# Articles

## Takt time for Production Excellence. Calculate and Implement

Takt time is a foundational concept in lean manufacturing that helps organizations match production with customer demand.

The term “takt” comes from the German word taktzeit, which translates to “cycle time”. It is the maximum time allowed to produce one piece without falling behind or getting ahead of customer demand.

At its core, takt time represents the rate at which a product needs to be completed to satisfy customer orders.

## Key Highlights

• Takt time is a lean manufacturing concept that synchronizes production with customer demand.
• It calculates the required production rate to meet customer demand within available working time.
• Balancing production lines based on takt time improves flow, reduces waste, and increases efficiency.
• It can be applied in different production environments like mass production, batch production, and mixed-model assembly.
• Lean tools like value stream mapping, kanban, and level loading support its implementation.
• Optimizing takt time requires continuous improvement, waste elimination, and mistake-proofing techniques.

## Calculating Takt Time

At its core, takt time is a simple calculation that helps align production with customer demand. The formula for calculating takt time is:

Takt Time = Available Working Time / Required Output

Available Working Time refers to the total time available for production during a shift or period, minus any planned downtime like breaks or meetings. Required Output is the number of units that need to be produced during that same period to meet customer demand.

For example, if a factory has 460 minutes (7.6 hours) of available production time per shift and needs to produce 92 units to meet daily customer orders, the takt time would be:

Takt Time = 460 minutes / 92 units

= 5 minutes per unit

This means the production process should be capable of completing one unit every 5 minutes to perfectly align output with demand and avoid over or underproduction.

While the calculation is straightforward, determining the correct inputs can require careful analysis of demand forecasts, production schedules, and process cycle times.

Getting an accurate takt time is critical, as it becomes the heartbeat that paces the entire production line or process.

### Calculating Takt Time for Multiple Products/Models

For production environments with multiple products or models, takt times need to be calculated for each unique product/model based on their specific demand volumes. The total available time is then divided among the different products proportional to their required output volumes.

In this way, takt time provides production teams with a simple but powerful metric to understand and optimize nearly any repetitive manufacturing process.

### Comparing Takt Time and Cycle Time

Takt time and cycle time are two closely related but distinct concepts in lean manufacturing. Understanding the difference between them is crucial for optimizing production processes.

### Cycle Time

Cycle time refers to the actual time it takes to complete one cycle of an operation or process on a single unit. It includes the productive work time as well as any idle time or waiting periods within that cycle.

Cycle time is measured from the start of the process on a unit to the completion of that unit.

For example, if assembling one product takes 5 minutes of active work plus 2 minutes of waiting for a component, the cycle time is 7 minutes.

Cycle times can vary between operators, workstations, and units due to factors like operator skill level, machine performance, and material variation.

### Takt Time

Takt time, on the other hand, is the maximum time allowed to produce one unit based on the customer demand rate. It sets the pace for production to match demand exactly, avoiding underproduction or overproduction.

It is calculated by dividing the available production time by the number of units required.

For instance, if a factory operates for 480 minutes per shift and needs to produce 200 units to meet demand, the takt time would be 480 minutes / 200 units = 2.4 minutes per unit.

### The Relationship

Cycle time should be shorter than or equal to the takt time. If the cycle time exceeds the takt time, it means production cannot keep up with customer demand.

Continuous flow processes aim to synch cycle times to takt time through leveling (heijunka) and other lean techniques.

However, having a much shorter cycle time is also undesirable, as it leads to overproduction and excess inventory.

The goal is to bring cycle time as close as possible to the takt time through process improvements and work standardization while avoiding overburden.

## Balancing Production Lines with Takt Time

One of the key applications of takt time is balancing production lines to match the rate of customer demand. An unbalanced production line leads to bottlenecks, excess work-in-process (WIP) inventory piling up, overburden on some workers, and an inefficient use of labor and resources.

To balance a production line using takt time:

1. Calculate the takt time based on available working time and customer demand rate.
2. Map out the current state value stream map showing cycle times for each process step.
3. Identify bottlenecks where the cycle time exceeds the takt time. These bottleneck steps must be improved through kaizen, mistake-proofing, or other process optimization techniques.
4. For steps with cycle times less than takt time, try level loading the work by re-balancing operations across workers. Standardized work instructions can help ensure consistent cycle times.
5. The goal is for every process step to operate at or slightly below the takt time rate, with minimal WIP between stations.

Maintaining a continuous flow by balancing to takt time reduces lead times, prevents overproduction, and allows production to pull based on real customer demand signals through kanban systems.

Lean tools like yamazumi charts can help visualize and resolve imbalances.

Balancing production lines is an ongoing process as takt times change with demand fluctuations.

Companies should continuously monitor process cycle times and capability data to adjust line balancing. A balanced line improves throughput, quality, and flexibility to meet customer demands.

## Takt Time in Different Production Environments

Takt time is a fundamental concept in lean manufacturing that can be applied across various production environments. However, the specific implementation and considerations may vary depending on the production system and industry.

Let’s explore how takt time is utilized in different production environments.

