What is Cycle Time?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 March 2020
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Cycle time is the total amount of time that elapses from the initiation of a process or procedure until its completion. Manufacturing cycle times are usually monitored closely as a means of helping to maintain and improve the production of various types of goods. As part of the process, personnel concerned with the efficiency of the procedure will observe a complete cycle, taking care to note how long each of the steps included in the process take, and possibly making recommendations on how to reduce cycle times in the future.

All types of tasks have a cycle time. While the term is normally associated with the manufacture of goods on a production floor, the concept can also be applied to clerical tasks, cleaning processes, and any other situation where a good or service is produced. For example, a cycle time in a restaurant may commence when a customer places an order and ends when the food is delivered to the table.


Many manufacturing firms take the idea of a cycle time very seriously. To this end, it is not unusual to have personnel dedicated to analyzing the efficiency of various processes involved in the production cycle. In a textile plant, this may take the form of observing machine operators as they go about the process of operating their assigned machinery. By determining how long it takes to perform each of the tasks, it is easier to identify what constitutes a workable amount of hourly production, given the type of machinery used and the proficiency of the employee in operating the equipment.

Along with assessing manufacturing cycle times, the idea of analyzing the duration of any cycle can also be used to accurately calculate production cycle times for other important tasks. The process can be used to evaluate the rate of completion for everyday tasks such as typing a letter, printing copies of documents, or entering data into a database. Even tasks around the house can be broken down into cycle time, such as how long it takes to vacuum a specific room, or to wash a load of clothing.

By looking closely at how long it takes to complete a job, valuable information about the nature of the task can often come to light. As the observation of the cycle time continues, it may become apparent that making some minor changes in how the process is conducted will enhance the overall efficiency. For example, placing raw materials in front of the employee rather than to the side may trim a few seconds off each repeat of the action, resulting in a noticeable increase in productivity over the course of an hour. In like manner, combining steps in the process may also save some time and eliminate repetition in the process that serves no useful purpose.


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