April 29

Takt Time Defined – What, How & Why


When it comes to processes, we need to view them based on a drumbeat or how often they should repeat. By doing this, we can optimise them so they meet customer demand consistently. Here’s what I mean…

Takt Time defined: Takt means pace or drum beat. It’s a term used to identify and match the customer consumption rate to the rate of ‘production’ – or how often you need to process a unit. This ensures that you are making to the right pace to meet your customer demand and not over or under producing. Takt can be used not only in production. In fact, it is a good indicator for most processes, to see if they’re keeping pace with customer demand.

Why Takt?

Let’s suppose you’re making widgets. In our business, there are 3 different types. Each type is distinctly different to the next in terms of how they’re made and their features. Because of this, we’ll treat them as totally separate product families.

Let’s also suppose that we’re expecting to sell the following in the next year:

  • Super Widgets: 250,000
  • Platinum Widgets: 2,000,000
  • Deluxe Widgets: 3,000,000

We know the numbers. Now we can identify how many we should make per day:

  • Super Widgets: 250,000 / 240 working days (Approx) = 1,042 per day
  • Platinum Widgets: 200,000 / 240 days = 833 per day
  • Deluxe Widgets: 300,000 / 240 days = 1,250 per day

We can expand on this, however. We can identify the time required to produce each widget – this is our Takt Time.

This information is calculated by dividing the net available time to us (after taking away breaks and planned downtime over the course of the day) by the daily quantity.

Here’s how are numbers look:

  • Super Widgets: 450 minutes available per day (480 mins minus 30 minutes lunch break) / 1042 per day to produce = 0.43 minutes or 26 seconds.
  • Platinum Widgets: 450 minutes / 833 = 32 seconds
  • Deluxe Widgets: 450 minutes / 1250 = 22 seconds

So in the case of our 3 main products, we need to produce our parts to the above takt times to ensure we hit customer demand consistently.

Without takt time, you can’t understand the pace you need to work to.

With Takt, however, you can indeed see this and you can work to this pace throughout the day.

Equally, with this information, you can identify the following:

  • How fast other processes should ‘pulse’ to keep up with this end of line rate
  • How many operators will be needed to meet this pace.
  • Monitor Takt in real time, so we can keep on track during the day.

Here’s an example of how you can track takt time every hour every hour by using a simple target Vs. Actual display baord, linked with a red / green status.

how to improve factory productivity: hour by hour board
This board can show us whether we’re keeping up with our Takt Time every hour or not. The simple red green cards show us the ongoing status to plan throughout the day and for every hour.

Takt Time Defined: Takt Formula

We saw in our example above, how to work out Takt. Here it is in all it’s glory:

Takt Time Formula:
Find your production drumbeat….. or Takt Time

How to Use Takt Time

Apart from providing a simple production target, Takt gives us the opportunity to align and optimise our resources to suit our demand.

This ensures that we’re not blindly throwing our valued assets at something and adding to the waste waste in our processes – which therefore adds to both cost to make a product and the time it takes.

Instead, we’re seeing what we need to produce. Then we redesign our processes to suit this demand, adding the optimum number of resource to get the job done.

Here’s what i mean:

If we know our demand, and we know the Takt Time, we can define how many people are needed to meet this Takt. We can then define how they’ll work together in a standard way.

In order to get to this point, we need to know how long it takes to build each product.

This is called the Total Cycle Time.

Identify the Optimum Number of People

The formula for this is the following:

Use Takt Time to Identify the Optimum Operators Needed to produce to the customer consumption rate

Let’s carry on with our widgets to explain this a little more.

We know that our Takt time is the following:

  • Super Widgets: 26 seconds
  • Platinum Widgets: 32 seconds
  • Deluxe Widgets: 22 seconds

We now need to identify how long it takes to build them. This is the total cycle time. Here are our findings for manufacturing and assembly combined…

  • Super Widgets takes 60 seconds from raw material to completion
  • Platinum Widgets: 75 seconds
  • Deluxe Widgets: 90 seconds

To identify the total number of operators needed for the production of each product, we can plug our formula in…

  • Super Widgets: 60 seconds (cycle time) / 26 seconds (Takt time) = 2.3 operators
  • Platinum Widgets: 75/32 = 2.3 operators
  • Deluxe Widgets: 90/22 = 4 operators

This means that for each of the product families, we need the above operators working in tandem, to meet the current takt times.

