The cycle time is the time it takes to produce an item or provide a service. It is measured from the beginning of the first task until the end of the final task. It is the sum of both times that adds value and time that does not. Companies often use it to describe expected production ETA, but these are not always the same. People often confuse it with other time concepts, such as the lead and takt times.

It is easy to understand the mathematical formula that calculates cycle time. Subtract the first task’s start time from the previous task’s end time.

Cycle time for single piece flow item = Start Time – Finish Time

The total cycle time of producing a toaster would be three hours if, for example, the first step in building a toaster starts at 8:45 a.m. and the finished toaster arrives at 11:30 am, packaged and ready to go.

It can be used to describe specific parts of a process. For example, one could be for assembly, another for testing, and finally, a third for packaging.

Instead of One Piece Flow when dealing with a batch of items, divide the total parts by the production runtime to determine the cycle times per part.

Cycle time = (Finish time – Start time) / Units produced

Imagine you are trying to understand the cycle time of painting the toasters in the previous example. A robot arm paints the toasters in waves using an automatic robotic arm. The toasters are then placed in a heated chamber to quickly dry the paint.

The CT was less than 40 minutes because multiple products were being worked on simultaneously.

Divide the number of parts produced (four) by the run-time production, 40, in order to get a cycle time per part of 10 minutes.


Simple and straightforward formulae are used. Knowing what to do with cycle time data is the real value.

Improve the timeliness

Understanding your service or product will help you determine whether you can meet your customers’ needs in a timely fashion. Takt time is often used with cycle time and is sometimes confused. Takt is different from cycle time. It’s the amount of time it takes to produce a product in order to meet your customer’s deadline. For your company to deliver on ETA, you must set up your system so that the cycle time is lower than your takt.

Install your system the ideal way

Knowing your cycle time allows you to set up your processes properly. It allows the correct setup of the production floor in a manufacturing environment. Understanding how many machines, tools, and personnel you need is crucial. You can modify the line if you discover that your current cycle time is more significant than your takt. By adding the right tools, machines, and personnel to the line, you can reduce it.

Identifying possible system improvements

The cycle time can also be used to identify whether there are any improvements that could be made to a system. Changes in the environment can increase cycle times, even if it is lower than the takt. Monitoring your cycle times regularly will help you identify any unexpected increases in cycle time due to changes that were not anticipated. It may increase due to a lack of materials or unexpected machine downtime. Monitoring cycle times is essential to meet customer needs and identify cost-saving initiatives. A process that is less time-consuming may also be less expensive to manage.