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Everything You Need to Know About Takt Time in Manufacturing

Discover all you need to know about takt time, a manufacturing metric that indicates at which rate production needs to flow to meet customer demand.

Two people having a discussion in a factory

What is takt time in manufacturing?  

In manufacturing, takt time expresses the minimum frequency at which production needs to finish products to keep up with customer demand. Let’s say you have three hours to fulfil an order consisting of 500 units. Expressed in takt time, we can say that you need to finish a product roughly every 20 seconds to complete the order (we’ll go into more detail about calculating takt time further on).  

Takt time is, in other words, the rhythm of production. It’s therefore no surprise that “Takt” is a German word that translates to ‘pulse’, ‘tick’ or ‘beat.’ As a metric, it helps manufacturers pinpoint the pace at which work needs to flow as well as the amount of materials they need to keep in storage.   

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Why is takt time important?  

Takt time is a metric that is characteristic of Lean production and an essential tool to create processes that facilitate a pull production system. For those of you unfamiliar with those terms, we’ll use some more plain words: Takt time facilitates a production system that is catered toward customer orders instead of expected demand. It thereby helps manufacturers increase efficiency and save costs on inventory. The elimination of this so-called ‘waste’ is central to the philosophy of Lean Manufacturing.  

Takt time visual 2

How do you calculate takt time?  

Luckily, calculating takt time doesn’t require you to have a degree in advanced mathematics. Some basic arithmetic skills or a calculator is all you need.  

Takt time formula

Takt time is simply calculated by dividing the available production time with the number of ordered units. Let’s flesh that out by going through a quick example of a calculation:   

A printing house receives an order to create 375 custom t-shirts for a local charity event. The event is in two weeks’ time, but due to other customer obligations, the printing house has only 8 hours of free production time to complete the order. The takt time to complete the order is calculated thus:  

  • First, we express the time (8 hours) in seconds, which gives us 28,800 
  • Then we divide 28,800 by 375, which gives us 76,8 seconds per unit
  • The printing house therefore needs to produce a t-shirt roughly every minute and 15 seconds to complete the order in time.  

As you can see, takt time is very useful to determine if it’s possible to fulfil an order in time. If it, for instance, takes our printing house two minutes to print a t-shirt, they’re not going to be able to get all 375 done on time.  

An example of takt time in manufacturing 

Let’s quickly explore another example of takt time in manufacturing. In this one, we’ll take a look at Tesla’s (supposed) takt time in their Giga Shanghai factory. Note: this information may me inaccurate or outdated, and is used for explanatory purposes only.  

Tesla’s Giga Shanghai factory supposedly has the capacity to produce (more than) 50,000 cars per month. The factory runs for 23 hours of active production time per day, divided into two shifts. That means they have about 700 production hours per month, or 2,520,000 seconds. If we divide this latter number by 50,000, we end up with a takt time of roughly 50 seconds per car. That’s pretty impressive!  

Takt time visual 1

What is the difference between takt time and cycle time?  

Takt time and cycle time are often mistakenly used interchangeably. Cycle time is a key performance indicator (KPI) used to express the average time spent working on turning raw materials into finished products. This includes both value-added activities as well as inactive time like movement, queuing, etc. So whereas takt time expresses the time that is necessary to fulfil an order, cycle time expresses the rate at which an entire production lifecycle is completed. If you’d like to know more about cycle time, read this article.  

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