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Implementing Operational Excellence in a manufacturing company

Running a factory is hard. Consider all the elements that can impact your performance, both internally and externally. Just one machine alone has 100 settings.  Now, imagine managing five production lines, each with more than five machines operated by over 100 employees who can adjust all the settings. Our client, a manufacturing company, has experienced deteriorating performance across their production lines throughout the years. As operational performance is a key factor in the company’s success, our mission was to instill an “Operational Excellence” mindset to improve the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) of the production lines.



To enhance a company's performance, accurate measurement is essential. Collecting and analyzing data from ERP/Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) is crucial for calculating the OEE of each production line, thereby providing insight into the company's overall performance. With a comprehensive overview of the factors that affect total performance, it becomes feasible to concentrate improvement efforts on the areas that require the most attention. Subsequently, on-the-ground modifications can be implemented, and their impact on performance can be assessed. However, changing processes that have been fixed for over a decade can encounter significant internal resistance.

Initially, inferior performance was accepted as the norm. By the end of the project, there was a strong drive for continual improvements across the organization.



For each production line, enhancing efficiency involved three distinct phases:

  1. Assessment phase: The initial phase entailed evaluating current performance and identifyingbottlenecks. By aggregating and analyzing all available data sources, we were able to calculate the weekly OEE for each line. Spending ample time on-site and conducting interviews with all relevant stakeholders ensured a comprehensive understanding of both data analysis and observations.

  2.  Pilot phase: Upon completing the assessment, we initiated pilot projects. Multiple initiatives were launched daily, gradually boosting OEE and leading to a more streamlined production process. Focusing on the most critical issues allowed for immediate progress and early celebration of successes.

  3. Roll-out phase: Having implemented numerous initiatives and gradually enhanced the OEE, the focus shifted to fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Improving the company culture involved organizing coaching sessions and job rotations. Automated data extraction and thus improved performance measurement ensured that negative trends could be addressed quickly.

This approach was applied to each of the five production lines. It is important to begin with a few of the lines, as improvements made there can often be extended to others when appropriate.

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Significant improvements were achieved through the implementation of OEE measurement and process enhancements. Initially, our client did not track their OEE, thus lacking insights into their pain points. With OEE tracking in place, they could identify and quantify the most adversefactors affecting performance. The sentiment that performance had declined was now supported by concrete data.

Quantifying performance facilitated the initiation of over 15 lean initiatives aimed at increasing the OEE of production lines. As we launched initiative after initiative, we observed a tangible improvement in OEE. Focusing solely on optimizing start-up and cleaning processes (mapping and reordering steps, refining, and accelerating procedures, reallocating responsibilities, and creating checklists/guidelines) demonstrated a clear path to increasing OEE.

Most notably, a cultural shift took place within the company, transitioning towards a more results-driven mindset. Initially, inferior performance was accepted as the norm. By the end of the project, there was a strong drive for continual improvements across the organization.

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