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Line Balancing

Calculating Cycle Time and Takt Time

It’s a fact that people get more work done if there are fewer interruptions. In a production environment, the same principle applies. A production process that’s free from interruptions, delays, and backlogs — from beginning to end — is said to have a good “flow.”

The goal is to create continuous flow — ensuring that everyone receives the right work, in the correct quantity, at the right time.

The Lean method for achieving continuous flow is known as line balancing. In a balanced line, work is distributed evenly across the line. This means each employee completes the same amount of work in roughly the same amount of time, which establishes a continuous workflow.

The process

Line balancing is a process consisting of several steps.

You start the line balancing process by calculating cycle time. Cycle time is the time it takes an operator to complete a task and move a product or component to the next operator in line. When calculating cycle time, explain to operators what you’ll be doing and why, then observe and time their actions.

One way you can capture this data is with a cycle time worksheet. You enter operator names in one column, task descriptions in another column, and sample times in a third column. Consider capturing video footage to record what each operator does and how long it takes them.

Cycle time

From the sample times you observe, you can extract the key data you’ll use next.

You use the most frequent time as a baseline from which to improve the time to low repeatable, if possible. The most frequent time is also used to calculate the total cycle time for the tasks in the process.

You use the high time to isolate potentially recurring problems in the process.
You use the low repeatable times to set realistic target times for each task.
Next, you calculate the total cycle time by adding up the most frequent time values for each task.

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