screw point
4 bring screw to position
5 hand motion empty ―> screwdriver
6 grasp
7 screwdriver ―> screw

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In the 1920s, Gilbreth’s study of motions led to “rules of motion economy”. These rules are used to this day to assist in defining the most time- and energy-efficient Motion Sequences possible. These rules focus on the use of the shortest possible motions, balanced motions, rhythmic motions, symmetrical motions, automated motions, motions with low energy consumption, and ballistic motions, while maintaining activities in the mid-range of motion.


While these original motion studies proved to be a great advance in scientific management, they could not be considered complete, because they did not assign times to the motions. Thus, it was not possible to fully evaluate alternative methods. This need to fully evaluate the method, including the impact of individual motions on the method, led to the development of Predetermined Time Systems (PTS). The PTS represents the marriage of “Gilbreth’s motion study” with “Taylor’s time study” providing the ability to assign execution times to the analyzed Motion Sequence. The result is a truly quantitative evaluation of the work system allowing for the complete optimization of the method.


Predetermined Time Systems are defined as follows:



Predetermined Time Systems Predetermined Time Systems are motion times employed in the study and evaluation of manual work elements. Essential indicators for designing workstations and work methods can be derived from using the Predetermined Time System.


Predetermined Time Systems serve to


  • provide the description of work processes and
  • assign (predetermined) time values to the described processes.

Asa B. Segur, a colleague of Gilbreth, is credited with the first attempt to develop a Predetermined Time System, MTA (Motion Time Analysis), this work taking place between 1919 and 1924.


The following diagram shows the history of the evolutionary development of the most significant Predetermined Time Systems, most of them developed by the US/Canada and German MTM Associations.


In the 1950s, American management consultants brought MTM to Europe. Thus, began a very successful MTM application in Sweden and later in Switzerland. Starting in 1960, the MTM method gained significant acceptance in Germany. While it was initially used as an aid in job design, MTM has gradually evolved from a Predetermined Time System to a complete method for the productivity management of work systems. Today, the framework of MTM building block systems enjoys worldwide acceptance with over 80% of all predetermined time standards work being done with MTM.




In actual practice, the application of MTM may be supplemented by various other techniques including activities such as; time study, activity sampling, estimates, benchmarking, mathematical calculations, and self logging in order to measure those portions of the process not directly analyzable with MTM.

In the following chart, those times usually measured with MTM are high-lighted in grey. Although the determination of Allowance Time (e.g. Fatigue, Delay Time, Personal Time) can involve the use of MTM, they are normally determined by using other techniques, such as, time study and activity sampling.




From this chart, we see that MTM plays a significant role in activities which are predominately controlled by manual activities.


One of the major factors, leading to the increasing use of MTM, lies in its ability to be used for the determination of allocated time in the planning phase of work system development.


This ability to use MTM for work organization and design efforts results from its unique ability to describe work in the form of coded movement (elements), which when taken together, not only describe the standard time for the process, but also fully describe the method used to produce the unit. Beyond this, MTM serves to allow the user to critically evaluate the work process and analyze the factors that most significantly influence the result.



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