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Eric Whitley


All in a Good Night’s Sleep

Purple deploys lean execution system to improve maintenance and production metrics

Published: Monday, November 23, 2020 - 12:03

Any company that decides to enter the mattress business is no doubt entranced by one undeniable fact: Everybody needs one.

Those companies that start producing and selling mattresses also quickly run into a harsh fact: Everybody already has one.

Purple saw opportunity. It looked at the positives and the negatives of the mattress business, and decided the only way to succeed was to be better than everyone else. Better innovators, better manufacturers, better fulfillment specialists. Simply put, Purple had to change the game.

So, it did. Purple is a comfort technology company that designs and manufactures products to help people feel and live better through innovative comfort solutions. Purple designs and manufactures a range of comfort technology products, including mattresses, pillows, and seat cushions. Brothers Tony and Terry Pearce, both engineers, founded Purple.

Their quest to design and build the world's best mattress resulted in an incredibly responsive, pliable, strong material called hyper-elastic polymer. They had a game-changing innovation; now, they just had to build it.

Can’t settle for the same old, same old

Tony and Terry knew that Purple needed to have its own manufacturing plant. The Pearce brothers, along with their new leadership staff, started with what they didn't want their plant to be. For example, they didn’t want to go through all the cycles that many other companies typically go through, such as implementing homegrown processes. They wanted to leverage best practices while also having their production facilities be as innovative as their products. The company was growing fast and needed a plant floor to match that speed.

The most important factor in the success of any manufacturing enterprise is production. Downtime is an ever-present danger, and Purple needed an operations partner that could keep the production lines moving.

Purple hired L2L to deploy its lean execution system (LES) platform that could scale with Purple’s growth and not take large amounts of time, or much effort, to update. Purple elected to start with L2L Maintenance. Not long after seeing the results L2L helped capture in maintenance, Purple deployed L2L’s LES Production Module.

Head hits the pillow: Phase one

The first phase of the Purple L2L deployment focused on providing real-time data to improve maintenance and reliability processes in Purple’s new plant located in Grantsville, Utah. L2L’s web-based software allowed the maintenance team to quickly launch the planning and scheduling of preventive maintenance functions. L2L’s LES Maintenance suite also provided real-time performance data that Purple used to spot and respond to reactive issues.

The results of Purple’s LES Maintenance deployment included:

• Developing of an asset-numbering protocol for all the equipment in the facility.
• Physically labeling each machine or asset within the plant.
• Incorporating all facility assets, including items like urinals and fire extinguishers.
• Sourcing, purchasing, and assigning laptops for a Purple maintenance staff of 14 to access and use the L2L Maintenance module
• Implementing six- to seven-day training for the maintenance and production staff on use of L2L software
• Timing training during shifts so that the plant would not be shut down during training.
• Capturing data immediately upon completion.
• Maintenance staff beginning to create and execute preventive maintenance tasks, starting with critical equipment first.
• Identifying and quickly repairing any equipment problems.
• Data collection on continuous cycles of improvement.

The L2L deployment happened fast. Purple took note of the speed of the deployment, which was far faster than other computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) that the company’s maintenance leadership had worked with previously.

Most of Purple’s production equipment was new, proprietary technology that didn’t exist in the manufacturing industry. This required more information collection to continuously validate and improve performance for each machine. It was important that Purple choose a software tool that would expand in purpose and scope as it was adapted to manage formal processes and procedures for collecting data and information.

Enjoying the rest: Phase two

L2L’s success at improving performance in the maintenance department was noticed by Purple’s leadership. They decided to deploy L2L’s LES Production Module.

Purple’s production processes demanded additional clarity of systemic issues. A lack of performance on the plant floor was slowing down production of the company’s most popular products. Purple needed real-time data in order to take action and improve performance.

