May 21

How to Use Takt Time in the Office


This is another article in the series of takt time. In this guide, we’ll explore how to use takt time in the office, so you can use it to improve productivity and flow.

Why Takt Time is Important (Recap)

As we’ve defined in the introduction on Takt, If you can understand the pace at which you need to work to, you can:

  • Improve productivity – because you can align resource to the exact drumbeat of work
  • Ensure work gets completed on time – All you have to do is hit the takt rate every day
  • Improve efficiency – by flowing work through, in a little and often fashion, you reduce the inefficiency of processing large amounts of work in big batches

The Trouble With Takt in the Office

Most people believe that understanding the drumbeat of a process is only really for production.

For instance, how many minutes do we need to produce a car, or an aerospace wing, or to assemble a set of components.

But How do you create a takt pace if departments deal with many different things throughout the day?

Equally, demand can be so erratic and hard to predict. It could be that the volume or the nature of requests that will enter the business tomorrow is impossible to predict from one day to the next.

This type of variation has made it very hard to use standard lean tools to drive office flow.

It’s trickier but definitely doable to transfer this into the office realm.

Introducing Takt Capability

In order to overcome these issues, Kevin Duggen, in his book “Operational Excellence in the Office,” created the idea of Takt capability.

It’s simple but extremely effective.

Kevin argues that as demand is sporadic and impossible to predict, you need to look at it from a completely different angle.

Instead of trying to know what the customer is going to expect from us each day, we simply set different levels of demand. This allows us to switch to the appropriate level depending on that day’s or period of time’s demand.

These levels are called Takt Capability.

It’s based on creating various capabilities of what can be done in terms of mix and volume of work.

Volume simply means how much can get done.

Mix means the type of work.

For instance, if we’re processing quotes, there may be some that can be processed within 15 minutes.

Others may take 2-3 hours to complete.

If on one day, we had nothing but quick quotes, we could get through more. On the other hand, if we had the 2-3 hour quotes all day, we would run out of time to complete them all in a day.

Therefore, we create takt capability to understand the volume and mix that we can produce to.

We’ll talk about how we manage both volume and mix in the next article, but for now, we’ll focus on the concept of Takt Capability as a theory.

Multiple Takt Times (Or Capabilities)

Taking our quote scenario a little further…

Let’s suppose we identified the demand for quotes over the last month:

Demand profile over the last 4 weeks for quotes

If we just stick with an average takt, it will mean little. There’s too much variation to make any workload planning mean anything.

If we create just one takt capability, it doesn’t cover the spectrum of demand.

Changing Through the Gears

Duggen gives the example of Takt Capability being like the gears of a car. At some point, you may need to move through the gears to get more output from your car and go faster.

With different takt capabilities, it allows your team to shift up or down gears to suit the daily demand.

How does it do this?

Changing Takt Capability – Changing How Things are Done

In a similar fashion to standard work and traditional takt calculations, takt capability gives us the standards to produce to a certain volume and mix.

Standards help define how things should work in accordance to the current volume and mix you’re facing.

Using Takt Capability, you can define the following:

  • How long the team spends each day on the process
  • How many people are needed, in order to meet this takt time
  • How they work together to ensure continuous flow

This means that if you identify a few takt capabilities, you cover the spectrum of demand, and plan ahead as to how many people you will need; how long they should work together and what they should do specifically.

Multiple Takt Capabilities

Let’s return to our demand over the last 6 months.

I alluded to the range being too erratic and inconsistent to provide one takt time.

If we continue our analysis and add a few more takt capability lines, we can cover the spectrum of our demand profile.

We want to keep things simple here, so we can cover takt capabilities from 1 to 13 quotes per day.

For this example, one main capability will cover the expected demand for roughly 80% of the time. A couple of others will take care of the peaks and troughs.

3 Different Takt Capabilities to cover the spectrum of quotes

We now have multiple takt capabilities.

  • One that would cover the majority of demand (Takt Capability 1)
  • The other, tackling any spikes (Takt capability 2)
  • One that covers low demand (Takt capability 3)

Standard, Reliable, Repeatable Processes

Practically speaking, we want our processes to repeat like an automated machine.

This means that the people working the processes know exactly what the takt capability is today, and how to work, based on this demand.

When demand changes, so too, the takt capability, and so too the resource and ways of working.

This should be driven by the employees. There should be no “What do you want me to do next?” or “We need extra people today to cope..” type questions.

Everyone should be able to see today’s demand and know exactly what to do and by whom, using standard work and visual management to drive decision making.

A simple visual management indicator to show the whole team today’s takt capability
A simple marker display, showing number of quotes queued.

Take the example above. Our demand will fit within the 3 takt capabilities.

Let’s make our work waiting to be processed, visual by using a simple display, like the one to the right. In this format, we have a simple marker display, showing the number of quotes queued. Each marker represents a job. This means that each day, the team can select the right takt capability to work to, based on the amount in queue.

And if we can make our work waiting to be processed, visual, in the form of something as simple as this…. then we have a good tool to know which takt capability to switch to.

And what links to each takt capability?

Standard work. This will clearly define how many people are needed and what work content each operative will follow in tandem with each other… in order to meet the takt capability selected.

Calculating Takt Time

Once we have our demand profile created, we may decide to apportion some proportion of available time to our process. After all, there may be other processes, customers and service families which we need to work on, too.

The easy way to get around this is for the team to choose the available time.

This available time is how long you will allocate employees to work on this activity, together.

Calculating Takt is the same as before.

As an example, for takt capability 1, we would like to set aside 180 minutes per day for completing quotes.

This means that our takt time would be 20 minutes per quote. (180 minutes available / 9 quotes)

For takt capability 2, we’ll set aside 240 minutes. The capacity here is 13 quotes per day. Therefore, takt is 18 minutes.

And takt capability 3, we’ll set aside 60 minutes per day, with a maximum of 4 quotes to complete. This means that our takt rate is 15 minutes.

Where did we get the numbers? We used the team’s judgement as to how long they expect people to work on this process based on the daily demand.

The next step would be to create standard work instructions to suit each takt capability. This would allow the operators to work to these instructions together, until all demand for that day has been completed.

Naturally, if we don’t have 9 quotes to process but say five or six, we would still work to takt capability 1, in this case, but the work would be completed quicker.

This takt capability allows us to create the rhythm in the office, which is so illusive for most people to master.

In the next guide, we’ll discuss how you manage takt capability in terms with changing mix and volume.


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