Cycle Time Definition

There are a number of definitions for Cycle Time, the most widely applied definition is as follows:


“Cycle Time is the total time between process commencement and process completion.”


Note: Cycle Time is often interchanged with Lead Time. Lead Time tends to be related to the total time between a customer request which drives process commencement and product or service delivery to the customer after process completion. However, in the vast majority of situations there are no negative consequences associated with interchanging the terminology provided all involved in a related cycle time analysis have similar understandings and use consistent methods of measurement and reporting.

Cycle Time Definition

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In the example shown there are two individual processes within a production or service flow. The overall process commences with the customer placing an order, then process #1 commences. Within this individual process there may be times of activity and waiting times. The product or service then completes process #1, there is a waiting time, until process #2 commences. Again there may be periods of activity and waiting. Finally at the end of process #2, the product or service is complete and may go into some waiting area (e.g. finished goods inventory, customer to be phoned, etc..) until the product or service is delivered to the customer.

For each of these individual processes and for the entire process the cycle times and lead times as commonly applied are shown.

The definition of cycle time is entirely at the discretion of those utilizing cycle time to understand a process and to drive improvement. The key pre-requisite however, is that there is a common understanding and method of measurement applied within an organization or within the project team tasked with improving cycle times.

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