What is Cycle Time?

Cycle time can be defined as the amount of actual work time needed to complete one task. Any sort of downtime is excluded from cycle time.

The Benefits of Cycle Time

Staying ahead of the competition – You can outpace your competition by keeping a close eye on your cycle time and making adjustments to stay ahead of the curve.

Higher accuracy in project scoping – By understanding your cycle time, you can give more accurate estimates to your customers.

Identification of needed improvements – By looking at your cycle time, you can potentially spot inefficiencies that can be improved upon.

Standardization – With a standardized cycle time, your production rate is predictable and planned around easily.

How to Calculate Cycle Time

With cycle time, a necessary factor is to exclude all downtime and extraneous activity that is not part of the actual work time needed to complete a task. Once you exclude these things from production time, you have net production time (NPT). Then, to calculate cycle time, you will divide net production time by the number of units produced.

Cycle time = NPT / number of units produced

What is Throughput?

In manufacturing, throughput is the amount of time that it takes a product to move through certain processes. Throughput time involves several intervals. These are the processing interval, the inspection interval, the move interval, and the queue interval.

Throughput is also often seen as simply the amount of goods that are produced during an amount of time.

The Benefits of Throughput

Downtime reduction – Less downtime creates the opportunity for more throughput, which means a greater quantity of sellable product if the demand is there.

Greater profitability – Better throughput means meeting set quotas and increasing profit

Competitive advantage – Having better throughput than the other options available to a customer puts you at a competitive advantage

Efficiency – Higher throughput means that your machines are working as near capacity as possible, which shows that time is being used more efficiently.

Waste reduction – Having better throughput cuts down on waste reduction through less downtime, less machine idling, and proper utilization of resources.

How to Calculate Throughput Time

Throughput time is calculated by taking the sum of all interval times and dividing it by the number of units produced.

Throughput time = (processing + inspection + move + queue) / number of units produced

Cycle Time vs Throughput Time: What’s the Difference?

Cycle time and throughput Time are definitely related, but there are a couple of key differences. Cycle time is measuring the work time from start to finish while Throughput is measuring the time in each process. Also, throughput Time does include queue time and that sort of factor would be excluded from Cycle time as it is an amount of time that work is not actually occurring.

You can generally use the two concepts interchangeably, except that they do focus on slightly different aspects of efficiency in production.

Cycle Time vs Throughput Time: Who would use A and/or B?

Both Cycle time and throughput time can be used by the same audience, they are just coming from a slightly different perspective. Throughput time is coming from the angle of the various individual intervals in production processes added up, while Cycle time is simply looking at the total time of a cycle as a whole.

Choosing Between Cycle Time and Throughput Time: Real World Scenarios

In a manufacturing plant, you would likely use cycle time until you run into issues with the cycle time not satisfactorily meeting quotas. It may then be necessary to break down the time into the individual intervals that make up Throughput Time to see where improvements could be made.

First, you will look at the time it takes for the raw materials to be made into the product. Next, you will look at the amount of time it takes for the inspection process. Then, you will examine the amount of time it takes to move the product from one facility to another or even from workstation to workstation. Finally, you will look at the amount of time it takes for the product to shift from interval to interval.

Being able to make improvements to the intervals that make up throughput time will generally also improve the cycle time if an improvement is made on any interval other than the queue time.


Cycle time and throughput time are both essential parts of efficiency in production. You can generally use them interchangeably, as long as you bear in mind that queue time is not figured into cycle time.

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