What Is Cycle Time (and Why Does It Matter)?
The modern factory is rife with data. Using sensors and systems to facilitate data capture and aggregation, you can quantify almost every operation at any given second. Yet one of the most important metrics is one you can easily calculate without much hardware. It’s a metric manufacturers have been using to quantify and improve their operations for centuries. Of course, we’re talking about cycle time.
Cycle time explained
Cycle time is a critical concept in manufacturing. It refers to the actual time spent producing an item or providing a service, measured from the start of the first task to the end of the last one. More simply, it’s how long, from start to finish, it takes to produce value. It includes both value-added and non-value-added time for an all-encompassing understanding of value stream operations.
Calculating cycle time
Although it seems as simple as using a stopwatch, measuring cycle time requires more precision. The formula is straightforward: Simply subtract the time the first task began from the time at the end of the last task.
Cycle Time = (Finish Time – Start Time)
If you’re calculating the cycle time for batches of items, you can make some simple adjustments to calculate the cycle time per part. Take the total parts produced and divide the quantity by the overall production run time, as follows:
Cycle Time = (Finish Time – Start Time) / Units Produced
In either case, the result of the calculation tells you how long it takes to produce value. The question then becomes, how do you use this data?
What cycle time reveals about efficiency
Cycle time gives producers a better understanding of whether they can deliver their products in a timely manner against factors like demand, cost, and lead time. A quick cycle time also indicates a manufacturer’s production processes are efficient. The quicker the cycle time, the quicker products are produced.
Conversely, cycle time can shine a light on inefficiencies. For example, a producer can monitor cycle time and look for ways to optimize their production processes. Cycle time can pinpoint anything from bottlenecks and machine inefficiency to problems with communication on the factory floor.
Finally, cycle time is trackable as a trend line. If you see a stable, steady line, it means efficient, consistent operations. If your cycle time trends up or down, it means you’re either running a line inefficiently or pushing the limits of your value stream. In both cases, this insight leads to action and optimization.
Take a second look at cycle time
Cycle time is a valuable manufacturing metric for improving operations so producers can boost their profit margins while delivering value to every customer. To stay competitive in a global marketplace, producers must maximize efficiencies and keep customers satisfied. While faster cycle times don’t necessarily equate to quality goods, measuring this metric does help producers pinpoint inefficiencies, enabling them to eliminate waste, innovate faster, and outperform the competition.