Even though it’s a simple concept, takt time can be a very powerful tool for project managers who need a more productive strategy. Knowing the exact production rate of a project will help you avoid running out of time or resources. It will also help your organization increase profits and better serve customer needs. In this article, we’ll answer all of your top questions about takt time along with examples, benefits, and more. 

What is takt time?

Takt time is a formula that enables you to manage every step of the manufacturing process efficiently and without waste. The total represents the time it takes to make a product to meet a customer's demand. It does not include unsupervised work time such as lunch breaks or scheduled maintenance. 

Takt time is a German term created by airplane manufacturers in the 1930s that means "to regulate the tempo" or "to play" music, which makes sense considering the symphony of complex steps needed to complete most projects. 

Manufacturers use the calculation to control the speed of their production lines. But it can also be used by project management offices and marketing managers to efficiently pace out initiatives.

This calculation allows businesses to effectively create supply without leaving too much inventory on the market. Takt time also shows the rate at which a finished product should be produced which improves the accuracy of project planning and setting clear expectations

Additionally, takt time helps to monitor the efficiency of a production line once it is up and running, as well as the performance of the entire process, to ensure that waste is removed.

All in all, it’s useful for both managing time and predicting any future production issues. Takt time can be used in any phase of project planning to improve productivity. 

Because takt time makes it easier to adjust competing project schedules without losing progress on either, managers will often use takt time to maintain a continuous flow of products without wasting any resources. 

Project management solutions such as Wrike are great for tracking takt time and improving resource management. The goal is to get rid of the non-value-adding activities that we don't need to complete. This makes it a strong incentive to get rid of those tasks that are not related to the work in order to improve takt time. 

Wrike has several features that assist with this, including time tracking, visual project planning charts, and reporting. 

How to calculate takt time

It's important to know the exact takt time of your product to avoid wasting it. The good news is that calculating takt time is relatively simple. 

Knowing the time it takes to meet a customer’s demand is not rocket science. This data can be pulled from your project management tool’s report features to help you make informed decisions about how to manage your team’s workloads across an entire portfolio of active projects. 

Monitoring takt time can make a significant difference on success during the lifecycle of a project. For example, when the demand for takt time rises so much that it has to come down, managers can reorganize activities to fit into the shorter takt time.

Here’s the simple formula you can use to accurately calculate takt time:

Takt time = the total number of available working hours divided by customer demand.

Tip: In order to get the most out of the lean process, it’s important to break down the production into smaller cycles. Then, compare the takt time for the total project to the individual cycles to get a more accurate estimate. 

Takt time example

Using the takt time formula, we can look at a simple example of how to calculate and understand the results:

Let’s say there are eight working hours in a day. Right now, customers demand one item that takes eight hours to make. The takt time equals one working day. 

Some will break down those hours into minutes and calculate minutes per item creation. In this example that would be eight hours x 60 minutes or a takt time of 480 minutes. 

If there are any breaks, meetings, administrative tasks, or work unrelated to the direct project outcome within that eight-hour period, you’ll have to subtract the average minutes from that total for your takt time calculation. 

What are the benefits of takt time?

Takt time is a popular project management tool for a reason. Whether you want to master leads and lags or simply manage incoming work requests without derailing progress in other areas, then takt time is for you. Here are the benefits of takt time you can achieve regardless of your industry: 

  • Create efficient processes
    Takt time helps Scrum project managers measure exactly how much they’ll need to shave off of production time in order to meet customer demand. With this in mind, they can find new methods for task scheduling, planning, and execution. Instead of overhauling the entire process, they can instead focus on the areas that need the most improvement and go from there until they meet their goal. 
  • Eliminate or reduce waste
    Takt time is all about efficiently using project resources. When you’re focused on improving productivity to reach a specific time goal, it’s easier to identify which resources can be used in smarter ways. If you’re using a project management tool, this can look like finding roadblocks ahead of time or sending automated notifications to team members once it’s their turn to begin their portion of the project. 
  • Strategically manage inventory
    Customer demand ebbs and flows throughout the year for many industries. By using takt time, managers can accurately forecast so that their production aligns with customer demand, saving time and money on wasted output. 
  • Manage time wisely
    Takt time is best for deciding where you should invest more or less time as a team. Many managers who use takt time often find and eliminate bottlenecks in their process that they may not have found otherwise. 
  • Set the right pace 
    Takt time helps managers holistically set the pace for multiple ongoing projects. As you receive incoming work requests, experience delays, and manage customer expectations, you may find that some projects must be slowed while others are rushed in order to adjust. By using takt time, you’ll be able to properly pace out initiative while keeping everything on course. 

Are there limitations of takt time?

Takt time, like any project management strategy, does have its limitations. Over the course of an active project, the task hierarchy has to be leveled to make sure that the tasks are not bulked in front of certain phases. This prevents the action plan created from the takt time calculation from being flexible as a whole.

Also, the concept of takt time does not take into account the human factors that happen during certain processes, such as a team member needing a longer lunch or PTO. This means that the demand must be leveled in order to make the processes more efficient.

Takt time vs cycle time vs lead time

While cycle time and takt time are both commonly used by lean practitioners, they measure different things. Cycle time is the time it takes for the team to complete a task or order from start to finish. Takt time is the time it takes to finish a product to meet demand. 

For example, if a customer orders a new product every hour, the team needs to finish it in an hour or less. That means the takt time must be less than an hour. If the team takes longer than an hour (the cycle time), then the process will need to be streamlined or minimized in order to align with the takt time. 

People also tend to confuse the terms cycle time and lead time, which are both lean metrics. Lead time is the time it takes for a customer order to be fulfilled. And, as we’ve already mentioned, cycle time is the time it takes for a team to complete a task. 

For example, if a single customer order takes five hours to fill but the team needs six hours instead, they’ll need to adjust their own timeline to meet the customer demand (takt time). 

And unlike takt time, which refers to meeting customer demand, lead time focuses instead on individual order fulfillment. 

Still not sure what the difference is between takt time vs cycle time vs lead time? Here’s a handy summary: 

  • Takt time = how long it takes to meet customer demand in general
  • Cycle time = how long it takes for a team to complete an order or project
  • Lead time = how long it takes to fulfill an individual customer’s order

In conclusion

A production system that is designed to provide continuous flow and value for the customer is ideal for minimizing waste and producing high-quality results. Wrike offers features such as visual project status dashboards and teamwide time management that make it easier to analyze and adjust your takt time. Start your free two-week trial of Wrike and begin mastering this powerful project management tool today.