This second phase of the project started with clear needs on Purple’s part. The decision was made to use the L2L Production Module to track and display real-time production metrics. This brought increased visibility to abnormalities and showed opportunities for waste reduction throughout the entire production process. More important, it improved Purple’s system of measuring hourly equipment and manufacturing status in real time. Later, the LES was used to absorb Purple’s older safety and quality systems, which the software accomplished with ease.

Soft landing

Just short of two years after adopting L2L, Purple has seen improvement across the board in regard to production on the plant floor. The LES is currently utilized by Purple’s maintenance staff of 16 mechanics; two maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) clerks; and a maintenance planner. In addition to the maintenance department, Purple’s safety, quality, and production teams all use L2L’s system to capture events on the factory floor as part of the hourly production cadence.

Each production line using the L2L production module sees its schedule displayed on a large TV monitor. This monitor displays the success of the line in real time and allows for complete transparency. Each member of the 400-person production team at the Grantsville site, including temporary employees, logs in to the line he is working on to properly track key performance indicators. This alone has provided data that was previously unavailable, yet vitally important, and which led to double-digit improvements in target KPIs.

The production lines use all hourly and daily checklists to maintain a high level of quality, ensure that standard operating procedures are followed, and help manage and collect daily checks on the machines.

22-month improvement metrics from Purple's L2L Maintenance rollout

• 52-percent reduction
Equipment failures

54-percent reduction
Equipment downtime

1,400-percent increase
Completed preventive maintenance events

42-percent increase
On-time completion of preventive maintenance events


Waking up to a new reality

The success of any venture must be quantified in numbers. Purple’s use of L2L’s lean execution system has racked up an impressive array of achievements.

First and foremost, L2L has driven change, in both Purple's bottom line business performance and its cultural development. Simple proof is that L2L has taken Purple from spreadsheet data collection to digital real-time data collection. This is the key innovation. Spreadsheet data archive events that have happened; L2L’s digital data demonstrate what is happening and, in many cases, what is likely to happen.

Purple needed a solution for communicating between four shifts. L2L’s LES standardized procedures and training between all shifts, providing a platform for Purple’s record system on the manufacturing floor.

Most compellingly, under the Purple L2L deployment scoreboard, all employees know how to find the goals that have been set for them and track where along the continuum they stand in relation to completion. This has given them a tool to help change and improve. These positive developments allow Purple to improve manufacturing performance, ensuring that products are made in the most cost-effective manner. This is always important, but in a market as crowded and competitive as the sleep and comfort market, it is essential.

Purple will continue to use L2L to improve its plant-floor performance. Machines have increased production because they are running better and longer. Communication across the company has improved, and Purple now has a platform that helps escalate key problems and allows the company to fix them immediately. There is a new feeling at Purple: the feeling of success.

In the here and now, use of both the Maintenance and Production Modules continues. This is largely due to the buy-in of each production employee and Purple’s ability to continuously improve the system. The greatest sign of success is that it has now become common at Purple to end a developmental conversation with, “Let's do that in L2L, too.”

At the end of the day

Purple’s innovation in injection-molding technology revolutionized the sleep comfort industry. The company has been smart in its choices, and the result is separation from a crowded category. Better, it means more comfortable sleep for many, many people.

One of Purple’s partners in that success has been L2L, a company that shares Purple’s passion for innovation, speed, and bottom-line success—for the company and the people who depend on its products.


About The Author

Eric Whitley’s picture

Eric Whitley

For more than 30 years, Eric Whitley has been a noteworthy leader in the manufacturing space. In addition to the many publications and articles he has written on various manufacturing topics, you may know him from his efforts leading the Total Productive Maintenance effort at Autoliv ASP or from his involvement in the management certification programs at Ohio State University, where he served as an adjunct faculty member. After an extensive career as a reliability and business improvement consultant, Eric joined L2L, where he serves as the director of smart manufacturing. His role in this position is to help clients learn and implement L2L’s pragmatic and simple approach to corporate digital transformation.

Eric lives with his wife of 35 years in northern Utah. When Eric is not working, he can usually be found on the water with a fishing rod in his hands.