Want to learn how to calculate cycle time?
Cycle time is the time taken to create a finished product and it’s a useful metric that’ll help set and maintain your project’s rhythm.
And unlike Tour de France races, you won’t need a helmet with this kind of cycle time.
Unsurprisingly, learning how to calculate cycle time is also far easier than cycling more than 2000 miles in 23 days.
All you need is the cycle time formula!
In this article, we’ll show you how to calculate cycle time, why you should do it, and also highlight a handy tool that’ll ease the whole process.
This Article Contains:
(Use the links below and jump to a specific section)
- What is cycle time?
- What is the cycle time formula?
- What are the benefits of calculating cycle time?
- The easiest way to calculate cycle time: ClickUp
- FAQs about cycle time calculation
Is your stopwatch ready? Let’s get started!
What Is Cycle Time?
Cycle time is a measure of how long it takes to make a finished product or deliver a service. It’s one of the most crucial flow metrics that’ll help you run a project smoothly efficiently.
Let’s understand this with an example from our favorite caveman: Fred Flintstone.
Now, let’s assume Fred decides to work at a ribs and burgers joint.
Here, his cycle time is the amount of time he takes to cook one meal. And since they’ve just discovered fire, it’s going to speed up the cycle time. This way, his cycle time per meal goes down and he can feed more customers.
As you can see, businesses (fictional and otherwise) since the stone age have been using cycle time to measure their productivity!
What Is The Cycle Time Formula?
You can calculate cycle time with this simple formula:
Cycle time (CT) = Net Production Time (NPT) / Number of Units made (U)
Here, net production time is the total duration of your production process (or service delivery process) in seconds, minutes, hours, or days. For example, time to cook a meal, etc.
But how does this really work?
Fred Flintstone example to the rescue!
Let’s say he successfully managed to prepare 100 meals a day. That’s the number of units (U).
If we subtract an hour-long lunch break and a half an hour coffee break from his regular eight-hour workday, his total run time or net production time (NPT) is (8 – 1.5 = 6.5 hours).
This means his cycle time is,
CT = 6.5/100 = 0.065 hours per meal
Or approximately 4 minutes to prepare each meal.
All thanks to hardworking dinosaur sous chefs!
What Are The Benefits Of Calculating Cycle Time?
Whether you’re a stone-age line cook or a 21st-century app developer, you need to measure your cycle time to streamline your production process.
Here are the four key benefits of calculating cycle time:
1. Helps estimate your delivery date
Do you know what we’d all love? A time machine.
You can use it to travel into the future and prepare for all the hurdles in the way of your timely delivery.
But until the scientists invent one, we still have the cycle time metric to help us out.
Teams can use it to calculate their production rate in real-time and use it to give realistic delivery estimates to their customer or client.
2. Helps streamline processes to meet targets
Calculating cycle times helps you determine how long it takes you to deliver value to your customer. This way, you can easily determine if it’s enough to meet your customer demand.
Calculating cycle times give you the data to fix slow cycles and your production rate by:
- Expanding the raw material supply chain
- Increasing or decreasing the throughput or batch size in the production line
- Controlling the work in progress or WIP limit
The cycle time metric is sorta like Fred’s reliable friend, Barney. No matter what, it’ll always guide you in the direction of process improvement and customer satisfaction.
3. Helps eliminate overproduction
What’s worse than not producing enough units to meet your customer demand?
Producing too much!
Overproduction is massive wastage of company time and resources. Additionally, it can cause a serious bottleneck situation for your service delivery system.
In fact, according to Lean manufacturing methodology, overproduction can be a significant factor in slowing down your overall project flow.
However, if you set thresholds for cycle times (and control batch sizes accordingly), you can control the production rate from crossing a limit.
4. Helps improve process cycle efficiency
In fact, Kanban and Lean manufacturing processes let you set a work in progress or WIP limit.
A WIP limit will set a cap on the number of tasks a team can take up. This ensures that each user story passes through the value stream without creating a bottleneck.
As you can understand your team’s average work capacity, you can improve your performance with each cycle.
But enough theory. You’re here for some hands-on, practical knowledge on cycle time, right?
So let’s get down to it.
The Easiest Way To Calculate Cycle Time: ClickUp
Fred Flintstone and his factory belong to the stone ages, literally.
Which means they can only calculate using sticks and stones.
But you can calculate cycle time the smart way, by using ClickUp!
Used by 100,000+ super productive teams from startups to giants like Google, Airbnb, and Uber, it’s the only tool you’ll need to manage all your projects and track your team’s productivity.
Here’s how ClickUp can help you calculate cycle time and use it to your advantage.
A. Track project flow metrics with Sprint Widgets on the Dashboard
Not a fan of Monday morning status update meetings?
The ClickUp Dashboard is your way out!
The Dashboard gives you a complete overview of your project with customizable Sprint Widgets like the Cycle Time Graph.
