Factory performance: how to level up your game

It’s surprising just how much is wasted in manufacturing. From literal waste to squandered costs, most factories are fairly porous operations. Plug a few leaks in your processes and you can see significant growth. So, how can you assess your current performance and improve on it sustainably?  In this blog, we’ll cover: Let’s dig in!

What’s factory performance?

It’s absolutely essential to get a handle on how well your factory’s performing and where you can make improvements.. First, get an idea of how your factory is performing overall. Your OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) is a good measure to start with. It’s designed to give you a big-picture view of productivity and how close you are to peak efficiency. You get your OEE by first determining the ideal time you could produce your product in without obstacle or limitation versus your planned production time. This is the absolute maximum your factory could be producing. Next, look at the figures in reality. How many units are you likely to produce if nothing changes? Comparing these numbers as a percentage tells you how efficient your production line is. Now, you can take a look at specific metrics across your lines. Here’s a list to get you started:
  • Production rate
  • Machine efficiency
  • Machine downtime
  • Tool change time
Work out where you’re losing time and productivity, and you’re one step closer to achieving operational efficiency across your whole organisation.

Why is factory performance important? 

There are always factors beyond your control influencing the profitability of your factory.  Global economic conditions, consumer demand, labour crises, competition; all these elements make turning a profit challenging. That’s why you need to ensure everything within your control is under your control. Standing still is one thing in manufacturing, but it’s entirely another to lose sight of how you’re performing. The former risks your profitability; the latter risks your viability. At the very least, you need to be aware of the weaknesses and strengths of your operation. The question of profitability, however, brings opportunity. Think of what your factory performance, through the metrics listed above, might mean for your bottom line. Then consider what a 1% improvement across the board might mean. Manufacturing is a margins game, so any you can expand in-house will be of huge benefit.

What are the consequences of bad factory performance? 

Your factory relies on a chain of interdependent processes. If one part stops, it affects the next, and so on.  Over time, these effects multiply and begin to be felt further and further along the process until they reach the consumer. A slightly suboptimal production metric might not mean much right now, but if left unaddressed, it could have a substantial effect later. So you have to look at lost productivity as a factory cost. Consider tool change time. On a day-to-day level, a higher-than-average number might not be noticed. Over the course of a year, however, this could result in a substantial loss in productivity, all while your fixed costs and overheads remain the same or increase. Eventually, discrepancies like these affect your customers through avoidable price increases, making you less competitive. We say this time and again: Your factory needs to perform as well as it can. Anything within your control must be monitored, managed, and optimised to make that a reality. So how can you do it?

How to achieve good factory performance

At the top of this post, we reference OEE as a great indicator of your factory’s performance.  When you have your percentage, you can see your room for improvement. A range of sources agree that most factories sit somewhere between 40-60% OEE. The world’s best at 85%.  This gives you a great goal to reach, and it will be influenced by improvements you make across your lines. Making those improvements, however, might require a change of mindset.

Continuous improvement

Trying to make wholesale changes quickly can be overwhelming for you and your workforce. Instead, adopting continuous improvement principles helps you make incremental improvements naturally. Continuous improvement is a simple framework that you can apply across your entire factory. More than that, it’s an ethos readily applicable to everyone working on the shop floor. At its heart, continuous improvement is about observing how your factory really works, identifying changes to test, and learning from the results.  If a test works, great; you can implement the change and move on. If it doesn’t, you can try something else. Beneath a simple framework there are multiple tools and approaches you can follow to introduce continuous improvement to your factory. And a digital solution combining them all is the best way to do it.

What’s the best software to boost factory performance? 

This is a very subjective question. There are loads of software that promise to improve your factory’s performance, OEEs, KPIs, and so on. You need to look at your factory’s needs and decide which solution(s) work best for you. However, there are 5 main areas your software needs to address if you’re to improve your factory’s performance efficiently and for good. Let’s take a look.


To run a factory successfully, you need to hit your KPIs, which is definitely easier when your processes are standardised. If your processes lack standardisation, you’re going to see an increase in downtime, recurrent problems, and customer complaints, as well as poor-quality products and lots of rework. Standardisation helps you make sure all your processes are working exactly the way you intended them to, which in turn translates into higher profitability rates, improved customer satisfaction and retention, and fewer problems throughout your lines. If you’re looking to improve your factory’s performance, the first step is to get software that helps you with standardisation comprehensively. Here at mlean, our standardisation solution comes with 5 modules to help you cover all the bases. But don’t worry—our software is modular, so you can pick and choose which modules you want to implement!


As important as setting standards is keeping them. If standardisation is the heart of factory performance, maintenance is a stethoscope. Standardised processes are vulnerable without maintenance routines to flag problems, so on your way towards improved factory performance, you need a digital tool that can help you with both. So we developed a maintenance solution called TPM (for Total Preventative Maintenance) to make sure your processes are nothing short of smooth throughout your whole organisation.

Shop floor management

Factory performance relies heavily on good shop floor management. Proper shop floor management helps you avoid chaotic inventories, overproduction, defective pieces, and late deliveries because you can’t meet customers’ demands. Which brings us to our third suggestion for software. If your goal is to really improve factory performance and make sure it lasts the test of time, you need a solution to help you manage your shop floor like a pro. We have a shop floor management solution with 3 modules to help you implement everything lean manufacturing and continuous improvement related. And again, because our software is modular, you can pick and choose the modules you want.

Start of production

Now, this is a nice touch, a bit of finesse entering your ideal factory performance scenario. A big amount of waste comes straight from scrap and rework due to issues with standards, maintenance, or shop floor management procedures.  A lot of factories assume there will always be a certain amount of waste in this area, and this couldn’t be any further from the truth. To really make an impact and succeed in your factory performance practices, you need a tool that ensures the first part you’re producing is up to standard and ready to go through the manufacturing process without compromising your entire line. Cue our start of production solution. We developed a module called OK1stPart to help you ensure your production will be flawless before you even start manufacturing. This type of tool is the difference between systematic operational efficiency in your factory and wasteful practices all year round.


Lastly, to optimise factory performance, you need to keep checking your processes, so you’ll need a good auditing tool. By ‘good,’ we mean it needs to integrate with your other tech stack and offer different types of audits (LPA, 5S, BBS…). As you probably guessed, we have an audit solution that includes any audit you can think of, and even better, it works with the data you already input into the system while you were using our other modules.


We suggest you have some extras in your tech stack to make sure you’re boosting factory performance as much as you can. Some of our favourites include:
  • Action plans
  • Improvement ideas
  • Production alerts
  • Problem-solving
  • HSE risks
We have all these in our improvement drivers solution. In fact, action plans are included with any mPS subscription, free of charge. These modules help keep your factory in top shape at all times, and allow you to make quick corrections if anything goes wrong.

mlean & factory performance 

If you’ve read us before, you already know how much we love lean manufacturing and continuous improvement. If this is your first time, we’re a group of lean geeks who work hard to make sure you can run your factory efficiently on the first try without a fuss. Our mlean Production System (mPS) is a suite of tools developed to reduce wasteful practices and achieve operational efficiency consistently in your factory. Our software is your fast track towards successful lean manufacturing and optimal factory performance, so why don’t you take a closer look? You can book a free demo (absolutely no strings attached!) using the button below. We know you’ll like what you’ll see!

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