Takt time is defined as the demand divided by the time available to produce it. Unlike the other lean principles ‘Takt’ is not Japanese but rather German, meaning ‘rhythm’. By analysing every process you can identify the demand on your resource and also identify when it must be completed. By dividing the two you are able to achieve the Takt or ‘rhythm’ that must be achieved to finish the process on time.

In the last 20 years Lean has seen huge growth as a way of optimizing organizations business processes – focusing on value add activity and removing wasteful processes and focusing on customer requirements. It’s success in manufacturing has seen it expand into many other business sectors and in particular move beyond the production line and move into office and administrative functions.

Takt time was typically used to establish the “drum beat” of the production line in order to satisfy demand – however it can be put to equally good use when establishing or optimizing office processes. For example consider the processing of invoices, there is usually a set number to produce, they must be completed in a certain time and require processing resource (staff and materials). Not too dissimilar to that of a typical production line.

One of the key difficulties with establishing takt time is variation in demand which can lead to inefficiencies. If too many invoices are raised they may be done inaccurately due to the pressure, if too little are raised then the member of staff will have inefficient down time.
To overcome this it is important to analyse any peaks and troughs in demand throughout the year and base your Takt time at around these figures. This will allow sufficient flexibility but in reality, people do not work at 100% efficiency, and there may be unforeseen stoppages that need to be accounted for, staff sickness or holiday for example. To account for this it is also important to set up the Takt time to run proportionately faster than 100%.

Once Takt time has been identified the business must also have ways of measuring it to ensure complete compliance. If the invoice team has to achieve 10 invoice raises per hour then providing a simple pigeon hole system, split into hour slots in which raised invoices are placed can easily show any lulls during the day that are unaccounted for.

Takt time is most useful when planning lean as it allows easy identification of the time required for every office process and procedure. By combining Takt time with standard work principles, management can also re-allocate the workforce if demand on a process is so high that it cannot be completed with the current allocation of manpower and vice-versa.

There are four keys to Takt Time:
1. It acknowledges demand and displays it easily for people to understand.
2. When combined with a production schedule it creates flexibility throughout the year for the demand peaks and troughs.
3. It helps identify resource levels
4. It can improve the flow of the business, focusing resource on the “drum beat” and scheduling activity around it.

The benefits that measuring Takt time can bring to an office environment are exponential but most importantly of all it gives management a volume control for their office procedures and can help in easily identifying ‘dead time’

Measuring takt time is one of the first steps in analyzing your business processes – knowing what you need to produce and how often can help significantly when establishing the company “as is” – Of course if a business was in the same situation as our simple example it would also be important to identify the cause of the peaks and troughs and management must attempt to iron them out as much as possible. I.e. invoice consolidation for customers, the introduction of electronic measures etc.

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