1. High-Volume Repetitive Manufacturing

In high-volume repetitive manufacturing, such as automotive assembly lines or consumer electronics production, takt time plays a crucial role in synchronizing the pace of production with customer demand.

The takt time calculation is straightforward, and the production line is designed to match this rate. Workstations are balanced, and operators perform standardized work sequences within the takt time cycle.

1. Low-Volume High-Mix Production

In low-volume, high-mix environments, where a variety of products are produced in smaller quantities, takt time becomes more challenging to implement.

In such cases, a “pitched” takt time approach may be used, where it is calculated based on the average demand rate across the product mix.

Alternatively, a “re-pitched” takt time can be calculated for each product or product family, allowing for more flexibility in line balancing and work sequencing.

1. Process Industries

In process industries, such as chemical, pharmaceutical, or food processing, takt time may not be as directly applicable due to the continuous nature of the production processes.

However, the concept of matching production rates to customer demand still applies.

Process engineers may use techniques like level loading or theory of constraints to identify and address bottlenecks, ensuring that the overall production rate meets customer requirements.

1. Job Shop or Project-Based Manufacturing

In job shop or project-based manufacturing environments, where customized products or projects are produced, takt time may not be as relevant.

Instead, concepts like lead time reduction, value stream mapping, and continuous flow become more important. However, its principles can still be applied to specific sub-processes or operations within the overall project or job.

1. Service Industries

While takt time originated in manufacturing, its principles can also be applied to service industries, such as healthcare, hospitality, or financial services.

In these environments, it can be used to synchronize the pace of service delivery with customer demand, ensuring efficient resource utilization and minimizing waiting times.

Regardless of the production environment, the fundamental principle of takt time remains the same – matching the production rate to customer demand.

However, the specific implementation and techniques may need to be adapted to the unique characteristics and constraints of each industry or production system.

## Lean Tools and Techniques for Takt Time Optimization

Achieving an optimized takt time requires implementing various lean manufacturing tools and techniques. These methodologies help streamline processes, eliminate waste, and improve flow within the production system.

### Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping is a lean technique that visually maps the flow of materials and information required to bring a product from order to delivery.

By creating a current state map and identifying areas of waste and inefficiencies, manufacturers can redesign the value stream to better align with takt time.

This may involve relocating workstations, rebalancing workloads, or implementing continuous flow.

### Continuous Flow

Continuous flow is the lean principle of moving one product at a time through a series of processing steps, with each step making just what is requested by the next step.

Establishing a smooth, uninterrupted flow synchronized to takt time reduces waiting times, inventory levels, and other forms of waste.

### Kaizen and Kaizen Events

Kaizen, or continuous improvement, is the practice of making small, incremental changes to processes to eliminate waste and improve efficiency.

Kaizen events are focused workshops that bring together cross-functional teams to analyze a particular process and implement rapid improvements aligned with takt time requirements.

### Standard Work

Standard work documents the current best practice for performing an operation, specifying the takt time and the precise work sequence in which an operator should carry out the process.

Developing and adhering to standard work procedures stabilizes processes and makes deviations from takt time easier to identify and address.

### Mistake-Proofing (Poka-Yoke)

Poka-yoke, or mistake-proofing, involves implementing simple, cost-effective devices or procedures that prevent defects from occurring or ensure that processes operate within the parameters of takt time.

Examples include sensors, guides, warning signals, or checklists that catch errors before they result in defects.

Level loading, or heijunka, is the practice of sequencing and distributing the production volume and mix evenly over a period, rather than working to meet fluctuations in customer demand.

This technique helps maintain a stable takt time and avoid overburdening processes.

### Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

TPM is a system that optimizes the reliability and effectiveness of manufacturing equipment through comprehensive preventive maintenance activities.

By minimizing equipment breakdowns and unplanned downtime, TPM supports the ability to meet the planned takt time consistently.

Implementing these lean tools and techniques in conjunction with takt time calculations helps organizations achieve a smooth, continuous flow of production that matches the rate of customer demand while minimizing waste and maximizing efficiency.

## Parting Notes and Best Practices

Takt time is a fundamental lean manufacturing concept that helps organizations synchronize production with customer demand. By matching the pace of production to the rate of sales, companies can minimize overproduction waste, improve flow, and increase efficiency.

### Best Practices when Implementing Takt Time

Accurate Data: Calculating an accurate takt time requires having good data on available working time, planned downtime, and customer requirements. Invest time in getting these inputs right.

Continuous Monitoring: Customer demand fluctuates, so the takt time will need to be recalculated periodically. Implement processes to monitor and adjust the production pace continuously.

Employee Training: Ensure all employees understand the concept of takt time and how to calculate and apply it. Their buy-in is critical for successful implementation.

Supporting Lean Tools: Use lean tools like value stream mapping, 5S, standard work, kanban, and poka-yoke to support your takt time efforts. An integrated lean system is most effective.

Flexibility: While taking time sets the drumbeat, you need flexibility in your processes and workforce to respond to demand variations. Avoid becoming too rigid.

By diligently applying its principles along with other lean practices, manufacturers can dramatically improve productivity, quality, and profitability.

Takt time lays the foundation for a truly continuous flow production system synchronized with customer demand.

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