Takt time is a manufacturing term used to describe the rate at which a good needs to be produced to meet customer demand.
It is an important metric because if a manufacturer isn’t able to produce to takt, additional resources such as manpower or money will need to be used to meet demand.
Established as a production management tool by Germany in the 1930s, takt time (“Taktzeit” in German which roughly translates to measure, cycle, or pulse) was designed by engineers as the interval measurement at which aircraft would move to the next step in the production process. Adopted by Toyota in the 1960s, (and translated to takuto taimu in Japanese) takt time has since become a universal manufacturing production term.
Fun Fact: According to Wikipedia, “some earlier meanings dating back to the 16th century include “beat triggered by regular contact, clock beat”, then in music “beat indicating the rhythm.””
There is, however, a great debate about the relationship between planned cycle time and takt time.
“How does takt time fit into production and when do you need a takt time calculator, specifically?” The answer is simple. This page is designed to answer and explain:
Takt time is the amount of time a manufacturer has per unit to produce enough goods to fulfill customer demand.
Mike Rother, author of Toyota Kata, goes a step further by defining takt time as the “Rate of customer demand for the group, or family, of products produced by one process”, most often at “assembly-type processes that serve external customers.”
To calculate takt time as we will explain in more in-depth in the next section, “divide the effective operating time of a process (for example, per shift or day) by the quantity of items customers require from the process in that time period,” Rother explains.
In a broader sense, takt time is designed to evaluate the “rate of which the customer is buying a product,” according to The Toyota Way, written by Jeffrey K. Liker. “Takt can be used to set the pace of production and alert workers whenever they are getting ahead or behind,” Liker explains.
However, there is much debate on the role cycle time plays in conjunction with takt time because a pre-determined takt time does not automatically mean you should produce at that rate. There are other factors to consider when determining the rate at which you should produce. “Takt time becomes interesting in our discussion of target conditions when we use it as something to strive for,” Rother says.
Calculating takt time gives you a better understanding of your service delivery process which can help to eliminate waste and deficiencies and increase productivity and efficiency.
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To use a takt time calculator, the formula is simple. To calculate takt time:
For example, if a customer requires 200 boxes of cereal made in a 10-hour time period, you would calculate:
10 hours of time / 200 boxes of cereal
You would need to produce a box of cereal every 3 minutes. Sounds simple right? It is, but don’t forget that takt time does not account for the amount of manpower needed to produce a box of cereal or breaks such as lunch or meetings. If you know there is an hour lunch scheduled in the 10-hour day, you would need to revise your formula to represent 9 hours of time.
This is where cycle time starts to play a role in determining the number of products produced within a time frame to meet customer demand.
Let’s do another example.
If a process has 28,000 seconds available to complete work per shift, and 800 pieces are required to meet customer demand, how often do you need to complete a piece to meet that demand?
28,000 seconds available time / 800 pieces required = 35 seconds takt time
Using the takt time calculator, you determine that on average, the customer is buying one unit every 35 seconds.
Let’s be clear – takt time does not equal cycle time. The two serve very different functions in the manufacturing process, but they do work closely together..
Cycle time is the amount of time it takes to produce a product. Takt time is a customer demand calculation that tells you how many products need to be produced in a given time period to meet customer demand. While the terms mean different things, it is important that they work together, otherwise, it could indicate a problem on the plant floor.
So, how do the two work together? Using the example above, takt time indicates you should produce a part every 35 seconds to meet demand. According to Rother, “The actual intended cycle time of an assembly process, called planned cycle time, is usually less (faster) than the takt time.” He makes a very valid point.
The planned cycle time is as close to the takt time that still allows for wiggle room. Essentially, manufacturers need the ability to account for any problems that arise without falling behind their customer demand target.
“So in a sense takt time represents an ideal repetitive cycle for an assembly process, a cycle at which we would be producing in sync with the customer demand rate – sell one, make one,” Rother says of takt time and cycle time working together.
What becomes a challenge for many is one cycle times are consistently within a range desired, manufacturers can strive to reduce the gap between takt time and planned cycle time.
Think about these examples. If cycle time is greater than takt time, it’s an indication the production process is not as efficient as it should be and you may need to improve a portion of that process. This can result in overtime, poor metrics, a backlog of production, or even loss of customers. Similarly, if cycle time is less than takt time, this can also indicate a lack of efficiency. Maybe you’re overstaffed or simply, you may consider adding additional work to that particular process such as producing more product.
