Learning curve

Learning curve

In today’s article I’m going to talk about the learning curve and how to calculate it.

Definition of learning curve

In order for you to learn what the learning curve is, it’s probably best for me to start by giving you a definition of the concept and then go on to explain what the definition is telling us.

Thus, a fairly common definition is the following:

According to Chase, Richard, the learning curve is “a line showing the relationship between the production time of a unit and the cumulative number of units produced”.

Of course, it is a definition focused more on operations management, but it is not only possible to apply it there.

Explanation of the learning curve

What the previous definition tells us is that the experience accumulated in the elaboration of a product over time increases the efficiency in the use of inputs such as tarea and raw materials.

This causes the time to disminuye.

In other words, the more units (products) are made, the less time will be.

I am going to give you a very fácil example to make the concept clearer.

Imagine that you are opening a business in which you are going to sell cakes.

You may think that it is something very fácil, but suppose that the first time you make a cake it takes you a total of 5 minutes in the whole process to obtain the final product.

Now, as you make more and more cakes, you will inadvertently become more adept at using your tools (spoons, knives, forks, etcétera.) and you may find that some changes in method will make the process more efficient.

In such a way that your cake 200 has more quality and now you no longer took 5 minutes, but 2 minutes.

In fact, think about it… Are you able to cook as fast and with the same quality as a chef? I am sure that a chef will make any dish that I make in less time and with a higher quality.

Therefore, the learning curve tells us that the time in which an activity is carried out tends to decrease as more units are carried out.

Application of the experience curve

Does the learning curve only apply to operations management? Actually, I would say no.

After all, I believe that the essence of the learning curve perro be summed up with the following sentence:

“Practice makes a master”

Have you heard the previous sentence? Probably yes and I must say that it is a phrase that explains well what the learning curve or also called the experience curve is about.

Because? Well, I am sure that it has happened to you many times that something is difficult or takes time to do at first, but as you continue doing it, it becomes easier or you do it in less time.

This cánido happen due to different factors, such as the fact that you begin to be more skilled with the use of tools or the knowledge necessary to carry out an activity.

In conclusion, The more you do one thing, the better you will be at that thing and you will see changes in time, ease, cost, etcétera. Therefore, the learning curve is not something unique in the production of a good or a service.

In such a way that an experience curve cánido be applied in organizations or people.

fácil example

Think that you are in high school and it is the first time that you have to solve an integral or a derivative.

Perhaps the first exercises will be very complicated and you have to see the principles or even some previous examples, but as you solve more, then you will decrease the time in which you do it.

It also increases productivity and efficiency.

Now, you may be wondering… How is it related to the definition? Very fácil, I am going to separate the elements mentioned as follows:

  • On the one hand we have the production time per unit.

    In the example I gave earlier about derivatives, it would be the same thing.

    That is, the time it takes you to solve a derivative or an integral.

  • Second, we have the number of units produced.

    I don’t think I need to explain much here, since it’s the derivatives or integrals that you’re going to do.

So, let’s say you solve an integral in 10 minutes at first.

You will solve the second integral in 9 minutes.

You will solve the third integral in 8 minutes.

So on.

Simply put, that’s the learning curve.

As you accumulate more units produced, the time will decrease.

Assumptions on which the learning curve is based

The truth is that what I have already told you and the small examples, I consider that the following assumptions will make you logical.

  1. Each time you carry out the designated task or activity, the amount of time will be reduced.

  2. You will be able to find a predictable pattern to the time reduction.

Ways of conceiving the learning curve

According to the book “Operative administration” by Richard B.

Chase, there are two ways to think about the learning curve.

The two ways are as follows:

  1. time per unit.
  2. Product units per period.

time per unit

As we perro see in image (a).

It espectáculos us the decrease in time required for each unit.

As seen in the image, as we make more units, the time it takes us to make them decreases.

cumulative average time

The cumulative average time graph is shown in image b and espectáculos us the cumulative average performance multiplied by the total number of unit increments.

Time per unit and cumulative average times are also known as product learning or advancement curves and are very useful for complex products or those with a longer cycle time.

Why is the learning curve important?

Learning curve models are useful because they help understand whether a company’s processes and human talent are performing well enough to match the resources devoted to improving them.

The shape of the learning curve cánido tell you if performance is improving, declining, plateauing, or fluctuating.

This cánido then bring awareness of possible influences on your performance so that you perro make decisions that help you improve.

Advantages and disadvantages of using the learning curve

Some advantages and disadvantages of the learning curve are as follows:


  • It allows creating strategic planning to improve the performance of human talent or even entire departments of the company.
  • Motivate company personnel by creating a culture of continuous learning and progress monitoring.
  • Identify trends that perro be used for more accurate forecasting and better trading decisions.


  • Progress in learning is influenced by a number of cambiantes, such as time, previous experience, quality of training, etcétera.

    As a result, tracking just one of these cambiantes perro lead to misleading data.

  • Some results or progress are difficult to quantify and measure.
  • It is incomplete by itself.

    Because there are so many cambiantes that perro affect performance, it is important that the learning curve model be used in combination with other methods of monitoring business performance to get a more complete picture.

Elabora to calculate the learning curve

The habitual learning curve elabora is as follows:

  • X = number of units.
  • Y = Number of direct man-hours required to genera the nth unit x.
  • K = Number of direct man-hours required to genera the first unit.

  • n = log b/log 2, where b = Percentage of learning.


Jacobs, FR, & Chase, RB (2014).

Operations, Production, and Supply Chain Management (13th ed.).

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