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To give accurate lead times and effectively allocate resources, manufacturers and production plants need to rely on fail-safe metrics with tangible benefits. One of the metrics used frequently in manufacturing is takt time, which enables plants to optimize their production resources and reliably meet customer demand.

What Is Takt Time?

In lean manufacturing and production, takt time is the amount of time in which an item or service needs to be completed to meet a customer’s on-time delivery deadline. Different from lead time or cycle time, takt time refers only to the time during which a team is actively working on creating value for the customer. Takt time can be calculated with a simple formula and is used to plan production and communicate lead time to the customer.

The term originated from the German word for “beat” or “pulse,” and was first used as a production metric in German airplane manufacturing in the 1930s. The Toyota Corporation adopted the metric in the 1950s, allowing them to predict lead times and grow into the largest car manufacturer in the world. To this day, Toyota regularly reviews their takt time and makes adjustments approximately every 10 days.

In order to maintain the projected pace of production, the amount of time between one product or part being completed and the next must be less than the takt time. For example, if a manufacturer receives a new product order every 3 hours, the team needs to finish a product in 3 hours (the takt time) or less to meet demand.

Calculating takt time enables plants to provide customers accurate lead times, optimize their shift schedules, place workers accordingly and keep only as much raw material or inventory on hand as they need at one time.

How to Calculate Takt Time

Takt time is determined using the following calculation:

Total Available Production Time
_____________________________________   = Takt Time

Average Customer Demand

The “total available production time” should exclude any employee breaks, shift changes, scheduled maintenance or other interruption to time spent actively producing goods or services.

The “average customer demand” is the volume of new orders during that time period.

For example, if a customer places an order for 40 valves on a Monday morning and expects to pick them up on Friday evening, production team members need to complete the order in 5 days. Each workday lasts 8 hours, with a scheduled 1 hour lunch break, giving team members 7 hours per day, or 35 hours (2,100 minutes) total, to produce the customer’s order.

In this equation:

  • Total Available Production Time = 2,100 minutes
  • Average Customer Demand = 40 valves

2100 / 40 = 52.5 minutes takt time

Each valve must be completed in 52.5 minutes or less to meet this plant’s customer demand. Note that takt time assumes all available team members will be working at 100% efficiency during available hours.

Takt Time vs. Cycle Time vs. Lead Time

While they may seem similar, there are crucial differences between takt time, cycle time and lead time.

Lead time: The time frame between when a plant receives an order and when the customer receives their order.

Takt time: The maximum amount of time the team needs to comply with to meet customer demand.

Cycle time: The time team members spend actively working on the customer’s order. Must be less than or equal to the takt time.

Typically, lead time is the metric given to the customer to communicate when they should expect their order. Lead time represents the time that elapses between order placement and fulfillment, but is not reflective of the effort expended. For example, a plant can have a lead time of 14 days but spend only 5 total hours of cycle time on a single order.

Takt time and cycle time are calculated and communicated internally, so that plants can allocate resources appropriately.

Any of these metrics are subject to change based on customer demand, with lead time being the most constant, since it is typically a generous average or range. Cycle time fluctuates based on the number of workers on shift, any changes to the production system or the availability of raw materials or parts.

Takt time is in constant flux, affected by both customer demand and cycle time. It can change due to any number of factors, such as:

  • Increases or decreases in order volume
  • Increases or decreases in order frequency
  • Changes or improvements to cycle time
  • Changes in shift hours
  • Changes in the number of workers on shift
  • Adding or removing production lines

Here is an example of the three metrics in action:

  • A customer orders 10 units of a product on Monday, September 1
  • The plant receives the order on Monday, September 1
  • The plant begins work on the order on Wednesday, September 3
  • Production team members are able to work on the order for 7 hours a day, finishing after 4 business days on Tuesday, September 9
  • The customer receives their order on September 10

Lead time = 10 days

Cycle time = 4 days (28 hours or 1680 minutes)

Takt time = 1680 minutes total; 168 minutes (2 hours, 48 minutes) per unit

Plant managers should be well aware of their cycle times to ensure that their takt time calculations are accurate. Cycle time should always be less than or equal to takt time. If cycle time is equal to takt time, and takt time is the maximum allowable time to work on an order, any disruptions to the process can alter the takt time, which extends the lead time.

