How to Reduce Manufacturing Cycle Time: Production Optimization

In any business, productivity is a key factor to monitor, especially in manufacturing, where repetitive tasks can be optimized. Manufacturing cycle time, lead times, and takt times are the most commonly used metrics for this purpose. Progressive companies aim to control these factors to conserve resources, save money, provide better service, reduce waste, and protect workers. In this article, we will explore these concepts in more detail and discuss how both suppliers and clients can work together to reduce manufacturing cycle times while maintaining product quality and process stability.

What is Manufacturing Cycle Time


Manufacturing cycle time refers to the duration of time it takes to produce a product from start to finish. It includes all the steps involved in the manufacturing process, such as sourcing of raw materials, fabrication, assembly, quality control, packaging, and shipping.

So, as a factory or manufacturing manager, it’s important to keep a close eye on your manufacturing cycle times and use this information to optimize your production processes and improve your bottom line.

Why is Manufacturing Cycle Time Important?

Tracking your manufacturing cycle time is important for a number of reasons. It allows you to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies in your production process, which can help you to make improvements and increase your overall efficiency. It can also help you to plan your production schedules more effectively, by providing you with accurate estimates of how long it will take to produce each product.

Manufacturing cycle time is crucial for businesses that aim to improve productivity, reduce costs, and increase profitability. It is an important metric for manufacturers because it directly impacts their ability to meet customer demand, control costs, and stay competitive in the market. By reducing cycle time, businesses can obtain many advantages:

One of the primary benefits of reducing manufacturing cycle time is that it allows manufacturers to produce more products in a shorter amount of time, which can lead to increased sales and revenue. Additionally, shorter cycle times can help manufacturers respond more quickly to changes in customer demand and market conditions, giving them a competitive advantage over slower-moving competitors.

Reducing manufacturing cycle time generally also leads to cost savings. When cycle times are long, it often means that manufacturers are carrying excess inventory, which can tie up cash and increase storage costs. By reducing cycle time and producing products more quickly, manufacturers can reduce inventory levels and improve cash flow.

Finally, shorter manufacturing cycle times can lead to higher quality products. When manufacturing is optimized and products are made more quickly, there is less opportunity for defects to occur, which can improve overall product quality and reduce the need for rework or repairs.

Factors Affecting Manufacturing Cycle Time

There are various factors that can impact manufacturing cycle time. Some of these factors include:


Product Design

Product design is one of the primary factors impacting manufacturing cycle time. The design determines how the product is produced and this can affect the manufacturing processes and the time it takes to produce the finished product. A poorly designed product can result in longer cycle times, as it can be more challenging to manufacture and it may require more quality control.

The first thing companies can do to improve cycle time is to invest in good product design. Engineers and designers should be familiar with most manufacturing processes and design products with the final production process in mind. They may even work with the company who will be doing their mass production, so as to get feedback that, in addition to helping improve the cycle time, will also help reduce time to market in the development stages.

Production Processes

Production processes used in manufacturing can have a significant impact on cycle time. The choice of machinery, equipment, and tools can affect how long it takes to produce a product. The complexity of the production process and the number of stages involved can also impact cycle time.

To reduce cycle time, companies should invest in efficient production processes. They should use the latest technology and equipment, streamline production processes, and eliminate unnecessary steps.


Although the choice of material used for a product is generally selected based on the functionality and requirements of the product, it is worth noting that materials also have an impact on cycle time. Some materials may take longer to process than others. The quality of the materials used can also impact the manufacturing process and the time it takes to produce a product.

To improve cycle time, companies should use readily available, high-quality materials that are easy to process when possible. They should also consider the properties of the materials and how they will impact the manufacturing process.


Labour can also impact cycle time. The skills and experience of the workforce can affect how long it takes to produce a product. A poorly trained or inexperienced workforce can result in longer cycle times, as they may make mistakes or take longer to complete tasks.

To reduce cycle time of production parts, companies can invest in training and development of their workforce to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their jobs efficiently.


Transportation is another factor that can impact cycle time. The time taken to transport raw materials and finished products can impact the overall cycle time. Longer transportation times can lead to longer lead times, which can result in customer dissatisfaction.

To reduce cycle time, companies should optimize their transportation processes. They should consider the distance between their suppliers and their manufacturing facilities and how they can reduce transportation times.

Strategies for Optimizing Manufacturing Cycle Time

Several strategies can help optimize manufacturing cycle time, including:

Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste in the manufacturing process. It involves the use of tools and techniques such as value stream mapping, 5S, and Kanban to streamline the production process and reduce cycle time. Value stream mapping is a tool used to identify areas of waste in the production process. It involves mapping out the entire production process, from start to finish, and identifying areas where time and resources are being wasted. 5S is a method used to organize the workplace and eliminate clutter, making it easier for workers to find what they need quickly. Kanban is a visual system used to manage the flow of materials and inventory, ensuring that the right materials are available when needed.


