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Lead Time Vs. Cycle Time: What’s the Difference?

Lead Time Vs. Cycle Time What's the Difference

When it comes to manufacturing and project management, you need to understand two important time metrics: lead time and cycle time. Both of these metrics are important, but they measure different things. 

This article will go over the differences and similarities between lead time and cycle time and what they mean for your business. We’ll also share some tips on how to manage both cycle time and lead time in your project management solution to achieve better results!


What is Lead Time & Cycle Time?

In a nutshell, cycle time measures the time it takes to make a product, while lead time measures the time between the customer order and fulfillment of that order. Lead time is usually longer than cycle time because the latter fits into the timeline of lead time. Reviewing Scrum methodologies, cycle time is the equivalent of a sprint while lead time is the equivalent of a marathon.

Regardless, Both cycle time and lead time are important time metrics in manufacturing. They’re important strategic tools for project management. Project managers and team leaders need to understand their differences and similarities to harness their power fully.


Difference Between Lead Time and Cycle Time

As said earlier, both these metrics have unique differences that set them apart from each other. This section will break down the difference between lead time and cycle time to further understand how they’re used in manufacturing and project management. 

Cycle Time

Cycle time covers the amount of time it takes for a developer or team to complete a project. It’s the time between when the work is in progress and when it finishes. Cycle time officially starts when the developer places an item in the project management software as “In Progress” and ends when marked as “Done.”

For example, when a marketing team builds a content management campaign for social media, the cycle time starts when team members start creating the actual content.

Measuring cycle time lets you identify areas of concern that need to be addressed. Resolving these issues will improve your team’s efficiency. On the other hand, a high cycle time might mean some inefficiencies in your process that need to be fixed. In general, you want to aim for a shorter cycle time to get your product out to market faster.

Lead Time

On the other hand, lead time is the time it takes for a single product to be created and added to the backlog when shipped. It’s typically the time taken for one project to be completed and sent to the customer. Using a Kanban board as an example, the lead time starts when an item is added to the “To-Do” list.

Using the marketing example above, the lead time will end once all the content needed is published on its designated social media platform. By measuring lead time, you can determine the number of items flowing into your queue and how long it takes for your team to check them off the list. Focus on the lead time when testing the system efficiency instead of the overall development process.

To put it simply, lead time refers to the actual time that has already passed, while cycle time refers to the time it would take. For that reason, both metrics are not easily comparable.


The Similarities Between Lead Time & Cycle Time

While some key differences set lead time and cycle time apart, there are also some similarities between the two:

  • First, lead time and cycle time both measure the amount it takes a product to get from a starting point to an end point—it can be measured in minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months. While those points are different for each metric, they represent a quantifiable period, which makes them similar.
  • Both lead time and cycle time also have similar purposes: if those measurements are consistent, developers can achieve business continuity. If not, they may need to adjust to better plan, execute and complete projects.
  • Both lead time and cycle time offers a bird’s eye view of a team’s efficiency in executing and accomplishing their processes. When examined, these values create a simultaneously accurate image of how a company uses its time when monitored and measured properly.
  • Using data from lead and time cycles, project managers can create accurate and realistic benchmarks. They can make the necessary adjustments and weigh the results to see if progress or improvements have been made.
  • Lead time and cycle time also represent effort vs. output. Not all effort results in progress, and not all output leads to good outcomes. A team may be very efficient in their cycle time (i.e., they get a lot done in a short amount of time), but if their lead time is very long, it might not be worth the effort.
  • On the other hand, a team may have a very short lead time, but if their cycle time is very long, it might not be sustainable in the long run.


Benefits of Calculating Lead Time and Cycle Time

Calculating lead time and cycle time offers the following benefits:

  • Help you understand the dynamics of your workflow: By understanding the difference between lead time and cycle time, you can better understand your workflow. This will allow you to optimize your processes and make more informed decisions.
  • Improve transparency and communication: Lead time and cycle time offer valuable insights that can be used to improve communication between team members. By sharing this information with everyone on the team, you can improve transparency and ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Increase efficiency: One of the main goals of calculating lead time and cycle time is to increase efficiency. By understanding where bottlenecks occur, you can make the necessary changes to reduce or eliminate them.
  • Make better decisions: Lead time and cycle time data can be used to make better decisions about allocating resources and planning projects. By understanding where your team is spending most of their time, you can make better decisions about where to focus your efforts.


Use DataMyte to Manage Time Metrics!

Understanding both cycle time and lead time metrics will ensure you’re always keeping track of your team’s progress. It will also provide important insight into picking up the pace and making sure your customers are happy and satisfied. To help you determine cycle time and lead time, you’ll need the right platform to make it happen—that’s why you should use DataMyte and its Digital Clipboard.

The DataMyte Digital Clipboard is a workflow automation software that lets you create, collect, and analyze data from your manufacturing process. With the DataMyte Digital Clipboard, you can easily track and manage both cycle time and lead time data.

Our Digital Clipboard will help you create workflows that you can use to collect data on your cycle and lead times. You can also use our platform to create reports and visualizations that will help you understand your data.

Finally, you can create an app that will let you calculate cycle time and lead time to take full advantage of these time metrics in further improving your manufacturing process.

If you’re looking for a way to manage your time cycles and lead times, look no further than the DataMyte Digital Clipboard! Visit our website to learn more.



The benefits of controlling and reducing both lead and cycle time are essential to any organization’s success. Knowledge in harnessing these time metrics will prove useful towards improving your overall manufacturing process and creating a more efficient workflow. So make sure you utilize these metrics to full effect by using DataMyte’s Digital Clipboard. Get started today!



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