Takt Time

The concept of Takt time is borrowed from the Japanese word “takutotaimu”, which is a term that was originally derived from the German word “Taktzeit”, translating to “cycle time.” Less literally, it refers to the baton used by an orchestra’s conductor to signal musicians and maintain an even tempo during a performance. This is where it ties into lean manufacturing and six sigma. We don’t want our production lines getting out of rhythm, off tune, or marching to their own drum. Takt time helps find the delicate balance between production and customer demand.

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In business, an even production tempo reduces waste and improves efficiency. Many organizations have adopted the concept of Takt time to determine the total amount of production time that is actually productive, and what the production time should be for standard work

Takt time was first introduced to Japan by German engineers in the 1930s. When the Toyota Production System became popularized throughout the world, and consequently transformed the way the world manufactured products, Takt time became an important strategy in businesses using Lean principles, practicing six sigma, and looking to reduce cycle time. Takt time can be expressed via the following equation:

takt timeT = Ta ÷ D

Let’s take a look at a real-life example of Takt time:

A comb factory operates 500 minutes per day. Customer demand is 250 units per day. In this case, Takt time would be:

500/250 = 2 minutes per unit

In this equation, T represents Takt time, Ta represents the total available production time, and D represents the rate of customer demand. In an ideal world, Takt time should remain relatively static. If there’s a tempo change and an organization’s Takt time is growing, more time is being dedicated to production than necessary to meet customer demand. If it’s instead shrinking, customer demand has outstripped production time. In either case, processes should be reevaluated to ensure that production time properly aligns with overall customer demand for a product.

It’s important to note that operation time refers to the total number of hours/minutes employees work minus time spent on breaks, lunch, meetings, or performing maintenance. One way to find accurate, actual production time for a facility is Overall Equipment Effectiveness, or OEE. This calculation helps a business find maximum speed of productivity, then accurately factors in the everyday things—breaks, maintenance, shift changes, etc.—that stop production. From here, a company can have an accurate understanding of the accurate, realistic speed of tasks.

If there’s a considerable disparity between customer demand, production speed, and Takt time, then a company would be wise to create a value stream map, or VSM, to find where non-value activities are happening. It’s best to first calculate OEE, then, once the percentage of effectiveness at which your production process is running is known, a VSM can be drawn. Once a business has this information, its managers can agree upon a course of action to decrease waste.

Implementing Takt time is not without its complications. Workers can be resistant to being told the speed at which they’re expected to work, and lack of trust in a businesses commitment to its employees may cause them to question the use of implementing this new system, particularly if fear of layoffs is present. A company’s management, which is dictated by finances, may be tempted to throw the system off kilter by forcing production to exceed Takt time in order to meet or exceed quarter quotas. There are also technical limits. Equipment/operator limitations may make it difficult to achieve Takt time. Once Takt time is set, it can be very hard to change, and that it’s very hard to control customer demand fluctuations which may call for a production line to speed up or slow down.

Takt time is one of the most effective tools in Lean six sigma to ensure you're meeting actual customer demand with efficient cycle times. 

Additional Takt Time facts:

  • Takt time is a key concept in Lean manufacturing, which is a systematic approach to reducing waste and improving efficiency in production processes. Takt time is the rate at which you need to complete a product or service to satisfy customer demand. Source: https://businessmap.io/continuous-flow/takt-time
  • Takt time is calculated by dividing the available production time by the customer demand. For example, if a widget factory operates 480 minutes per day and customers demand 240 widgets per day, takt time is two minutes. Similarly, if customers want two new products per month, takt time is two weeks. Source: https://www.lean.org/lexicon-terms/takt-time/
  • Takt time was first used as a production management tool in the German aircraft industry in the 1930s. It was the interval at which aircraft were moved ahead to the next production station. The word takt is German for a precise interval of time such as a musical meter. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takt_time
  • Takt time is a central element of the Toyota Production System (TPS), which is a pioneer of Lean manufacturing. TPS reviews the takt time for a process every month, with a tweaking review every 10 days. The purpose of takt time is to precisely match production with demand and provide the heartbeat of a lean production system. Source: https://www.lean.org/lexicon-terms/takt-time/
  • Takt time can be applied to various industries and sectors, such as construction, software development, healthcare, and education. Takt time can help align the flow of work, balance the workload, reduce inventory, and increase customer satisfaction. Source: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/takt-time

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