Throughput (business)

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Throughput is rate at which a product is moved through a production process and is consumed by the end-user, usually measured in the form of sales or use statistics. The goal of most organizations is to minimize the investment in inputs as well as operating expenses while increasing throughput of its production systems. Successful organizations which seek to gain market share strive to match throughput to the rate of market demand of its products. [1]



In the business management theory of constraints, throughput is the rate at which a system achieves its goal. Oftentimes, this is monetary revenue and is in contrast to output, which is inventory that may be sold or stored in a warehouse. In this case, throughput is measured by revenue received (or not) at the point of sale—exactly the right time. Output that becomes part of the inventory in a warehouse may mislead investors or others about the organizations condition by inflating the apparent value of its assets. The theory of constraints and throughput accounting explicitly avoid that trap.

Throughput can be best described as the rate at which a system generates its products or services per unit of time. Businesses often measure their throughput using a mathematical equation known as Little's law, which is related to inventories and process time: time to fully process a single product.

Basic formula

Using Little's Law, one can calculate throughput with the equation:


If you solve for R, you will get:

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Throughput accounting

Throughput accounting (TA) is a principle-based and simplified management accounting approach that provides managers with decision support information for enterprise profitability improvement. TA is relatively new in management accounting. It is an approach that identifies factors that limit an organization from reaching its goal, and then focuses on simple measures that drive behavior in key areas towards reaching organizational goals. TA was proposed by Eliyahu M. Goldratt as an alternative to traditional cost accounting. As such, Throughput Accounting is neither cost accounting nor costing because it is cash focused and does not allocate all costs to products and services sold or provided by an enterprise. Considering the laws of variation, only costs that vary totally with units of output e.g. raw materials, are allocated to products and services which are deducted from sales to determine Throughput. Throughput Accounting is a management accounting technique used as the performance measure in the Theory of Constraints (TOC). It is the business intelligence used for maximizing profits, however, unlike cost accounting that primarily focuses on 'cutting costs' and reducing expenses to make a profit, Throughput Accounting primarily focuses on generating more throughput. Conceptually, Throughput Accounting seeks to increase the speed or rate at which throughput is generated by products and services with respect to an organization's constraint, whether the constraint is internal or external to the organization. Throughput Accounting is the only management accounting methodology that considers constraints as factors limiting the performance of organizations.

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Theory of constraints (TOC) is an engineering management technique used to evaluate a manageable procedure, identifying the largest constraint (bottleneck) and strategizing to reduce task time and maximise profit. It assists in determining what to change, when to change it, and how to cause the change. The theory was established by Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt through his 1984 bestselling novel The Goal. Since this time, TOC has continued to develop and evolve and is a primary management tool in the engineering industry. When Applying TOC, powerful tools are used to determine the constraint and reduce its effect on the procedure, including:


  1. "What is 'Throughput'". . Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  2. "The Relationship Between Cycle Time and WIP". Retrieved 15 November 2016.

Further reading