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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.