Customer Questions

Peak Academy teaches takt time during its weeklong Black Belt training. In my two years with the program, this concept still remains one of the most difficult for participants to grasp. It’s a relatively simple calculation, but highly useful and takes some explanation to understand its true significance.

Takt time equals the ‘time available to work’ divided by ‘customer demand’. Let’s discuss those two for a moment. ‘Time available to work’ is how much of your day/week/month/year you plan on being, well, available to work, so lunch breaks, planned outages, etc. don’t factor in to this number. ‘Customer demand’ is the number of customers, widgets, orders, etc. that come in during that same period (day/week/month/year).

Takt Time

So, if I have 7.5 hours a day that I’m available to work, and I receive 75 emails during the day, I need to respond to one email every 6 minutes (7.5 hours * 60 min/hr / 75). That’s my takt time.

What does this really mean? We can think of takt time as the pacemaker for the process. Takt time tells us the rate we need to work in order to meet customer demand. In other words, how quickly we should work so that customers aren’t waiting. In another sense, takt time is the customer demand rate, the rate at which customers are demanding your product or service.

Think of your process as a series of turnstiles, one right after the other, with each turnstile representing a step in the process. A customer enters through the first turnstile, then goes through the second, then the third, and so on until the final turnstile, when they (finally) get what they wanted. What happens when the third turnstile turns too slowly? A bottleneck appears at the third turnstile, and we see customers waiting to move on. What happens if the fourth turnstile moves too quickly? A bottleneck appears at the fifth turnstile, and again, customers wait.

Turnstiles

What does good look like with this series of turnstiles? Each turnstile turns at the same rate as the first turnstile, the original one through which the customer entered, and customers are exiting this series of turnstiles at the same rate that they are entering it. The rate at which the first turnstile turns, and the rate at which all other turnstiles strive towards, is our takt time.

The morale of the story is: takt time is not about you. It’s not about how fast you do work, or the rate at which you currently finish providing services. It’s about the customer. One of the goals in process improvement is to provide products and services to customers on-demand; takt time helps us get there.

In my next posts, I’ll talk about making takt time work for you and balancing workloads.

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