How to use takt time to improve team productivity

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Takt time uses a formula that can help you determine the production rate you’d need to meet customer demand. You can apply the formula to work in almost any industry, though it’s most applicable to work on production lines. Using the takt time formula can help improve your team’s productivity.

What is takt time?

Takt time is the rate at which you must complete products to meet customer demand. It’s also known as your sell rate. Takt time is different for every business and product. For example, let’s say customers place new product orders every two hours. You’d have to make each product in at least two hours to meet the demand.

The term “takt time” comes from the German word takt, meaning “clock” or “beat.” It was first used in the 1930s and gained popularity in Japan 20 years later. The car manufacturer Toyota implemented “takt time” to streamline their processes and develop a lean manufacturing model. Since then, it’s been a lean management solution for businesses.

How to calculate and use the takt time formula

The takt time formula divides your time available to work by the customer demand or units required. The formula follows:

Takt time = time available to work / customer demand or units requires

You can measure the “time available to work” in hours, minutes, or seconds. Choosing your time unit depends on the speed at which you plan to work. Minutes are the most common unit, but seconds might be more appropriate for faster production lines. Let’s look at another example.

If you receive nine orders every eight-hour workday, divide 480 minutes (time available in minutes) by nine (customer demand). So your takt time would be 53 minutes. You would need to produce one unit every 53 minutes to meet demand.

If customer demand increases, the business would need to adjust its takt time. This method of time tracking requires regular evaluation to ensure the business is maintaining maximum productivity.

Common examples of takt time

The two most common examples of takt time come from its origin. In 1930’s Germany, manufacturers used takt time to determine the interval at which workers needed to build an aircraft on a production line. By breaking down an aircraft by piece—rudders, propellor, fuselage, etc.—German engineers in World War II could improve their efficiency and production rate.

Later, when Toyota began using takt time in the 1950s, it streamlined its production line. The company used the image of an orchestra conductor, keeping a musical beat. They called the method Just in Time (JIT) or Toyota Production System (TPS). The company would review its takt time processes regularly and make adjustments to their formula when necessary.

Why is takt time important?

Although not a perfect system, takt time has some benefits. The streamlined production makes bottlenecks and poor operations (such as frequent breakdowns) more apparent. Teams can then remove those barriers to improve their productivity. Takt time also helps companies identify value-added work. If a station requires maintenance or setup, companies can remove those barriers to production to improve their takt time.

Additionally, the machines and workers on the production line only perform a set of tasks. They don’t have to adapt to new processes, so they can improve productivity regularly. Finally, takt time doesn’t allow for incomplete processes or removal of products from the assembly line, so fewer products are damaged.

However, takt time is not perfect. It relies on a steady stream of production, with no breaks or interruptions. A breakdown at one point can stop progress on the entire production line. For workers, this can leave no time for breaks, injuries or errors, or other humanmade or environmental disruptions. And when customer demand increases, takt time shrinks. But if the takt time is too fast, workers may find it difficult to meet demand.

What is the difference between takt time and cycle time?

Takt time is the time it takes to produce an item. Cycle time is similar but looks at the average time it takes to complete a unit. Whereas takt time can help you meet customer demand, cycle time focuses on completing a unit. Cycle time is not affected by customer demand. Calculate cycle time by dividing your net production time with your number of units. The formula follows:

Cycle time = net production time / number of units

What is the difference between takt time and lead time?

Lead time looks at the total time it takes to receive an order and deliver it to the customer. Unlike takt time, which only focuses on a production line’s processes, lead time measures one unit’s journey from production to delivery. Calculate lead time by adding work time, cycle time, and delivery time. The formula follows:

Lead time = work time + cycle time + delivery time 

Improving team productivity with takt time

Although not a perfect system, implementing takt time at your work has several benefits. It can help you identify bottlenecks and work to improve team productivity. You can even use it to track your time management skills.

However, humans are not perfect machines. Achieving an ideal takt time might not be possible in many cases. Regardless, this efficiency-tracking method may be the trick your team needs to remove barriers and track productivity.

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