Takt Time in Manufacturing: Calculation, Uses & Examples

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Takt time is an important calculation manufacturing businesses can use to ensure production meets customer demand. While takt time is a key element of lean manufacturing, almost all manufacturers can use this tool to improve their processes.

Here we give you what you need to know about takt time – from how to calculate it, to why it’s so important, and examples of how to apply it. 

What is takt time?

Takt time is a measurement manufacturers use to work out how much time they have to produce each unit of goods to meet demand from customers. 

With lean manufacturing, it’s a balancing act for companies who are aiming to hold minimal stock to reduce costs, while still ensuring they don’t experience shortages. Takt time allows them to gain accurate insights into what time period is required for each item in production in order to keep satisfactory stock levels.

Takt time can change depending on demand, and in most cases should be regularly reviewed to re-establish maximum manufacturing efficiency and output.

What is the meaning of ‘takt’?

The word takt comes from the German word taktzeit, which is actually a measurement used in music. It translates as ‘cycle’, ‘beat’ or ‘pulse’.

The concept of takt in manufacturing was first used in the 1930s by German aeroplane manufacturers. Japanese car manufacturer Toyota then put it to work in their own production line from the 1950s – where it was known as takuto taimu.

Managers discuss takt time in the office

Takt time is a calculation used to work out how long it should take to produce a single unit of your goods in order to meet customer demand

Takt time vs cycle time: are they the same?

Although they are commonly thought of as the same thing, takt time and cycle time are actually different measurements:

  • Cycle time is the time that your employees are actively working on manufacturing each item
  • Takt time is the maximum allowance of time needed for each product in order to meet customer demand

So with takt time, it’s about first understanding demand, then calculating the unit of time that can be used for production, to guarantee stock levels can be maintained.

Often manufacturers will simply calculate that it takes X amount of time to produce an item and that is then the allocated time. However, this doesn’t take into consideration the output necessary to keep enough ‘stock on shelves’. A manufacturer will no doubt lose out on business and sales if they aren’t able to keep up and produce what is actually needed to fulfil orders.

  • It’s also worth mentioning not to confuse cycle time and takt time with lead time – which is the measurement of time between an order being made and then fulfilled with the customer.
A man works in a leather factory takt time

Beware of confusing takt time with cycle time and lead time – all of which are relevant to manufacturers

Why is takt time important in manufacturing?

There are many reasons why understanding takt time in your manufacturing business is important. But the two main key benefits are efficiency, and transparency of the production line.

Takt time means manufacturers can:

  • Have greater control over production levels needed to ensure demand is always met
  • Set correct time objectives
  • Keep the flow of work continuous
  • Standardise processes
  • Gain visibility over any areas that may need adjustment
  • Balance and evenly distribute workloads

When you implement takt time in your business, you’re able to clearly see the performance of each part of the manufacturing process, allowing you to eliminate any areas that could be ‘wasting’ resource time.

It’s about minimising the takt time for each product as much as possible – without impacting on quality control, safety and employee job satisfaction – and providing insights into any areas of possible improvement upon closer inspection of each stage of the production line.

There are many calculations and methods which can be used by manufacturers to have greater control over production, and to some it may seem like takt time is just another one to add to the list. But when you’re putting demand first, takt time allows you to work backwards from that point to have far greater clarity and control over what you MUST manufacture – not what you CAN manufacture – so there never has to be an ‘out of stock’ sign where your products should be.

What is the takt time formula?

The formula to calculate takt time is:

  • Manufacturing time required to meet demand (takt time) = The net available time of resources (i.e. employees and/or equipment), divided by customer demand.

How do you calculate takt time?

Takt time is calculated by working out the time available for production, and dividing it by the number of products required (customer demand).

What’s crucial is that you look at the net production time (NPT) your employees and/or equipment have.

For example, staff may have an 8-hour shift, but not all of those hours are spent working on production. They will have their required breaks, set-up time and clean-down at the end of their shift, and there could also be team meetings or scheduled maintenance for machinery.

So while a staff member’s overall working week may be 2,400 minutes (8 hours x 5 days), you need to remove the time products are not being actively manufactured. An employee’s available time may actually only be 2,050 minutes per week – or 410 minutes per day.

Then you need to understand the rate of demand – so how many products need to be manufactured every day so that you don’t run out of stock. To keep it simple, let’s say it is 40 widgets of some kind each day, or 200 per week.

And to finally calculate takt time, you divide the actual available time (2050 minutes) by units required (200). This equates to 10.25 minutes per widget each week.

That means the takt time is 10 minutes and 15 seconds – the maximum amount of time that can be spent on producing each widget. So if actual production time is anything above this figure, you won’t be able to keep up with demand.

A further point to be made about this calculation is that it isn’t as straightforward as removing identifiable breaks and stoppages to work production. There also need to be allowances for unplanned disruption to the manufacturing process. From employee illness to machines breaking down, it’s crucial to provide ‘space’ in the takt time calculation so that unexpected occurrences don’t result in underproduction.