To calculate cycle times using this Widget, you can use one of the following routes:
- Start counting time from the moment a task enters any status in the Active status group
- ClickUp assumes the first status in Active as “Not Started” and any other work item in the Active status group as the start of cycle time
You can customize the cycle time graph with:
- Time range: pick a time range and set the frequency of the cycle time graph
- Sample time: select the number of days that must appear as the average for each data point on the graph
- Status group counted as completion: choose the status group that counts towards completion. For example, “Done,” “Client Review,” or “Closed.”
B. Set Time Estimates to stay on top of your task
What’s the point of calculating cycle times if you can’t use the numbers to streamline your project?
That’s why ClickUp aids your team’s continuous improvement with the Time Estimates feature. Add the number of hours each task and subtask will take, and ClickUp calculates the total expected hours per project.
As you update these estimates, ClickUp will update your delivery date in real-time too.
C. Track time usage with Native Time Tracking
Calculating cycle time helps you actively reduce it with each task.
And how can you do that?
You could hire a dinosaur supervisor to keep telling you how long you’re spending on the manufacturing process.
But here’s a simpler option: just use ClickUp’s Native Time Tracking feature!
The easy-to-use ClickUp Chrome extension will track the time you spend on tasks with a single click and generate detailed time usage reports. This way, you can constantly track how long you’re spending to ensure you’re not exceeding your average cycle time.
Is that all? Absolutely not.
ClickUp is a comprehensive project management software meant for the high performing, ambitious team.
And here’s more features that make your processes smoother:
- Goals: set professional goals and track them in real-time
- Workflow Automation: access 50+ ways to automate any repetitive process
- Profiles: get a complete picture of what team members have completed, are currently working on now, and their future tasks
- Multiple Views: track each work item in multiple views like List view, Kanban Board, Box view, etc.
- Docs: develop an internal wiki of documents like purchase order, value stream map, and raw materials list
- Pulse: stay in touch with your team’s activity throughout the da
- Workload view: visualize and track your team’s work capacity
- Work in Progress Limits: protect your team’s capacity by seeing when there’s too much work in a given status
FAQs About Cycle Time Calculation
You can’t discuss cycle time without bringing in its friends, takt time and lead time, into the picture. But these terms can lead to some confusion too.
So let’s break down what takt time and lead time mean in the context of cycle time.
1. What’s the difference between cycle time, takt time, and lead time?
While cycle time, takt time, and lead time are all flow metrics to measure productivity, they slightly differ from each other.
But for a brief read-through, let’s use Mr. Flintstone’s example again to help us understand these concepts.
A. What is takt time?
Takt time is the required rate of work to meet customer demand. It’s how long a set up should take to deliver one finished good, or one unit, to meet overall customer demand and keep up the cash flow.
Fred’s boss assigns him a target: prepare meals for 100 customers every day. Fred works 8 hours a day.
This means Fred will need to prepare 100 meals in 8 hours.
Here, his takt time = number of meals to be prepared every hour.
Or, takt time = 8/100 = 0.08 hours per meal.
Approximately 5 minutes to prepare a meal.
B. What is lead time?
Lead time is the time spent from receiving the customer order (start date) to its final delivery (end date).
From the customer’s perspective, lead time begins as soon as they place the purchase order, continues through the manufacturing process, and ends with the final delivery of the finished product.
In Fred’s case, lead time begins when his boss receives the order for a meal and ends after Fred finishes preparing the dish.
Lead time = date of completing a customer order (End date) – date of receiving a customer order (Start date).
Ultimately, these three metrics help measure project success and customer satisfaction easily.
2. How do cycle time and takt time work together?
To understand this, let’s compare Fred’s cycle time with the customer demand by bringing in takt time.
Fred’s boss is under pressure to increase productivity and now expects everyone to cook for at least 200 customers a day.
Based on our previous calculation, Fred’s current rate of work of 15 customers per hour (at cycle time 4 minutes per meal) is not enough to meet this customer demand.
His new required rate of work or takt time will need to be = 6.5/200 = 0.032 hours per meal.
Or approximately 2 minutes per meal.
Fred will now need to reduce his cycle time from 4 minutes to 2 minutes. He can do this by:
- Hiring handy assistants (dinosaur chefs? But no T-rex.)
- Working longer hours to meet daily targets (no more bowling with Barney.)
- Reducing downtime (shorter lunches? Yabba dabba nooo!)
On the other hand, if the demand (and the takt time) was lower, Fred could save more time or produce more results.
And now that he can calculate his cycle time, he can adjust his performance to keep up customer satisfaction levels.
Cycle time is more than just a metric to calculate how much you’re producing. In the long run, it’ll also help you ensure that you deliver high-quality products and services every time.
And now that you know its formula, you can track it too.
We just hope you’re not using a paper and pen for the calculation. Even Fred Flintstone won’t approve of that!
Instead, why don’t you try ClickUp?
It has a user-friendly cycle time widget along with a host of other features to support end-to-end project management. You’ll never need another tool to stay on top of your projects!
Get ClickUp for free and give your clients a chance to go:
Erica is ClickUp’s Senior Content Manager and professional beach bum. She spends her days creating emails, blogs, landing pages, and more to help people increase their productivity so they can save one day every week to do more of what they love.