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June 4, 2024

Cycle Time in Manufacturing: Definition, Formula & Benefits

Cycle time is a crucial metric in manufacturing that measures the time it takes to complete a production process from start to finish. This includes the time a product spends being worked on and the time it spends waiting between steps. As such, this includes everything from loading materials, to creating the product, to assessing the quality of the product. This blog post will guide you through the definitions, formulas and benefits of analysing cycle time, and we will tell you how you can implement our product Busroot and improve your cycle time completely free of cost

Types of Cycle Time

There are 3 different types of cycle time, including:

  • Machine Cycle Time: The time a machine takes to complete one operation on a piece of material or part.
  • Manual Cycle Time: The time a worker takes to complete a task that cannot be automated.
  • Total Cycle Time: The sum of all machine and manual times required to complete a full production cycle.

Splitting cycle time into 3 components helps to break down the process and identify areas that aren't working as efficiently. For example, if you only use "total cycle time", it may be harder to identify which processes are slowing things down. By monitoring the different processes, you'll be able to see that maybe one of your legacy machines is causing issues, or certain team members need to receive further training on a particular process.

Why is Measuring & Analysing Cycle Time Important?

Measuring and analysing cycle time is important for a number of reasons, including:

  1. Capacity Planning: Knowing the cycle time helps businesses understand their production capacity. This is crucial for planning how much can be produced within a certain timeframe and for setting realistic delivery timelines based on actual production capabilities.
  2. Cost Management: Shorter cycle times can lead to lower production costs per unit by reducing labour hours and minimising idle time for machines and workers. By continuously monitoring and reducing cycle time, a company can drive down costs and increase profitability.
  3. Quality Control: Regular assessment of cycle time can help in identifying variations in the production process that may affect quality. If the cycle time for a unit increases suddenly, it might indicate a problem that could compromise the quality of the finished product.
  4. Bottleneck Identification: Analysing cycle times across different stages of production can highlight bottlenecks — the slowest steps that limit overall throughput. Once identified, efforts can be directed toward improving these stages, thereby increasing overall production efficiency.
  5. Customer Satisfaction: By optimising cycle times, companies can ensure faster production rates, which in turn can lead to quicker delivery times. This responsiveness to customer demand can significantly enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  6. Competitive Advantage: Efficient cycle times can give a company a competitive edge by enabling faster product development and quicker response to market changes or customer demands. This agility can be crucial in industries where lead time is a key factor for customers.

How to Calculate Cycle Time

Cycle time is calculated using the following formula/process:

Measure the Start and End Times: Determine the time when the production of a unit starts and the time it ends. This includes all active work and any brief pauses directly involved in the production of the unit.

Calculate the Total Time for a Batch of Units: Time the production from the start of the first unit to the completion of the last unit in a batch.

Count the Number of Units Produced: Record how many units are completed in that batch.

As such, the formula to calculate cycle time is:

Cycle Time = Net Production Time / Number of Units


If your factory produces 100 units in 435 minutes (8 hours minus 45 minute break) the cycle time would be:

Cycle time = 435 minutes / 100 units = 4.35 minutes per unit

This calculation helps determine the average time taken to produce one unit, which is essential for scheduling, capacity planning, and improving efficiency.

Cycle Time vs. Takt Time

Cycle time and Takt time are often referred to interchangeably, but this is incorrect. They measure very different things, and should be considered different metrics. While cycle time measures the time to complete a cycle for one unit, takt time is defined as the rate at which products must be completed to meet customer demand. So in simple terms, cycle time is the time you actually take to produce a product, and takt time is the time you should take to produce a product. Comparing these two metrics helps businesses understand whether they are capable of meeting demand with their current capacity, and as such whether they need to take steps to reduce their cycle time to meet their takt time.

How to Calculate Takt Time

Takt time is a key concept in lean manufacturing and production management, used to match the pace of production with customer demand. Here’s how you calculate it:

Determine the Available Time: This is the total time available for production during a specific period. It usually accounts for the total work hours in a day, minus any breaks or non-productive time.

Understand Customer Demand: This is the number of units that customers require in a given period.

