What is cycle time?

Cycle time is the time it takes to complete a project or process from start to finish. It can be measured in hours, days, weeks, months, or years. It's used to measure the efficiency of a process and improve its performance over time.

How is cycle time measured?

Cycle time is measured in days, weeks, months, and years. It can be tracked either manually or electronically. Some companies track cycle time on a project level, while others use it to measure their overall company performance.

How is cycle time calculated?

Cycle time is calculated by dividing the time it takes to complete a project by the number of completed projects. So, the cycle time formula is:

Cycle time


(Net production time)   ÷

Produced units

Cycle time can be calculated as a percentage by dividing the sum of all activity times by their cumulative duration (for example: 100/500 = 0.2). In this example, we calculate that each task takes 20% of our total cycle time, which means that if we could reduce this value, we could also reduce our overall cycle time.

Who tracks cycle time?

Cycle time is helpful for companies with many projects, products, services, and industries. It can be used for:

  • Companies with multiple projects going on at once (such as construction firms)
  • Product-based businesses where different product lines have different lifecycles (such as car manufacturers)

Why is cycle time tracked?

Cycle time offers valuable information to benefit your business and processes. It’s a key metric because it helps you understand how long it takes to complete a project. It also enables you to identify bottlenecks in your process and opportunities for improvement, for example:

If one step in your process takes longer than expected, then that can cause problems for other steps later. For example, suppose you're producing copper wire and need raw materials from another department before starting production. That could be considered a bottleneck because there would be no way to start making any wire until those materials arrive at your facility (or until someone manually brings them over).

Suppose several steps are involved in completing an order, but only one has a high cycle time compared with others. In that case, there may be ways to speed up this particular step without compromising quality or increasing costs elsewhere in the system.

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What are the benefits of tracking cycle time?

  • It helps you understand how long it takes to complete a project. From here, you can put new processes in place to reduce the cycle time or increase the number of things that can be done in a given amount of time (i.e., throughput).
  • It helps you identify bottlenecks in your process so they can be removed.
  • Helps keep projects within budget by avoiding overspending on labor or materials due to unexpected delays caused by bottlenecks or other unforeseen circumstances like equipment failure, weather events, etc.

Cycle time is an important metric because it helps you understand how long it takes to complete a project

As you can see, cycle time is an important metric to track. It helps you understand how long it takes to complete a project and what steps are involved in that process. The formula for calculating cycle time is relatively simple, but it can be challenging to calculate in practice because of all the variables involved. However, tracking how long each step takes, on average, gives you a better idea of how long your projects will take overall.

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