Why Is Takt Time Important?

Operators, frontline supervisors and managers need to be able to calculate takt time so they can plan production schedules accordingly. The pace of production, or daily work routine management, will determine how quickly a plant can fulfill orders, as well as how many resources are required to complete work in the most efficient way possible. Knowing takt time can also help managers quickly identify abnormalities in the process, and can initiate problem solving that much faster.

Calculating takt time can help organizations:

  • Optimize their team’s capacity
  • Minimize overtime
  • Reduce waste in processes
  • Reduce errors and defects
  • Increase product quality
  • Standardize work processes
  • Maintain a continuous flow of work
  • Reduce unevenness in the workflow
  • Optimize storage costs
  • Avoid overproduction
  • Set realistic deadlines

Takt time can even help reduce the time it takes to train new employees, since efforts to reduce cycle time can result in process standardization.

Since takt time is in direct correlation with customer demand, calculating takt time can help plants keep pace with orders. Takt time also provides an honest, accurate picture of plant capacity, so fulfillment teams are far less likely to miss a deadline or over-promise on lead time.

Takt Time Best Practices

When calculating takt time, there are a few basic rules to follow:

  • Don’t count employee breaks or shift changes in the equation.
  • Don’t confuse takt time with cycle time — takt time should always be more than or equal to cycle time, since it is the maximum allowable time for production.
  • Only calculate takt time for one product (or type of product) at a time. Don’t count the time during which the same production line is working on different products.
  • If shortages of staff, materials or equipment will affect production, then the “available time” needs to be adjusted to include only that time during which the process can operate at 100% efficiency.
  • If the customer requests any changes mid-process, you must verify that current cycle time can accommodate the change, then recalculate takt time.

To ensure you are accounting for all factors, ask the following questions:

  • Are there staff breaks inside your available time?
  • Do any meetings happen during the standard available time?
  • Do staff occasionally have personal issues that keep them from working at 100% efficiency?
  • Does any of your equipment have regularly scheduled maintenance?
  • Does the takt time account for the occasional rework?
  • Is the longest step of the process (the bottleneck) shorter than than the takt time?

If the answer to this last question is “no,” then current customer demand cannot be met.

Of course, optimal takt time is not achieved overnight. Generating an accurate metric is a result of proper staff training, process standardization, appropriate safety measures and a number of other planning steps that contribute to optimal production execution. A continuous training program or coaching partner can help identify areas for optimization and suggest changes to both the physical work environment and work processes, all of which can reduce waste and streamline production. Explore continuous improvement training opportunities from the TWI Institute, including Standardized Work, TWI Job Instruction, Frontline Leadership Development and TWI Problem Solving.

Takt Time FAQs

Q. What if my cycle time and takt time are the same?
Your takt time may be the same as your cycle time, but be aware that you risk falling behind on order fulfillment if any disruptions occur. Your cycle time should always be less than or equal to your takt time, with takt time being the maximum allowable time for production.

Q. My process produces in batches, so is the takt time the amount of time between batches?
No. Takt time should not account for any breaks in active work. Employee breaks, shift changes, machine downtime and other process disruptions should not be counted in the takt time equation.

Q. How do I calculate takt time when the customer wants it ASAP?
Takt time should never be a guess. Once you know your available production time, you will be able to calculate takt time, and therefore generate an accurate and realistic lead time.

Q. Can I calculate takt time in an office environment?
Yes — although takt time is not calculated as often in office settings. Takt time is calculated by dividing net working time by customer demand, both of which can be determined in any office environment.

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