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Manufacturing Cycle Time: What It Is and How To Improve It


Time is money. Whoever coined the phrase really hit the nail on the head, because in just about every business setting, the time spent on a particular project, task, or assignment has a direct impact on a company’s ability to produce and still thrive. Multitasking may be a skill, but it can be extraordinarily difficult in product manufacturing when manufacturing cycle efficiency matters first and foremost.

In most contexts, time is measured in hours, minutes, and seconds. But in the manufacturing process, it’s all about cycle time, meaning the time it takes — from the initial preparation, all the way to 100% completion — for a single job to go through all the required actions. There are many different ways cycle time, otherwise known as throughput time, can be quantified, whether that’s the individual subprocesses — like physical assembly or the obtaining of raw materials — or the more comprehensive sense of the phrase, when all the pieces of the production puzzle are in place.

In short, cycle time is a measuring unit that, once calculated, can enhance manufacturing cycle efficiency.

“Cycle time should not be confused with lead time.”

Cycle time isn’t to be confused with lead time. Although both terms help to optimize work processes, they’re used in different contexts, with lead time applicable to customers, in particular. Specifically, lead time is how long it takes for a company to deliver goods the moment after that person places an order and it winds up in the customer’s hands. Thus, while lead time is a more all-inclusive type of time measurement, cycle time is specific to product development.

How do you calculate cycle time?

Given that no two manufacturing processes are the same — and that they often involve multiple production elements or phases — the actual length of cycle time is largely determined by how many steps there are in the development of a certain good. It can be determined through a mathematical equation that’s made up of two parts:

  • Total amount of goods produced/Time of Production = Cycle time

Once this formula is calculated, it can improve manufacturing work processes in a host of ways, whether that’s productivity improvement, capacity consolidation, yield-loss management, or logistics, just to name a few. Cycle time is required in lean manufacturing so workers on the shop floor know what’s expected in terms of time management to complete a finished product.

Manufacturing cycle time

Knocking a few seconds from key areas of your cycle time can have a dramatic impact on productivity.


The key, of course, is to reduce the time required in order to increase overall capacity, all while ensuring that nothing gets missed, as shortcuts can lead to quality control issues and dissatisfied customers. Here are a few suggestions:

Put it down on paper

Consider developing a process map which literally maps out all the steps involved in the supply chain for a product to reach completion. A process map should be linear and identify each and every aspect that it takes to fulfill an order.

Figure out Takt time

Takt time is yet another manufacturing cycle efficiency measure, only this one takes into account the actual development process as it pertains to the needs of your customers. German for “pulse,” takt refers to the speed at which you need to be fully done with production so its in line with customer demand. Time is a precious commodity and takt time help you get a better understanding of expectations, thereby trimming the “fat” or any wasted movements. Even small modifications — whether in the equipment used or personnel recruited — can yield big results.

Consider automating workflows

Certain routine tasks may be better addressed by leveraging automation technology. AI has hastened production processes in virtually every industry, so what used to take hours to finish can be done in minutes.

USC Consulting Group specializes in empowering your business’s ability to perform to tight deadlines, which can help you achieve authentic supply chain optimization.


Contact USC Consulting Group


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