Groupe GCL
Conseil logistique & supply chain

Time standards: What should your productivity level be?

Time standards: What should your productivity level be?

Time standards: What should your productivity level be?


When speaking of productivity, all companies look to get the most out of their Operations. Often we see companies which, through the years, have accumulated historical data or have summarily evaluated (according to their judgement) theirexpectations, establishing a minimum productivity level required on the part of their employees. 180 cases per hour, 300 lines per hour, number of cases per day…These productivity levels are, primarily, a limitation on what your productivity level should be, and on the other hand, are generally not sustainable in a unionized environment.

Do not confuse: time standards and productivity expectation

To obtain the most out of your operation, it is recommended to implement a system that uses engineered labour standards. These systems allow you to set a specific amount of time in which the employee must perform a specific task. Further to data capturing performed by employees, the system records the start and end times of the performed activity and compares the established standards with the actual time used to accomplish the task. This comparison is translated into a performance level measured as a percentage. The administrators then use this efficiency measure to summarise all tasks performed employees during a workday to allow a detailed follow-up. This kind of follow-up can apply to several types of functions, but is generally applied to order assembly.

The standard times are established by industrial engineers and incorporated into the system in order to evaluate the time each assembly order should take. The techniques used to establish these standards are internationally renowned and approved by unions.

Such a system offers the following advantages :

  • A system which is fair for employees and management. Considering that each order is of a different nature, it is normal that the time allocated also differs. In fact, the standards will justify the appropriate time, whether the order is a small one (ex. : 10 units on a total of 8 particular items) or large (ex. : 50 units on 2 items). In the long run, the sum of all standards will determine superior productivity to that of an established average with many unknown variables;
  • Automated data gathering for productivity follow-up. The employees record their activities at an accessible terminal. An administrator must supervise that the information is correct, but no longer has to account for all the employee hours. The systems in question can also generate a series of reports that ensures an efficient follow-up of all activities;
  • Employee responsibility for the follow-up of their activities. Since employees record their own activities, these must in turn be responsible for what is recorded. An oversight on their part can only penalize their performance;
  • Outlining operational delays. Employees also have the responsibility to record the delays that are not integrated in the standards. These delays can then be alleviated and addressed by the administrators of Operations;
  • The standards can ascertain the progression of your Operations. In fact, many changes can occur in a near, mid or long-term future: the nature of the orders, the layout, the operational procedures, etc. It is normal that a change in Operations requires an adjustment to the standards. These adjustments modify the total Operations’ objectives and, consequently, the time an employee takes to perform his functions. Therefore, for a project where manpower savings have been evaluated, these savings will in fact be real and concrete;
  • productivity gain of 15 to 25 % on standardised functions. This data can vary depending on the site and the nature of the functions but generally speaking, a solid standards implementation approach will significantly impact your operations.

This type of system is not the final solution to all your productivity problems, it’s a management tool. Administration (Supervisors, Managers, Directors…) always play a primary role in this process. It is their role to ensure that data integrity is obtained on a daily basis and to take the necessary steps so employees attain their objectives: they must on the shop floor and make sure all potential obstacles are removed. In essence, these actions are what truly allow productivity improvements.

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