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Machine cycle time seems like a simple concept, but in actual application, there are several complicating factors.
In a manual machine, the operator’s cycle time and the machine’s cycle time overlap. But when a machine is automated, the operator is separated from the the machine. This separation is enabled by a concept known as jidoka, often called ‘autonomation’ or automation with a human touch.
With automatic machines, a person is freed up to do additional tasks, or can operate multiple machines. In situations where a person is working with automated machines, the term ‘cycle time‘ is often not specific enough. A person hearing it might not know if the speaker was referring to the time the machine takes, or the time the person spends on the process. Machine cycle time provides more clarity.
Machine cycle time can also be misleading when batches are involved. Generally, batches are the result of long setup times. Machine cycle time, or the time per part, often neglects the setup time involved. When it is includes, a common practice is to amortize the time of the setup to the individual part times. Of course, this means that the perceived cost of the parts becomes dependent on the size of the batch. It provides an accounting incentive to run large batches, even though there are numerous other costs that batching increases.