Understanding cycle time is critical when you have a manufacturing or production component in your business. If you’re managing inventory stock and you have goods coming off the production line, cycle times will play an important role in your production schedule and inventory reporting.
What is cycle time?
A cycle time is the amount of time it takes to finish a task from beginning to end. Often, cycle time is derived from an average. It will take an average of the completion times for a certain manufacturing process or task. These tasks are often repetitive in nature and this average sets a standard for the production process. It can look at how long it takes to manufacture a certain product from start to finish. By measuring cycle time, you get a better idea of how long a product takes on its journey from the beginning of the production process to a finished product.
Depending on what you are manufacturing, your product might have certain wait times between tasks on the production line. The idle times are summated with the value-adding action tasks and this is collectively known as throughput time. The term throughput time is often used for cycle time.
Why is cycle time significant?
Cycle time is important because it allows you to see the total capacity of your production process. It lets you see how long each item of inventory stock will take to produce. This information is coupled with the resources you need to produce an item. So, cycle time and resources yield your total capacity in the production process. This will let you plan ahead and make sure your manufacturing processes are running as smoothly as possible.
One of the variables can be the people who are operating the production line. Certain tasks take some people more time than others. This can be due to a different skill level or experience in the role. However, you need to take this into account because it could impact on your total lead times.
Cycle time and lead time
If you need to produce 50 surfboards, there might be a total lead time of 2 weeks. This is because, on average, your cycle time to get 25 surfboards completed is one week. However, if someone is away on holiday or a new staff is starting, changes can occur in the manufacturing plant. These delays or backups are known as bottlenecks. One of the best ways to decrease variability in cycle times is to include automated processes wherever possible. Automation is key to minimising variables, enhancing accuracy and getting quality inventory stock ready for your warehouse.
If you can decrease your cycle time then you can decrease the amount of lead time to market; you’ll be able to get your products out for sale sooner and be more competitive in the market.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.