Balance Operations to Takt

I’ve written about this in more depth – in fact, the following guide will give you a step-by-step breakdown on how to link Takt with the optimum resource, using Standard Work. Check that guide out, as it will help when knowing what to do with all this information you’ve got around you.

Effectively, Takt Time allows you to analyse your processes so you can allocate workload to balance operations to the operators….. all to the required pace or Takt Time.

  1. We first need to identify each step required to build every product.
  2. Then establish how long it takes to complete each step.
  3. The result being a total cycle time (or total build time)

When we have this information, we can then assign tasks to operators, so they work together in a standardised way, that repeats over and over again.

This balance chart shows 2.3 operators sharing various work content, which is balanced to the takt time.

If we mapped this on a bar chart, stacking activities up for each operator, we’d see something similar to the picture on the right.

This ensures that work get’s completed to the daily demand and to that lovely drumbeat (Takt Time).

Identify Waste (and Remove It)

When we analyse our work content like this, we can see the wasteful activities and steps that are currently being taken. This allows us to identify how we can improve productivity even more. Every time we remove waste, we reduce the total cycle time.

This in turn means that we can make with less resource and things can be produced faster.

You’ll notice that in the above calculations, to figure out the required number of operators, we had 2.3 operators needed for Super and Platinum Widget manufacturing.

By identifying and eliminating some of the the wasteful steps in our build processes, we can look to reduce this 0.3 of an operator and balance work across 2 operators.

This is another advantage of understanding Takt Time.

You not only can see the regular pace your processes need to pulse to, but you can measure this pace every hour, so you can keep on track. Prior to all of this, you can use it to ensure that you’re adding only the resource you optimally need, with one eye on removing waste to improve productivity, further.

Other Examples For Takt Time

You can use takt to see the drumbeat of all of your key processes. Here are some examples.

Daily Sales: How many sales you expect to process each day.

If we expect to process 120 sales orders per day, and the team work for 9 hours per day, then they need to be completing an order every 4.5 minutes. (540 minutes /120 sales orders)

Engineering Requests: If a department has an average of 2 engineering requests per day; and the team allocate 4 hours to this activity every day, then takt time would be one engineering request completed every 2 hours in this 4 hour window.

Warehouse Picking: If a warehouse facility has an average 200 customer orders to pick for per day, then their takt time (assuming their availability is 9 hours per day) is 162 seconds. In other words, they need to pick a job every 162 seconds or 2.7 minutes.

An Invoicing Process that invoices 10 per day, with dedicated availability for processing invoices of 240 minutes per day, should be processing one invoice every 24 minutes over this period.

The great thing about this is that we can then define how much resource is needed to keep these critical processes ticking over and flowing through the business, WITHOUT causing big delays in work waiting to be processed.

This allows us to treat our processes like automated systems that work to a highly defined and standardised way, pulsing at the required rates to maintain continuous flow and achieve customer demand.

Additional Questions:

What is Cycle time? It’s the time it takes to make the product, and normally includes the value add and non-value added work content. Cycle time is used to identify how long it takes to make a product.

What is Pitch? This is the amalgamation of multiple Takt times in relation to the pack out quantity. For instance, if the customer wants shipments of 10 units per container and the takt time is 10 minutes per unit, Pitch is 10 minutes x 10 units = 100 minutes. This can also be used when moving batches around the facility and where some processes have to process in batches not single units. By using pitch, you can still ensure the entire value stream is still pulsing to the right pace.

How to Calculate Number of Operators Using Takt? It’s calculated by diving the total cycle time / takt.

What are The Limitations of Takt? The main limitation is when applying takt to a range of products. If the products in question do not follow a similar process steps AND are within 30% of total cycle time of each other, Takt is useless. The process times would vary too much to make any Takt reference irrelevant. For instance, if some products take 4 hours to build and others are taking 30 minutes, having an average time of 2 hours 15 minutes is too broad and meaningless. Takt only works when you separate products into product families that follow similar process steps and are within 30% of total cycle times. This way, you can track a meaningful pace to each product family.

Also, Takt is not an effective tool to measure in high mix; low volume – make to order environments, where each job can be totally unique each time.


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