Asa Bertrand Segur

American engineer Asa Bertrand Segur (1886-1975) created the first Predetermined Motion Time System (PMTS) which formed part of what he called Motion-Time-Analysis (MTA)

Early Years

Born in the quiet little Indiana town of Decatur to a millwright father, he qualified as a civil engineer at Purdue University (where scientific management pioneer, Frank Gilbreth, was an occasional lecturer). Following a year as chief engineer at Morgan Engineering Company (dam and bridge specialists in Tennessee), Segur switched to the post of efficiency inspector at the Chicago Civil Service Commission. In 1917, after four years at the Commission, followed by a brief interlude as engineer at the Johnson Chair Company, he moved to Baltimore to take over as director of the Red Cross Institute for the Blind. This new Institute was helping rehabilitate blinded US servicemen. Segur soon set about assessing the capabilities of his charges and the job opportunities that were open to them in different industries.

Working with Gilbreth

In 1918, his efforts were boosted when Frank Gilbreth (now an acting Army major) and his wife Lillian took an interest in the work of the Institute and worked alongside Segur for about a year. Gilbreth's expertise in studying work using movie cameras, proved invaluable in analysing and streamlining the movements required to complete tasks. Segur needed to quantify and target the work performance of the handicapped soldiers in his care. But, with war production a priority, Congress had just yielded to trade (labor) union pressure and banned the use of stopwatches in government work (a ban that was to remain in place till 1949). Fortunately, as most of Gilbreth's motion study films featured a clock measuring to a millionth of an hour, it was easy for Segur (perhaps covertly) to assess a time for each of the basic motions later to be known as therbligs. He now had the basis of an indirect method of producing standard times for any job that could be defined using Gilbreth's basic elements of motion and he later felt able to assert, So long as you can get the methods followed, the output will necessarily be about a constant figure.

Consultancy Work

Soon after World War I ended, Segur left the Red Cross Institute and returned to Chicago to set up his own consulting business and refine his timing expertise. He did not unveil MTA until just after Gilbreth's sudden death in 1924. But the timing system was only a subsidiary component of Segur's Motion-Time-Analysis philosophy. This was more concerned with identifying the most 'motion-efficient' operational processes, and creating the best training environments.

Segur was reluctant to publicise his revolutionary timing system, preferring to keep a fairly low profile, both with his consultancy clients and the labor unions. Active in industrial engineering and in his consultancy company until his late eighties, Asa Bertrand Segur was a modest, home-loving, family man who created the first Predetermined Motion Time System almost by accident. But his work was the inspiration for the work of much better known consultants like Quick, Malcolm and Duncan (who published their Work-Factor system in 1938) and Maynard, Stegemerten and Schwab (who published their Methods-Time Measurement system ten years later.)

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