The objective of this study was to collect and analyse milking data from a sample of commercial farms with swingover herringbone parlours to evaluate milking efficiency over a range of parlour sizes (12–32 milking units). Data were collected from 19 farms around the Republic of Ireland equipped with electronic milk metres and herd management software that recorded data at individual milking sessions. The herd management software on each farm was programmed to record similar data for each milking plant type. Variables recorded included cow identification, milking date, identification time, cluster-attachment time, cluster/unit number, milk yield, milking duration, and average milk flow rate. Calculations were performed to identify efficiency benchmarks such as cow throughput (cows milked per h), milk harvesting efficiency (kg of milk harvested per h) and operator efficiency (cows milked per operator per h). Additionally, the work routine was investigated and used to explain differences in the benchmark values. Data were analysed using a linear mixed model that included the fixed effects of season-session (e.g. spring-AM), parlour size and their interaction, and the random effect of farm. Additionally, a mathematical model was developed to illustrate the potential efficiency gains that could be achieved by implementing a maximum milking time (i.e. removing the clusters at a pre-set time regardless of whether the cow had finished milking or not). Cow throughput and milk harvesting efficiency increased with increasing parlour size (12 to 32 units), with throughput ranging from 42 to 129 cows/h and milk harvesting efficiency from 497 to 1430 kg/h (1–2 operators). Greater throughput in larger parlours was associated with a decrease in operator idle time. Operator efficiency was variable across farms and probably dependent on milking routines in use. Both of these require consideration when sizing parlours so high levels of operator efficiency as well as cow throughput can be achieved simultaneously. The mathematical model indicated that application of a maximum milking time within the milking process could improve cow throughput (66% increase in an 18-unit parlour when truncating the milking time of 20% of cows). This could allow current herd milking durations to be maintained as herd size increases.