Cycle time is a common term in manufacturing, but you may find different definitions depending who you’re asking. Generally speaking, cycle time refers to the time between the beginning and end of a process. Some practitioners believe measuring cycle time should include delay time while some argue to not include the time lost due to breakdowns or defects. Cycle time isn’t even the only term for this concept! Effective cycle time and production lead time are two terms sometimes used to describe the general cycle time term.

Even with varying definitions, it is important to note the differences between cycle time, lead time, and takt time. Lead time is the amount of time it takes from the moment a customer places an order to the moment the order has been shipped out for delivery. Cycle time represents the elapsed time between the start of production of a specific unit to the completion. And finally, takt time, is a calculated duration of optimal production.

Managing cycle time means focusing on improving the efficiency of the manufacturing process and getting the product or service to the consumer quickly. When a consumer places an order, their concern is the time it takes until they get their product (lead time) but are not necessarily concerned with how long it takes for the product to be processed. For facilities who practice Lean manufacturing or JIT manufacturing, managing the cycle time is important to matching demand with inventory and improving the cycle time will ultimately result in a shorter lead time.

So, what are ways you can reduce the cycle time in your organization? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Reduce waiting time: The most simple and direct way to cut down on cycle time.
  • Process re-engineering: How efficient are processes? Conduct a project to determine the best way to perform a certain task and reduce or eliminate tasks to streamline the process.
  • Employee involvement: Often times, front line workers have the most valuable suggestions for improving cycle time.

This is to just name a few! A good starting place for any company is to practice process mapping. Map out the process you would like to improve and include how much time it takes from start to finish and what areas require the most time.

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