Operator cycle time is the time it takes an operator to do one unit of his or her prescribed work from start to finish. Note that this is elapsed time. The clock starts when the operator begins his work, and ends when he or she is ready to start the next unit, regardless of whether it has arrived yet. Operator cycle time will include waiting time within the process (i.e. standing by a machine, or waiting for a testing sequence to complete.) The actual time an operator is working, meaning that waiting is not included, is commonly referred to as processing time or touch time.
In most cases, operator cycle time will the same as the more general term, “cycle time.” The main difference is that if the total cycle finishes with a machine running on its own while the operator is ready for the next unit, operator cycle time will be shorter than cycle time.
The structured nature of Lean operations and the focus on productivity makes time a prominent concept. With numerous terms related to time, though, it can be confusing to keep track of them all. For a detailed description of all the time-related Lean terms, see our article “It’s About Time.”