Takt time is a term derived originally from the German taktzeit, which translates literally 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, and that’s where it ties in to lean manufacturing.
In business, an even production tempo reduces waste and improves efficiency, which is why many organizations (first in Germany, then in Japan, then throughout the world) 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 can be expressed via the following equation:
T = Ta ÷ D
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 an organization’s takt time is growing, more time is being dedicated to production than should be 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 demand for a product.