A man works with wood in a workshop

When calculating takt time, don’t forget to take into account downtime such as staff breaks and meetings – and factor in time for unplanned disruptions

How do you calculate takt time for multiple products?

Calculating takt time for multiple products is a little more complicated than for regular takt time, and requires the use of cycle time as well.

Imagine you have two products you manufacture. The first product has a demand of 50 units per week, and the second has a requirement of 20 units per week. When we add these together, we have a total of 70 items to come off the production line per week.

If available time is 2050 minutes per week (as calculated above), the takt time for all products is an average of 29 minutes and 17 seconds.

Where this gets complicated is when products have different cycle times. For example, when the first product has a cycle time of 30 minutes and the second product a cycle time of 20 minutes.

For the first product, demand is 50 units per week, and cycle time is 30 minutes. This adds up to 1500 minutes per week.

For the second product, demand is 20 units, and the cycle time is 20 minutes, which adds up to 400 minutes per week.

Altogether, then, the time to produce the goods needed is 1500 + 400, which is 1900 minutes per week.

If we then divide this by the total number of units produced, we get an average of just over 27. This is lower than the takt time of 29.3, so the company can produce enough goods to meet demand.

Can takt time be measured with a stopwatch?

The short answer is no, you can’t measure takt time with a stopwatch.

This is because the calculation is about dividing available production time by customer demand, which is impossible to capture with a stopwatch.

Remember that with takt time you’re not measuring how long it actually takes to make a product, but the maximum amount of time that CAN be spent manufacturing a product in order to meet demand.

A canning machine in operation in a factory

Takt time is a useful tool for manufacturers because by ensuring you produce enough to meet demand, you increase revenue and customer satisfaction

How do you use takt time?

Takt time should be used by manufacturers to calculate whether their production processes are efficient enough to meet demand.

Not having the right amount of stock available will affect revenue, so knowing the correct output needed for each product over a day, week or month is extremely useful for managing inventory and production practices.

It’s important to do this calculation on a regular basis to maintain efficiencies and allow for fluctuations in demand. Toyota, for instance, uses takt time to support their JIT (Just In Time) production processes, reviewing them on a monthly basis.

Takt time in manufacturing: Two calculation examples

To illustrate the use of takt time in manufacturing, here are two hypothetical examples of companies that produce different goods and that would benefit from calculating takt time.

ABC Televisions’ takt time

ABC Televisions manufacture low-cost TVs. They have 20 people on their production line who put together the components to build the TVs.

Employees work 9-hour shifts, with an hour for lunch and two 15-minute tea breaks. Set-up time in the morning takes 15 minutes, and shutting down at the end of the day also takes 15 minutes. There is also a weekly staff safety briefing that takes 1 hour.

20 people x 9 hour shifts = gross production time per week of 900 hours.

We then have to take away the unavailable production time of 11 hours per employee per week, which takes us to a total net production time of 680 hours (136 hours per day).

On average, customer demand sits at around 500 TVs per week.

For ABC Televisions, their takt time is calculated at 680 production hours divided by 500 TVs, which equates to 1.36 hours per TV. This means ABC Televisions should be manufacturing 100 TVs per day (and 500 per week).

Of course, an allowance needs to be made for variables such as employees being away, machines that require maintenance, and other unexpected ‘interruptions’ to production time. With minimal time to spare, there could be some greater efficiencies required in the manufacturing process to reduce takt time and provide tolerance for unforeseen circumstances.

A bike being worked on in a shop

A example of takt time is how long a bicycle company should take to manufacture each unit so it never runs out of stock

Ride A Bike’s takt time

Ride A Bike manufactures high-end bicycles, and there are 10 full-time employees who work 8-hour shifts, 5 days a week. They have 30-minute lunch breaks, two 15-minute tea breaks and a one-hour meeting every Friday afternoon.

So there are 34 net production hours available per employee each week – which is 340 hours total for the 10 employees.

Demand for their products is 100 per week.

With a net production time of 340, divided by 100 means each employee has 3.4 hours to assemble a bicycle. That means each employee has to complete two bikes per day to stay on track to meet demand.

How does using inventory management help calculate takt time?

Inventory management software with accurate information on sales orders is essential for manufacturers to calculate takt time. This gives you a reliable record of customer demand for a period of time, and this is what you’ll be basing your formula on.

Without the right inventory figures, you’re just estimating what demand is, and it could result in production falling short (or overproduction) – neither of which is an ideal outcome for maximising income or managing cash flow.

Using real-time inventory management also means that you can track your stock levels easily and manage stock levels when your ‘takt’ changes, in order to meet demand more accurately.

And last but not least, with all your historical sales and inventory data at your fingertips, you’ll be able to forecast demand more accurately and take measures to deal with increased or decreased demand. You may need to bring on more staff for a period, or think about ways to reduce wasted time in the production line.

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Alecia Bland - Unleashed Software
Alecia Bland

Article by Alecia Bland in collaboration with our team of inventory management and business specialists. Alecia's background is in ancient languages. When she's not reading a book with her cat for company, you can usually find her cooking, eating or trying to make her garden productive.

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