Tool time observations, also called time and motion studies, is a powerful strategy to identify the root cause of a problem rather than simply addressing its symptoms.

Tool time studies provide an innovative and creative way to examine a specific process or task to understand how the work is ‘actually’ being performed in the field. The approach provides insights into pain points, roadblocks, and the workarounds being used.

Let’s look at a recent example.

Tool time observations in action – what’s the ‘real’ problem?

A client had been struggling with their conveyor belt replacement process and engaged Minset to improve and streamline their approach. The client explained the problem was technical in nature and they had been working with their engineering and maintenance teams for some time without success.

Based on the client brief, Minset planned to safely speed up the team’s efforts by introducing quick change over methods, amongst other strategies. As part of the client’s engagement process, the business organised a team workshop. It assembled engineers, belt coordinators, and maintenance team members to meet and review the procedures, looking for areas of improvement and waste reduction.

Before we facilitated the team workshop, we scheduled some tool time data capture to better understand what was happening in the field. While observing the conveyor belt team in action, we found that many team members weren’t using the procedure, and some didn’t know the document existed.

This understanding transformed the project from a technical challenge to one concerning human capabilities, centring on the team’s ability to perform the task uniformly and consistently as outlined in the guidelines. Armed with this information, we were able to test the existing process, then evaluate the results before embarking on a redesign project. This clarity was only made possible by analysing what was happening in the field, saving valuable time and money, and ensuring the right resources were employed to address the core underlying issue.

Tool time studies add value within teams and across the business

Leading asset owners cleverly use the tool time methodology to address immediate problems, and to prevent ongoing issues in the future.

In the short term, the strategy gets to the heart of issues quickly by targeting root causes. Problems are addressed on the spot and are less likely to recur. The data helps identify opportunities for improvement within the team’s responsibilities, leading to quicker changes.

In the longer term, tool time observations identify improvement opportunities that often span multiple teams. This data-driven approach initiates conversations and promotes collaboration across the business, leading to profound changes that minimise downtime, improve efficiencies, and enhance overall operational performance.

Consider the present and the future

As mentioned before, collecting tool time data serves two essential purposes: solving current issues and laying the groundwork for future improvements. By measuring performance before and after implementing changes, progress can be demonstrated and quantified. To guarantee success, it is vital to establish a standardised data collection plan with clear time-use categories and well-documented approaches.

Not all tool time collection methods are created equal

While tool time observations can finetune your problem-solving capabilities, the collection of manual data using a pen and paper has its limitations.

Minset’s very own digital app, MinObs, has been purpose-built to improve field collection and analysis of time-use data. The easy-to-use app helps observers collect hundreds of data points for each role in a single shift and undertake multiple observations of the same role across different crews. Standardising the data collection approach results in consistent measurement at any point during a project’s lifecycle.

Next steps 

If you would like to know more about the MinObs app, or how tool time can transform problem solving in your organisation, please reach out to the Minset team.

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