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Cycle Time

Quick Definition

The cycle time refers to the time required to complete a full cycle of production in manufacturing. More specifically, the cycle time is the time from the start of production to the delivery of the final product. The cycle time is composed of all wait times in the production cycle including, processing time, queue time, inspection time and wait time.Cycle time is a measure of efficiency through the entire process of manufacturing and should not be confused with lead time. Lead time, while similar, is customer-centric focusing on the time it takes for a customer to receive a product from the time the order was placed. By monitoring the cycle time managers are able to see where production is slowed and potential solutions to congestion in the manufacturing cycle.

What is Cycle Time?

Cycle time is a critical metric used in various industries and contexts to measure the efficiency of a production or process workflow. It quantifies the amount of time it takes for a task, project, or product to move from initiation to completion, highlighting the speed and effectiveness of a process. This metric is especially significant in lean manufacturing, project management, software development, and supply chain optimization, where meeting customer demand and achieving continuous improvement are paramount.

Key Components of Cycle Time

  1. Lead Time: Cycle time is closely related to lead time, which represents the period of time taken for a task or product to move through a process in real-time, including both active and waiting periods.
  2. Takt Time: Takt time vs lead time is the pace at which products must be produced or tasks completed to meet customer demand. This includes processing time for each step of the production process. It serves as a reference point for cycle time calculations and workflow optimization.
  3. Throughput: Throughput refers to the rate at which items or tasks are processed within a workflow. Throughput production rate is a crucial factor in determining cycle time.
  4. Bottlenecks: Identifying and addressing bottlenecks, where work accumulates or slows down, is essential for reducing both a specific team’s cycle time and the total cycle time in order to maintain efficiency.

Cycle Time in Different Contexts

  • Lean Manufacturing: In lean manufacturing, cycle time is a key performance indicator (KPI) used to measure production efficiency. Shortening cycle times contributes to reduced waste, improved profitability, and enhanced customer satisfaction.
  • Software Development: In software development, cycle time measures the time it takes to deliver new features or updates. Shorter cycle times are associated with functionality and automation, as in greater agility and faster response to customer requirements.
  • Supply Chain Optimization: Cycle time plays a vital role in supply chain management by evaluating the speed at which raw materials are converted into finished products. Reducing cycle times can lead to lower inventory costs and increased profitability.
  • Project Management: Project managers use cycle time to track progress and efficiency. It helps in identifying project inefficiencies, optimizing timelines, and meeting deadlines.

Calculation of Cycle Time

Cycle time is typically calculated using this cycle time formula:

Cycle Time = Net Production Time/Number of Units Produced​


  • Net Production Time is the total available time for production (excluding downtime and waiting time).
  • Number of Units Produced represents the quantity of products or tasks completed in that period.

Continuous Improvement and Optimization

Reducing cycle time is a fundamental aspect of continuous improvement methodologies such as Lean and Six Sigma. Identifying and eliminating inefficiencies within each team member’s role, automating processes, and optimizing workflows are strategies employed to minimize cycle times.

Impact on Customer Satisfaction and Profitability

Shorter cycle times often lead to higher customer satisfaction as orders are fulfilled more quickly. Additionally, reducing cycle times can result in lower production costs, increased profitability, and a competitive edge in the market.

Tracking and Process Improvement

Tracking cycle times and analyzing data over time can reveal trends, bottlenecks, and areas for improvement. When organizations actively manage and reduce cycle times, they enhance efficiency, productivity, and customer responsiveness.


In conclusion, cycle time is a critical metric that measures the efficiency of workflows and processes across various industries. It plays a significant role in lean manufacturing, project management, software development, and supply chain optimization. By reducing average cycle times through process improvement and optimization, organizations can enhance customer satisfaction, profitability, and competitiveness in today's fast-paced business environment.