The founders of the MTM process

  • The founders of the MTM process

  • The founders of the MTM process

The founders of the MTM process


America’s entry into the Second World War means an unprecedented challenge for its industries. Productivity has to be quadrupled within a short amount of time without endangering the harmonious work climate by overtaxing the workforce.


The predetermined time systems developed up until now had shown how the work method influences productivity, and piqued businesses’ interest in designing optimized work methods. In 1940 the Westinghouse Electric Corporation gave Harold B. Maynard of Methods Engineering Council just such a contract. He must research complicated work processes for drills. Together with John L. Schwab and Gustave J. Stegemerten he designed the basics for a system that later becomes the most successful  process for optimizing work processes worldwide: Methods Time Measurement.   From the beginning they want to develop an internationally recognized process to be used in all branches of industry. A strictly scientifically proven process is the highest order.


The researchers film workers all over the US in various fields of production. Since they use a camera with a constant recording speed of 16 frames per second, they do not need a time gauge. Finally the scientists evaluate hundreds of meters of film. In doing so, they decode elementary hand and finger movements (grab, grasp, bring, place, release, separate, turn and press) as well as visual functions (scan and inspect). Later these elements are expanded to body, leg and foot movements: side step, rotate body, bend, kneel, sit, lift, go, move leg and foot. All basic movements are so defined and described using a symbolic language. Now entire work processes can be described. In analysing the film, the number of frames is simultaneously calculated, each showing a basic movement. The elementary movements also serve as time units. Their addition amounts to the length of a series of movements: the actual time.


Maynard and his team orient their predetermined time system to the skills of an average trained worker. They must also judge the degree of performance. To do this they have the LMS process (named after its developers Lowry, Maynard, Stegemerten), which was published at the beginning of the 1930s. It could then be proved that the average performance degree is dependent upon the worker’s skills, his exertion in executing the task, the regularity in execution time and the work conditions. They can now assign every combination of movement elements to a corresponding set time based upon the determined actual time, the performance degree and mathmatically technical statistics through use of calculation processes. For the first time, a humane performance standard is defined – the ergonomic equivalent of the “standard meter“ is found. On the basis of these calculations, the MTM standard time value card (see page 22) develops soon thereafter. It is still valid today.


Already in 1943 Maynard, Schwab and Stegemerten have developed more effective work methods throughout their research by recombining the movement elements. The method becomes a measure for time. In 1949 they sketch the MTM system in the journal “Factory Management and Maintenance”. A little while later their book “Methods Time Measurement” appears – a work that immediately draws much attention.


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