Cycle time in manufacturing industry refers to the total time it takes to complete any specified manufacturing or allied operation

. Cycle times can be used for many different types of operations. For example we can study the cycle time for a small task such as fixing a wheel on a car during the car assembly operation or we can consider the complete assembly of car as one single operation. Cycle times may be used for non-manufacturing operations also - for example, cycle time for reordering a part stocked in store, or the cycle time for launching new product in the market starting from the concept stage to actual launch in the market. Cycle times play a very important role in planning and controlling activities in any industries. The list of all the uses of cycle time in manufacturing industries will become too long to be included here. Given below are some illustrative uses of cycle time.
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Production planning Productivity measurement and control Incentive payments Inventory planning Process design.

Cycle Time Reduction for Successful Manufacturing
Cycle time reduction is one of the most important elements of successful manufacturing today. More and more customers are demanding that manufacturers quickly respond to their wants and needs, deliver perfect quality products on time. This trend, which will continue, has led companies to focus more attention on their order-to-delivery cycle time. Order-to-delivery cycle time reduction is often a good place to start in the overall effort to improve operations because it can often be done without heavy capital investment. Clearly, long cycle times cause high inventories, higher cost, and poor customer service. As a result, many manufacturers are streamlining internal and external supply operations to reduce overall order-to-cash cycle time. Some have even undertaken initiatives to extensively redesign and streamline the entire supply chain process. Customers Want Cycle Time Reduction Customers generally evaluate a supplier’s performance on four factors: product performance (features), price, quality, and delivery within a reasonable time. Now customers are increasingly emphasizing two additional performance criteria: flawless delivery, that is, very short-cycle on-

and then you ship it exactly as I want the product configured. As customers up the ante by insisting orders be promptly delivered and at a precise time. A shorter order-to-delivery cycle time also has other implications. execution. reducing cycle time becomes the pivotal point in a supplier order-to delivery performance rating. contribute to long cycle times. lower costs. In addition. In fact. In the past. dramatically decreased requirements for working capital. Lean Manufacturing—Radically redesigning information flow and material flow processes with dramatically shorter cycle times. today.” This trend has already contributed to the adoption of short cycle. Supply Chain Management —Implementing supply chain planning. That in turn has led many to pursue new initiatives and directions. minimum inventory. Cross-functional Integration—Redesigning order-to-delivery and other key processes to connect processes across the enterprise.time delivery. not just the manufacturing process. it is the customer who largely dictates what products are manufactured and when. flawless delivery and responsiveness can very often be the difference in getting new customers and keeping old ones. An added set of benefits affects the bottom line in lower operating expenses. The customer says: “I’ll let you know what and how many I want. manufacturers made products and stored them in Finished Goods Inventory (the “make-to-stock” mode) and waited for customers to place orders to buy them. when I’m ready to buy. including reduced inventories. where products are made to customer demand. and in a very short lead time. and more effective use of resources (see Figure CTR-1). A major consequence of this trend is that CEOs and others in top management are revisiting their existing strategies and operational tactics. sometimes in conjunction with other modern information technology. (sometimes called “demand flow manufacturing” or “mass customization”). and responsiveness to the customers’ changing needs. In this “push” production model. including: Demand Management—Using improved sales forecasting processes and sales and operations planning processes to give top management a better handle on demand and supply. While all the delay may appear on the factory floor in the form of waiting (often more than 95% . pull-oriented lean manufacturing models. and near perfect delivery performance. and event-level alert systems. What Makes Cycle Times Longer? Many different processes. experience has shown that production throughput can improve dramatically once the order-to-delivery cycle time is substantially reduced. large runs of batches of products are produced using highly inaccurate sales forecasts. lower costs. and increased profit margins. In contrast.

cycle time looks like this: Cycle time = processing time + wait time The more common definition of cycle time is the equivalent of processing time in the equation above—the start-to-finish time of an individual unit. One definition you might hear is that cycle time is the time between the completion of one unit. or automatic machine times. you may hear several other variations of the term: operator cycle times. and all continuous improvement philosophies. Cycle time is one of them. it is a component to one of the key operational metrics that many companies use to determine performance—productivity. So. and the completion of the next unit. often break it into two smaller components— processing time (the time an operator is actually working) and wait time. After all. In practice. that definition means that cycle time will always equal the time between shifts of an assembly line (most likely set equal to the takt time). management almost always finds that one or more problems have contributed to the delay. . don’t worry too much about which definition is right.of the order-to-delivery cycle time consists of waiting). Just makes sure you know the usage at your company to prevent misunderstandings. What’s the problem with that? Well. Lean. One of the most common is ‘units per labor hour. place a tremendous emphasis on time. Plus. Those who use this definition. and has to wait to start the next one. the causes for those waits stem from various processes both internal and external to manufacturing. sometimes an operator finishes her work early. machine cycle times. all the cycle times would be identical on that line. What is cycle time? Lean defines cycle time as the time it takes to do a process (we’ll get to more detail on the definition of cycle time later).) Many people define cycle time in slightly different ways. In addition to ‘cycle time’. though. As long as you understand the concepts. (Productivity can be measured many ways. under this definition. When order-to-delivery problems are properly diagnosed.

