In recent years, corporate databases have improved, companies have invested in information systems, and data mining techniques are more commonly used. Still, we find that we are frequently required to use manual data collection techniques in support of our simulation work.
We have been working with and recommending our friends at Quetech since 2001 whenever we, or our clients, require assistance with time studies. Quetech is the developer of WorkStudy+. This software (for the Palm OS or Pocket PC) allows for streamlined and easy time studies using a handheld PDA.
Here's a quick run-down of how it works:
- Develop your time study template by following an extremely user-friendly interface in Microsoft Excel.
- Transfer the template to your handheld(s) using a USB cable.
- Manually observe your process using a touch pen to record the start, end and category of tasks as well as many other customizable fields. Repeat until you've completed your data collection plan.
- Transfer the data back to Excel for reporting and built-in statistical analysis.
We recently coached BJC HealthCare through a manual data collection effort with the goal of understanding the resource requirements to dispense medication within a hospital. The BJC study was covered tasks performed by the nursing staff within each unit, as well as order fulfillment tasks performed by pharmacists and technicians. WorkStudy+(combined with a few inexpensive PDAs from Walmart) proved invaluable in the manual data collection effort.
If you find yourself faced with a significant manual data collection project, consider this cost-effective, efficient solution. The days of stop watches, clipboards, and data entry will certainly not be missed.