Once planned cycle time has been stabilized, look towards improvements that can be made to align the two metrics closer together, eliminating the potential for problems to arise.
Remember though, takt time and planned cycle time are only one part of continuous improvement. Determining the metrics to concentrate on when improving production processes is solely dependent on your needs as a manufacturer.
We’ve talked about the definition of takt time, what it does to help manufacturers meet customer demand, and the role planned cycle time plays in that equation, but now we need to talk about lead time. Takt time and lead time go hand-in-hand.
Takt time, as explained above, applies to customer demand and the amount of time a manufacturer has to produce enough goods to fulfill said customer demand. By extension, the lead time is the total time it takes from receiving an order to delivering that item to the customer.
While takt time focuses on the amount of product needed to meet customer demand, lead time explains how long it takes to deliver the product. It’s an example of a streamlined, continuous manufacturing process.
Calculating lead time isn’t very difficult. Basically, the lead time formula is:
Date customer ordered the product – manufacturing time = lead time
The formula can vary depending on the type of manufacturing, however. Inventory management lead time can be vastly different from supply chain lead time. For more resources on lead time, visit https://www.brightpearl.com/inventory-management-system/what-is-lead-time.
The answer to that is sort of. We kind of touched on this is in an earlier paragraph when talking about the role planned cycle time plays with takt time, but if we’re speaking in the context of just the takt time formula, it does not automatically consider breaks. You will have to do that on your own. To reiterate, let’s say you have 5 hours of production time available to produce a specific amount of product. But, that 5 hours becomes 4 when you remember there is a weekly production meeting scheduled for that day.
So, you need to recalculate that formula using the correct number of production time available – 4. So, while, yes takt times do include breaks,it is crucial that you, as the manufacturer,consider and include breaks before calculating takt time.
The answer is, yes. Let’s talk even further about the example above. If you have a scheduled shift, there are various factors that can influence the amount of production time available on any given day – scheduled holiday hours, lunch breaks, meetings, etc. Additionally, if a customer wants more or less product, takt time will vary according to customer demand.
Using Toyota as an example because they’re an example of optimal Lean manufacturing, they calculate takt time on a monthly basis with reviews of the calculated takt time every 10 days. Learning by example, it is important you continuously improve your manufacturing processes by recalculating and updating metrics on a regular basis.
But, remember, you want to strive to create a routine that enables consistency. This is one of the key drivers of success for Toyota. Their success does not lie in the tools they use, but in the ability to maintain routine and standard work.
Toyota Kata explains this very well. “An astonishing number of processes come close to making their numbers on average, but their output cycles actually fluctuate excessively from cycle to cycle,” Rother explains.
He adds, “When you have identified the degree of fluctuation from cycle to cycle in a process, the next question becomes: “What should the range of fluctuation be?””
When that range is defined, only then can you begin to understand and problem-solve, eventually getting to the point where planned cycle time and takt time are more consistent and improvable. Then, it becomes a metric of use for manufacturers.
So, yes, to answer the question, takt time typically does vary, but you want to get to a point where that variation is very small, creating consistency, good habits and behaviors, and the ability to make improvements on the floor.
Lean manufacturing (and Six Sigma manufacturing, too) focuses on reducing wastes in the production process, and by default, takt time is an effective tool in ensuring a Lean manufacturing process. It’s even been referred to as “the heartbeat of Lean manufacturing.”
Takt time is a process “in which the steps can be written out and waste identified and eliminated to create a better flow.” Eliminating waste and creating continuous flow is what drives Lean manufacturing. Essentially, takt time helps manufacturers move products through each assembly line in an efficient manner that enables on-time delivery to customers. When you’re consistently producing at a rate that allows you to find problems and fix them while hitting goals is the purpose of lean manufacturing.
Takt time is important in Lean manufacturing by calculating customer demand and how to meet that demand. When takt time is in use in a plant, there are a few key benefits:
Following a clear takt time creates a start to finish process that ensures a continuous flow of products to satisfy customer demand. Without takt time, it would be difficult to correctly measure the efficiency, reduce waste, and optimize costs of your production process.
Takt time ensures availability and increases efficiency throughout the plant.
Bryan Sapot is a lifelong entrepreneur, speaker, CEO, and founder of Mingo. With more than 24 years of experience in manufacturing technology, Bryan is known for his deep manufacturing industry insights.
Throughout his career, he’s built products and started companies that leveraged technology to solve problems to make the lives of manufacturers easier. Follow Bryan on LinkedIn here.