What is Productivity?
Productivity is a measure of the proportion of the effort toward a directed goal or mission to the whole level of effort. If we have 10 hours a week (of 40) toward our goal or mission we could say we are 25% productive. 20 hours would be 50% and so on.

In different fields the productive time is discussed with different names but similar underlying definitions. For example in the maintenance and repair of machines measures of productivity are called wrench time. Wrench time is the amount of time the repair person spends working directly on a machine, directly trouble shooting or (by convention) making the equipment safe to work on.

In maintenance and repair getting parts, tools and instructions is non-productive. Waiting for anything (cranes, helpers, or operators) is non-productive. Time spent texting, talking, smoking, excessively going to the rest room is also considered non-productive.

Interestingly, the goal is not 100% wrench time. We expect the repair person to clean the area, fill out work orders, service their own tools, do planning, do teaching and training and even source parts or materials. These are essential activities but not the mission which is fixing or performing preventive maintenance directly on machines (wrench time).

Measuring Productivity
Companies are constantly looking for ways to improve productivity, especially if they are confronted with severe economic conditions. Work sampling offers valuable information regarding the areas with low productivity levels that need to be leveraged through corrective actions. Using work sampling data, managers will be able to make accurate decisions to control the factors that positively and adversely affect job productivity.

The results of the analysis offer information in the following areas:

  • Under-utilized staff, defined by the percentage of time spent on indirect activities compared to direct activities. Going at activity level, managers will identify the activities that have the higher percentages from all indirect actions and will be able to take the appropriate decisions.
  • Over-utilized staff, defined by the percentage of time spent on direct activities compared to indirect activities. Apparently thought to be desirable by the company, not having an equilibrated structure between direct and indirect activities leads to inefficiency, as well. Over-utilized staff will not have enough time to complete the indirect actions that bring value to the activity itself, like reporting errors and sharing the solution applied, sharing knowledge and experiences with other team members, etc.
  • Flaws in working procedures exposed by the amount of waiting times, re-work activities or redundant activities.
  • Machines Downtimes influencing the proportion of waiting time and corrective actions.
  • Pre- and post-testing useful for calculating the effect of improvement solutions or for analyzing if audit subsequent corrective actions have been efficiently implemented. By analyzing daily data from post-testing results, it is easy to observe trends and to understand when the full extent of the measure has been reached, translated into gaining stable percentages results. From this perspective, work-sampling is seen as a dynamic methodology.
  • The refinement of role responsibilities and training needs.
  • The realignment or reallocation of tasks and responsibilities.

Work sampling can accurately measure how much time is spent on every activity including waiting, talking, trying to find things, etc, as well as directly working.