Manufacturing throughput time: fast-forwarding production
Throughput time breaks down manufacturing processes into bitesize chunks. Make sense of it and produce faster without compromising the quality of your product.
Last updated: 03.03.2022
Makers like the team at “Framed” know how important it is to keep track of their manufacturing processes from all angles. There’s plenty of ways to do so – throughput time is one of the tried and tested.
“Time is of the essence”.
Or in other words, the faster things get done, the more time we have to spend on what we want.
And in most cases in life, that means finding out which areas you’re a little bit slow on so that you can give them a little push.
Manufacturing is no different.
We all know that making your own products is a time-consuming affair.
That’s why tracking how long it takes for each of your productions to be completed is a great way to improve your efficiency and order fulfillment cycle time.
There’s a metric in the maker’s world that can help here:
Throughput time is the amount of time it takes for you to get a product made, from the moment you start making it, to the moment it lands back in your inventory ready to get shipped out.
Here’s a quick calculation for a manufacturer who produces 100 items across 8 hours:
100 / 8 = 12.5
So, if you increase production to produce 20 more items, your throughput rate will be 15, a 20% increase in item output.
This calculation is essential for getting more control over your production and increasing your ROI.
Every business is going to be working on a different scale but getting to know this number intimately is a great way of plotting how you’re doing in your day-to-day operations.
Because once you have a rundown of where you’re moving like snail-like, you can start to channel your inner cheetah and speed up the workshop.
Set targets and aim high.
But before you do, let’s get to know a bit more about how this magic metric works…
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What is throughput time?
Throughput is the rate at which an item takes from manufacturing order coming in, to the completion of production.
For example, if we were a candle maker, we could look at one of our products manufacturing processes and calculate that we make 3 candles an hour.
But if you inverse that to find out how long it takes for just one candle then you get throughput time.
So here it would be:
60 mins / 3 candles = 20 mins per candle
Throughput definition is basically the amount of time it takes for one unit of a product to be made, from the start to the finish of manufacturing.
Cycle time vs throughput time
Before landing here you might have heard the terms cycle time and throughput time used interchangeably.
So, what is the difference between throughput time and cycle time?
Well here’s a surprise for you – they are the same thing!
It’s mainly a matter of preference which you decide to use, depending on the context it can be useful to use both.
The key point to remember is that this is the amount of time it takes for each of your products to be made from start to finish.
From the moment the manufacturing order comes in, to the moment the finished product is in your stock room ready for shipping.
You got one candle out there that flies off the shelves.
It’s called the Scorpio candle because it’s shaped like a scorpion and has been known to smell especially good to those born under the Scorpio sign.
Sadly though, it often comes up short in stock because it takes so long to produce.
Seems like a good place to test out throughput time:
1. Let’s starts with seeing how long the processing takes.
In this world – wax melting, candle forming, and wicking are the main processes.
And the total time taken for the production processes is 360 minutes.
2. Next is inspection.
Thankfully, that is rather simple. Just got to check if the candles are all the right shape and packed correctly – that takes 5 minutes a candle.
3. Moving the candles around when they are raw materials is a little bit complex though.
They get done in batches but are being carried one by one, so the time taken here adds up to 60 mins a candle.
4. As for queueing, there is a fair amount of time taken for the wax to melt and wait for the staff to come back from lunch break. So, we got around 120 mins there on average.
Putting it all together this is what we get:
Throughput time = (360 + 5 + 60 + 120) / Candle or 545 minutes per Candle
Now that might seem like a lot of time, but you have to remember that you are going to be making more than one candle at a time.
This metric gives you an idea of how you could reduce the time taken for manufacturing on a micro-scale and see in detail where the improvements can be made.
That’s how you can begin to reduce throughput time and make your calculations count in the workshop.
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So, that’s a question, how do we actually reduce this magic number?
Well, the great thing is that if you’ve already done the breakdown, then you’ve done half the work.
Because you now have the four segments upon which you can start to analyze your manufacturing workflow.
Remember Processing, Inspection, Moving, and Queueing.
Let’s look at the example before so we can get an idea of where we could improve.
Looking at the first segment of processing is often the most technical.
Your processes are difficult things to change and in the case of candle making the ways to change would be to improve the machinery, the tools, and the skills of your workers.
Do some research into your product and see how competitors are doing it. Maybe there’s a more efficient way.
It’s too easy to think you can just skimp out on this step.
It’s also too easy for things to go wrong in your manufacturing, and the last thing you want is for customers to get back to you saying your products are faulty or misshapen.
Candles are a fairly easy thing to check. So, time-wise you might think there’s little that can be done.
But you can always try to inspect in bigger batches or make sure that you do the inspections in one place so that there isn’t stock constantly being moved around.
There’s a whole load of inspection equipment out there too, to help you get more accurate in your detective work.
It’s inevitable that materials and products will have to move around.
That doesn’t mean that changes can’t be made.
In our candle example, everything is moved by hand, which of course slows moving down. But what about using trolleys to move the batches?
Certainly, it would be an added expense, but the amount of time saved would quickly make up for it. As long as the resources are there, and you haven’t reached the limits of light speed, the options for reducing moving time are always available too.
Waiting is one of the most boring and necessary evils of life. There’s a whole play based on that concept called Waiting for Godot if you want to check it out.
But one of the great things about running a manufacturing business is that there’s always something to do. So, reducing queueing can be more about what else you can fit in that time to reduce the overall throughput time.
For example, you could make the candle holders at the same time as the wax is melting.
Half the queueing, half the time.
Final thoughts on throughput time
Throughput time is one of those metrics that every maker can make use of.
It doesn’t matter if you produce feather hats, wooden scissors, or even lipstick – all of them will have room for improvement.
The point here is to reduce the horror of your production into bitesize chunks which you can analyze from afar, before getting your hands dirty and making those vital time-sensitive modifications.