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Using Takt Time to Drive Improvement

Takt time (or cycle time) is a term that is very rarely understood outside of engineering circles, but can apply to different businesses who need to improve their business processes. The reason for writing this post is to help people who approach their business improvement with no real objectives other than to be better than they currently are.

When continuous improvement approaches are used in isolation there is sometimes a lack of understanding about how good  an improvement needs to be in order to serve the business from the perspective of profit and customer service. Sometimes we pat ourselves on the back when we make improvements, but the improvement might not go far enough.

Calculating takt time is a simple approach that divides the amount of demand into the available time. For example, if you need to handle three enquiries every hour, then that means that the task (nominally) should be designed to be no longer than 20 minutes. Obviously this example assumes that there is nothing else that needs to be done within that hour, but I hope you see the point. If the task currently takes forty minutes and we reduce it to twenty five minutes that's a great improvement, but not good enough for where we need it to be.

Using the takt approach can help you provide meaningful targets for your staff / teams when they are using business improvement tools on their own areas of the business. Ideally, takt time should be considered when you are starting improvement activities as it helps to shape the overall resource levels and approach you take when you are beginning business process improvement projects.


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