Automation involves the use of machines and technology to perform tasks that would otherwise be done manually. Automated processes are often faster and more efficient than manual processes, reducing cycle time and increasing productivity. Automation can be used for tasks such as assembly, welding, and packaging. It can also be used for quality control, such as automated inspection and testing of products. Automated processes can also help reduce errors and improve consistency in the manufacturing process.


Standardization involves the development of standardized processes and procedures for all aspects of the manufacturing process. This includes everything from design and planning to production and delivery. Standardization helps ensure that all workers are following the same processes and procedures, reducing the risk of errors and improving efficiency. It also makes it easier to identify areas of waste and opportunities for improvement. Standardization can be achieved through the use of standardized work instructions, visual aids, and training programs.

Capacity Planning

Capacity planning involves determining the capacity of the manufacturing process and ensuring that it is aligned with customer demand. It involves forecasting demand, determining the capacity of the manufacturing process, and adjusting production schedules to meet customer needs. Capacity planning helps ensure that production capacity is not exceeded, which can lead to backlogs and delays in delivery. It also helps ensure that resources are being used efficiently, reducing waste and improving cycle time.

Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement involves the ongoing process of identifying areas of waste and opportunities for improvement in the manufacturing process. It involves the use of tools and techniques such as Kaizen and Six Sigma to identify and eliminate waste, reduce cycle time, and improve quality. Kaizen involves the continuous improvement of all aspects of the manufacturing process, from design and planning to production and delivery. Six Sigma is a data-driven approach to quality control, used to identify and eliminate defects in the manufacturing process.

Differences between Cycle Time and Takt Time

While both cycle time and takt time are related to the speed of production, they have different meanings and applications. Cycle time measures the time it takes to complete one cycle of a process, while takt time measures the ideal production rate required to meet customer demand.

Calculating Cycle Time and Takt Time

Cycle time is calculated by dividing the total time taken to complete a process by the number of cycles completed. Takt time is calculated by dividing the available production time by the customer demand.

For example, if a manufacturer produces 100 units in 8 hours, the cycle time would be 4.8 minutes per unit (480 minutes divided by 100 units). If the customer demand is 240 units per day, the takt time would be 2 minutes per unit (480 minutes divided by 240 units).

Why Cycle Time and Takt Time Matter

Cycle time and takt time are crucial metrics for manufacturers because they help businesses optimize their operations and improve their efficiency. By measuring the cycle time and takt time of their processes, manufacturers can identify areas where they can reduce waste, improve productivity, and increase output. This can result in cost savings, improved customer satisfaction, and a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Distinguishing Cycle Times from Lead Times

Although cycle time and lead time are often used interchangeably, they are not equivalent. The end user usually wants both to be minimized, but this may not always be practical. The lead time, for example, is dependent on how long it takes to gather the resources required to initiate production. If these resources are scarce or subject to seasonal fluctuations, such as in the case of seasoned timber, then production must be delayed, regardless of the manufacturer’s efficiency.

Understanding Lead Times

Manufacturing lead time refers to the duration required to manufacture a product or provide a service. This timeframe encompasses the entire production process, starting from the initial stages of manufacturing and extending to the moment when the product or service is prepared for dispatch or delivery.

To elaborate, manufacturing lead time encompasses all the necessary steps involved in the manufacturing process, such as design, procurement of raw materials, production, assembly, testing, and inspection. This period also includes the time required for quality assurance, packaging, and transportation.

In essence, manufacturing lead time plays a critical role in determining the delivery schedule of a product or service. It is an essential metric that businesses use to ensure they can fulfill their customer’s demands effectively and efficiently.

Calculating Lead Time

In manufacturing, there are three stages to consider when calculating the lead time: pre-processing, which is the time needed to source and deliver raw materials; processing, which is the time needed to manufacture the products; and post-processing, which is the time needed to process the order and deliver the finished product.

Lead Time for Manufacturing Company = Procurement Time (for raw materials) + Manufacturing Time + Shipping Time. Read more about Lead Time.


Manufacturing cycle time is an essential metric that measures efficiency and productivity in manufacturing. By reducing cycle time, businesses can increase production output, meet customer demands, and lower production costs. To improve cycle time, businesses can streamline processes, invest in advanced equipment, hire a skilled workforce, and optimize materials management.

In conclusion, this comprehensive guide on manufacturing cycle time will provide you with valuable insights to improve your manufacturing processes. By implementing the strategies discussed in this article, you can reduce cycle time, increase productivity, and improve your bottom line.


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