Lean Learning’s #4 Takt Time

Takt time is one of the most important concepts to grasp in a Lean environment, since it is the principle by which the speed of the process is governed.

The word Takt is derived from the German word for beat. In the case of Lean, this refers to the pace of the process as dictated by the customer. If the customer orders 10, then 10 must be produced, not 9 or 11.

The best way to visualise this is by imagining an orchestra with the conductor at the front. He is the customer. The conductor moves his baton up
and down to indicate the ‘beat’ of the music he requires. The musicians follow this beat, all at the same speed, completely synchronized. If he speeds up, the entire orchestra speeds up with him. As he slows down, so do the musicians.

This is the concept of Takt time. A process should adjust its output based on ‘true’ customer demand and not keep running at its maximum speed.

Takt time can be calculated on virtually every task in a business environment. It can be used in manufacturing e.g. machining parts, drilling holes etc. In administration e.g. processing orders, call centre operations etc or in a production line environment, to pace the line.

When implemented correctly, running a process to Takt time provides many benefits. Just a few of these are:

  •  Since you produce only what is required by the customer, inventory is reduced
  •  Since the ‘product’ moves along the process at a given speed, bottlenecks are easily identified.
  •  Since problem processes are easily identified. repeat issues, like breakdowns, can be understood and fixed.
  •  Since the process moves at a fixed speed, work is balanced across all operators. If it is not bottlenecks will occur.

 A lot of confusion can be generated around Takt time calculations. The simplest way of calculating Takt time is to calculate the Takt time for the output of the process. Work from the perspective of the customer.

In order to calculate Takt time, two pieces of information are required.

  • Available Time – this is the shift time minus any breaks, clean up time etc.
  • The Average Customer Demand – how many does the customer actually require in a given period.

Work in fixed periods (days or weeks) and apply the following calculation.


A store card company receives 2,100 applications per month. And on average they work 20 days per month.

Workers are paid for 7.5 hours per day. They have two 15 minute coffee breaks per day – which are paid.

So the Takt time is calculated as follows:

Available time

From the 7.5 working hours 30 minutes must be deducted (for breaks).            7 hours = 420 minutes

Customer demand

2100 / 20 = 105 applications per day

 Therefore the takt time calculation is as follows:

420 minutes   =   4 minutes


So if we were processing applications to Takt time, you would expect to see an application being processed every 4 minutes. Running with a Takt time of 4 minutes means that the process is set up to deal with the customer demand as efficiently as possible.

This Is an extract from the book Tools for Success, by Barry Jeffrey and Graham Ross. If you would like to know more why not follow the link www.kaizentrainer.com



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