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Time Observation Sheet (+Form +Video)

The Time Observation Sheet is one of the four primary forms for developing Standard Work.

Time Observation Sheet

Click this image to download a free Time Observation Sheet

The others are:

The Time Observation Sheet is used to, not surprisingly, observe the cycle times of the steps of Standard Work.

Unfortunately, many people dislike filling out this sheet for the simple reason that is it monotonous and fatiguing. To accurately determine cycle times, many observations are required. This means standing in a work area with a clipboard, concentrating deeply on watching an operator so no times are missed.

Despite being a very routine part of Lean, filling out a Time Observation Sheet is a bedrock step of forming Standard Work.


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You may see many different opinions on how to designate times for Standard Work. Feel free to adjust the later steps in the Time Observation Sheet process to suit your needs and Standard Work philosophy.

  1. Draw a map of the work area on a Standard Work Sheet. (This will not be the final version of the Standard Work Sheet—it is just a working document). I often recommend that observers photocopy the map without any additional markings on it to create a template. This speeds things along if there is a mistake.
  2. Watch the operator perform his or her work once without writing anything, just to get a feel for the process. The operator should be an average operator (not the superstar or the slowpoke) operating at a sustainable pace.
  3. Watch the operator a second time, drawing the operator’s path, and jotting down process steps on the Standard Work Sheet. Include ‘observation points’ in the notes. These are specific transition points that act as boundaries between steps. They must be easily observable, discrete points.
  4. Fill out the header information on a Time Observation Sheet.
  5. Write out the steps and observation points in the Time Observation Sheet.
  6. Place a blank sheet of paper under the observation sheet on your clipboard.
  7. Start the stopwatch at the beginning of the process. (Note: The observation point to start a cycle is the same as the observation point that ends the previous cycle.)
  8. Log times down each column above the dashed lines. Don’t reset the stopwatch! Leave the stopwatch running. You’ll be subtracting out the interval times later. It just takes too long and introduces errors to start and stop the watch while you are timing.
  9. When you get to the last step, just leave the clock running and start on the next column.
  10. Record between 6 and 10 cycles to be able to make accurate estimates of cycle times for each step.
  11. NOTE: If you see a special cause problem that changes the time (adds or subtracts), log the problem on the blank page using this convention: “Step-cycle” So, a problem with the 4th step on the 3rd cycle would be 4-3. Be brief—you probably won’t have much time, but make sure the note will refresh your memory. Then circle the time you wrote into the Time Observation Sheet.
  12. After the last time, go back and make sure you understand what you wrote on the log sheet.
  13. Calculate the total cycle time for each column.
  14. Calculate each of the…

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  • virginia moon says:

    I noticed you mentioned average time in your discussion. I am training on Time studies at work and they told us that we use our second to the lowest time not average or repeated time. is this correct?

    • Jeff Hajek says:


      Great question. The truth of the matter is that there are a lot of methods, and the choice depends on some other considerations.

      If you have a great support system of andon lights and on-call resources to help, setting the time to the second lowest works. Since most companies don’t, the average step adjustment method I describe is a good alternative.

      In both cases, though, the real key is in how you manage variation. When operators fall behind (or get ahead) of the expected pace, they should be documenting what is going on, and the team should be taking action to either correct the problems (PDCA), or revise the standard work documenttion if the times appear too high.

      Just keep in mind that if you do use the second lowest time, your operator will rarely finish his or her work on time without support. In practice, this means floaters (good method), buffer time between cycle time and takt time (common method), or inventory (bad method).

      Hope that clarifies things.

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