Presumably. the effect is more subtle. . It doesn’t matter whether people do tasks in sequence (like on a true assembly line) or they all do a complete unit. Solid. but the same thing happens. Initially. Make sure you know the accepted definitions of these terms in your company. • • This entry focuses on the time it takes a person to do a job. It never is. Obviously. she only has to do every other piece. Cycle time should be measured for a process. To get a few laughs. so she’s got six seconds. and how their current processes stack up against the takt time. a worker will be using a machine. if the cycle time is much lower than takt time. When the pace is faster than the cycle time. Using the wrong term creates confusion. how cycle time and takt time interact. In your workplace. you can see. this happens when customer demand rises. will minimize this variation. Since Ethel was with her. like the Lucy example.Let’s talk about how this works in real life. Not a very efficient situation. not a person. Do you remember the clip of the old “I Love Lucy” show—the one where she is working on the chocolate line? In the episode. and three seconds of wait time. The only catch is that math assumes that the work is perfectly balanced (everyone gets the exact same amount of work). Lucy realizes that she can’t keep up.) If she was working alone. and chocolate starts flying. In reality. Sorry. At some point. On the flip side. the operator will be standing around. so there always more people than the equation says there should be. A Standard Work Combination Sheet (SWCS) shows this interaction. make sure you understand how people and machines interact. repeatable processes and good training. Lucy and Ethel are working in a chocolate factory. you divide the total cycle time of all tasks by the takt time. and others hear something else. the conveyor is running at the speed that matches takt time—its speed is set so that a chocolate passes Lucy every three seconds. workers can’t keep up with demand. Make sure you understand how operator cycle time relates to machine time (also called machine cycle time).if it takes Lucy three seconds. You say one thing. she’s got a three second cycle time (or processing time). eventually the line speeds up. So. Regardless of the definition that you use. The goal is to balance cycle time to takt time. the pace is rather slow. in an amusing way. she’d have to be able to wrap each piece within three seconds to keep up. though. More math here…To figure out how many people you need for a production task. a fast person will post better times than a slow one or an untrained one. and have to wrap chocolates moving along a conveyor in front of them. Many times. or to automatic machine cycle time. (There’s some math involved here that depends on the spacing between the chocolates to get the right speed of the conveyor.

If cycle time was measured on each cycle. and the more wasteful it is. Lean tries to get rid of batching. Just when you think you’ve finally settled on how long a task should take. a person might apply glue to several parts and then shine an infrared light on several at once to set the glue. Until you get comfortable with the continuous improvement process. Most people see a stopwatch and immediately get nervous or annoyed that they are being evaluated.• • • • • Takt time remains constant unit to unit. read a map. in an assembly area. Volunteer to be the one to get timed for Standard Work as often as you can. That means that nobody observed the work when recording the SWCS. If they don’t there is a high likelihood that the process is out of date. but it still occurs. though. If a process takes seven minutes. If you know the general rules of travel—how to get through an airport. raising the chance of quality problems. you end up doing what is called amortizing. But think of it like visiting a new city. you will struggle with this. so it feels like more work is getting dumped on you. the less stable the process is. This is more of a mental block than a real problem. lowering the cycle time. In the same way. there would be some variation. The best way to handle this problem? Try to get rid of batching! It takes a long time to get past the idea that cycle time is not a measure of you. Before attempting line balancing. It will prevent you from moving a poor process from one location to another. which means that there is probably a lot of waste in the process. or allocating the time that is done for all the parts at once. and look at the quantity of time. the setup time of a machine is divided up between all the parts in that run. Get rid of variation. That will result in a push to improve a process and reduce the cycle time. not the number of tasks. you are doing more work. You wouldn’t avoid travel because you don’t know the exact layout at your destination’s airport. :30. She knows demand is picking up. someone will have an idea. Never trust an even number for a cycle time on a Standard Work Combination Sheet. First. The catch—if more work is added before the cycle times come down. and someone comes up with a good way to do it in three. There is only a 1 in 60 chance that a time ends in :00. You will also have to get used to the idea that no cycle time is ever low enough. and rent a car— you’ll be able to have some fun. what’s the problem? The problem is that those four minutes get filled. once you get a few improvement successes under your belt. so she has a new target takt time to hit. Or. The second thing that will happen is that your boss will give you an improvement target. Cycle time gets confusing when batching is involved. and they will put it in place. . Standard Work Sheets document cycle times. one of two things will happen. or :45) It indicates that whoever recorded the times logged estimates. the goal of reducing cycle time won’t feel like such a burden. Periodically review the sheet to make sure that the times that are recorded match reality. Step back. (There is only a 1 in 15 chance that it ends at any of the four favorite SWAGs—:00. To find the cycle time of an individual part. work on cycle time reduction—bring the cycle time down. but rather of your process. :15. and cycle time will come down. For example. The more variation. The best way to get past this hang-up is to get used to being measured.

If your cycle times are significantly different from each other. use the Time Observation not because he can’t do the work. get them. If you need help improving your processes. . Cycle time should be balanced to takt time to create an efficient workspace that can meet customer demand. In all likelihood. • • • • Cycle time is the length of time—start to finish—to complete a process. or from person to person. Your job will be much harder than it needs to be if you lack the ability to solve increasingly difficult math problems. you should start your improvement process by focusing on variation reduction. Strong math skills are needed to progress in Lean. In the office. you will have one person who can’t seem to keep up. whether from cycle to cycle. As a leader. contact us at Info@Velaction. the person is slower because he is not following the process. Try timing your processes. Some definitions of cycle time vary—make sure that you use the term the same way your company does. We offer a wide range of Lean training and consulting services to help you accelerate your improvement progress. On occasion. it is an indication that there is something wrong with the process. For the shop floor. Make sure you observe the operator before you to jump to conclusions. You will likely learn a great deal about your operation simply by watching and timing. If you don’t have these skills.If cycle times vary widely. use the Office Process Recording Sheet. you will have to blow the dust off your old textbooks and brush up on your math to be really good at Lean—especially as you advance towards more sophisticated concepts.

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