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Takt time is a measure used in manufacturing. It is simply the longest period which can be spent on each unit while still meeting a set level of demand. The measure can be particularly useful for making sure every part of a production line works efficiently.
The name Takt time comes from the German word Taktzeit. This roughly translates as cycle time. The German word originally developed to refer to the beat of music and its practical elements such as the rhythm a conductor established during a performance.
Calculating Takt time is, in its most basic form, an extremely simple process. It is merely the total time available to produce a batch of products divided by the total number of units which must be produced to meet the deadline. In practice the calculation may be slightly more complicated as it may need to take account of varying staffing levels if there are shifts or staggered break times. Most people using Takt time will also build in a certain amount of time for hold-ups such as machines breaking or accidents.
The units used for Takt time will vary from factory to factory. For simple products where the factory has an hourly target, it could be expressed in minutes. For larger products such as a car, the time could be expressed in weeks.
Calculating Takt time is most beneficial for production lines which carry out different stages of manufacturing a product. For example, a factory assembling DVDs may have staff or machines working on three different processes: putting the disc into the case, putting a booklet into the case, and shrink-wrapping the case. If the shrink-wrapping goes too slowly, there will be a build-up of discs which could clog up the line. Alternatively, if the people putting the disc into the case work too fast, the same thing could happen. In both cases, some staff may find themselves unable to do any more work until the backlog is cleared, which is wasteful.
In this example, the firm may calculate a Takt Time of 15 seconds per disc. As well as the entire process producing four discs a minute, people working on each stage will know they must carry out their section of the work at a rate of four disks a minute. This will ensure they all work at the same pace without any hold-ups. Working with a Takt time system can also help highlight where in a manufacturing process particular problems or inefficiencies lie, such as a faulty machine or underperforming staff. It
Takt time does have several limitations. It doesn’t work well if the different stages of a production process unavoidably take vastly different times. It is not suitable to manufacturing where quality is substantially more important than speed, for example with highly crafter items. Adhering strictly to a Takt time system can also be inflexible as if one stage of the process slows down, for example when a machine breaks, the entire process can come to a halt.