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Motion analysis: the Gilbreth where more detailed than #Lean

December 8th, 2011 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , ,

I think you will spend 84 seconds reading this post

Franck and Lilian Gilbreth were two engineers who pioneered motion analysis, one of the thing that Lean does (despite sometimes being a conflicting activity on the shop floor). I’ve already blogged about them, to show some video they did.

They predated Lean by a few decades, yet their center of interest is still historically interesting.

They devised a kind of hieroglyphic alphabet called Therbligs (their name reversed) aimed at analysing movements people do to identify whether such activity brought value or not.

Motion analysis in Lean is often done using simple forms, the simpler being the spaghetti diagram of course. Googling a bit, I find an interesting piece on Gemba Panta Rei.

Taiichi Ohno himself used to look at this and explained in his book “Workplace management” how, sometimes, he had problems explaining to people the difference between motion/activity and work, because, in some regional japanese, the oral words were the same and the written kanji only differed slightly (pages 33 and ff).

A Lean expert at Toyota TIE in Ancenis, France once explained to us how they had to work on motion analysis to reduce the length of a production line and how they were far behind what’s done in Japan. France was looking for associates in need of moving their legs 1 meter during their work, when Japan was looking at optimisation when an arm had to reach out for something: timing and magnitude is different, like Lean expertise!

So, next time when you look at a spaghetti diagram, please notice how you may be missing finer therbligs!

Besides, should you wish to know more on the Gilbreths, please have a look at the Gilbreth Network!

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  • Hi Nicholas–

    Thanks for this, appreciated the tone and detail of the article and the hieroglyphic nature of the therbligs. The hieroglyphs would add a whole lot of detail, depth and perspective to the evaluation/assessment process ; )

    Also liked the Minor Motion Analysis ‘Worksheet’ reference/template from Gemba Panta Rei.


  • Nicolas Stampf

    Hello Don,

    Think this might be useful for body training? Associated to TWI Job Instruction, maybe it could improve teaching and learning of physical activities? (I’m thinking of Tai Chi right now, but others may benefit 🙂

  • Hi Nicolas–

    Thanks for asking ; ) For me, spaghetti diagrams have been helpful for following up/working with video recording for tasks/jobs …ergonomics….work flow, reach, rates of repetition etc.

    My view…often the ‘traditional’ ergonomic process and recommendation(s) approach are weak on/dodge the body training side. Might be additionally effective to upgrade on the body training side versus the ergo product side (eg. ergo chair upgrade ; ), improves/builds core strength, stability and balance, concentration…

    So the TWI Job Instruction reference apropos.

    Tai Chi seems an apt ‘movement’ art/practice though my own preference functional/postural fitness ; )<

    "The Beijing short form could be taught farily quickly to students of various ages in physical education programs. The brevity of the form appealed to students of all ages. The short form provided a standard form for use in some competitions"


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