Understanding the Rhythm of Demand (Takt Time)

If there was a notiffication sound every time a new order/request/need started, how often would you hear it? The average pace* is often referred to as Takt Time. This pace can be used to understand several aspects of any process.

The Moment we Start to Fall Behind

If you know your Takt Time and track how long it takes to complete each cycle of work, then you will know you are falling behind as your Cycle Time exceeds your Takt Time. While we can be saved by a good overall average, it is important to track why we go over. This makes it much easier to identify and prioritze issues in each process.

The Number of People/Machines Required = Cycle Time / Takt Time

If the Cycle Time is double the Takt Time for a step, then we need two dedicated people and/or machines to keep up with demand. Any more, and people will idle or waitlists will shrink; any less, and customer waillists will grow.

The Ideal amount of Work in Process = Lead Time / Takt Time

Often referred to as Standard Work in Process (SWIP), as in the standard for how much work we should have in process (units started but not completed(. For example,

  • Lead Time = 8 hour
  • Takt Time = 1 hour
  • SWIP = 8 units

If we end up with more than 8 in process, then customers will experience longer waits; if we have fewer than 8 in process, then staff are regularly stuck waiting for the next order.

*Beware Broad Generalizations

There are often predictable fluctuations in demand, make sure to calculate/track different Takt Times for each situation. Otherwise, you will have timings that poorly represent any situation.