As such, the formula to calculate takt time is:

Takt Time = Available Time / Customer Demand

The result tells you the maximum amount of time that can be spent producing one unit to meet customer demands.


If your factory operates for 435 minutes in a day (8 hours minus 45 minute break), and the customer demand is 360 units per day, the takt time would be:

Takt Time = 435 / 360 units = 1.2 minutes per unit

This means you should aim to complete one unit every 1 minute and 12 seconds to meet customer demands efficiently.

What is Cycle Time Loss?

Cycle time loss refers to any increase in the time it takes to complete a production process compared to the standard or expected cycle time. It represents inefficiencies within the production line that prevent operations from achieving maximum productivity. Identifying and addressing cycle time loss is crucial for improving throughput and reducing costs.

Here are some common causes of cycle time loss:

  1. Machine Downtime: Breakdowns or maintenance issues that stop production can significantly increase cycle time. Preventative maintenance and rapid response to equipment issues can help minimise these losses.
  2. Worker Delays: This can include anything from slow manual operations, waiting for materials, or miscommunication among workers. Training, better scheduling, and clearer communication can reduce these delays.
  3. Quality Issues: Defects in production that require rework or scrap also contribute to cycle time loss. Implementing stringent quality controls and continuous process improvement can help reduce the occurrence of defects.
  4. Supply Chain Inefficiencies: Delays in receiving materials or components can halt or slow down production lines, leading to increased cycle time. Streamlining the supply chain and better inventory management can address these issues.
  5. Bottlenecks: A stage in the production process that is slower than preceding or subsequent stages can cause a build-up or waiting, thereby increasing the overall cycle time. Identifying and resolving bottlenecks is essential for smooth production flow.
  6. Changeovers: Time lost when switching production from one product to another or adjusting equipment settings can add up. Reducing changeover times through better planning and modular setups can decrease this type of cycle time loss.

How to Reduce Cycle Times

To reduce cycle time in manufacturing, focus on automating processes to minimise manual tasks and streamline workflows, including the use of advanced robotics and automated inspection systems​. You should also optimise quality assurance by implementing real-time monitoring and predictive maintenance to catch and address issues early​. Managing and addressing bottlenecks by using enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to identify delays and optimise production flow​ is also a great way to reduce cycle time. Finally, reduce setup activities by standardising and streamlining changeover procedures to minimise downtime and maintain continuous production​.

This can be further optimised by implementing a production monitoring platform. Our product, Busroot, collects real-time information regarding cycle time and other metrics such as OEE and downtime, and provides insights into process bottlenecks and key maintenance issues. The software can then implement proactive maintenance schedules to reduce the frequency of machine failures, which in turn significantly improves cycle time. And if you get in touch now, you can be one of 25 companies that implement our software completely free of cost thanks to funding from MakeUK! Check out our Lighthouse Project page for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a cycle time in production?

A cycle time in production/manufacturing refers to the average time it takes to produce one unit of goods, from the start to finish, including idle and waiting times.

2. What is a good cycle time?

This highly depends on your product, industry and set up. For the car industry, it can take weeks to produce one unit, whereas in the food and beverage industry it can take a few hours. If you want to compare your cycle time, make sure its with a competitor in your industry, but even this can be a wasted task as they likely have different machinery, different skill levels and different processes. Focus on getting your cycle time to the best and most efficient it can be, and try not to compare yourself with others.

3. What is the difference between cycle time and batch time?

Cycle time refers to the time it takes to produce one unit of a product from start to finish. It includes all phases of production (processing, inspecting, and moving) for a single unit. Batch time, on the other hand, is the total time required to complete a batch of products, from the beginning of the first unit to the end of the last unit in the batch. Batch time includes not only the production time for all units but also any setup or changeover time needed between batches.

4. Can cycle time be reduced by automation & technology?

Yes, automating repetitive or time-consuming tasks can significantly reduce cycle times and improve overall efficiency. In terms of technology, our production monitoring software Busroot can pick up on inefficiencies in your production and put in place a predictive maintenance schedule to reduce downtime and optimise cycle time.

5. What is the best way to track cycle time improvements?

Implementing real-time tracking systems like Busroot and regularly reviewing process metrics can help monitor improvements and identify areas for further reduction.