Benchmarking-Designing & Maintaining Quality in your Enterprise

While we may debate whether Lean or Six Sigma or the next new technique is best, from my study and experience, many of the”tools” adopted by both come from earlier practices. Benchmarking certainly falls into this category and is something every enterprise should engage in.

What is Benchmarking?
“Benchmarking is the process of measuring an organization’s internal processes then identifying, understanding, and adapting outstanding practices from other organizations considered to be best-in-class.

Most business processes are common throughout industries. For example; NASA has the same basic Human Resources requirements for hiring and developing employees as does American Express. British Telecom has the same Customer Satisfaction Survey process as Brooklyn Union Gas. These processes, albeit from different industries, are all common and can be benchmarked very effectively. It’s called “getting out of the box”.

One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when first benchmarking is that they limit their benchmarking activity to their own industry. Benchmarking within your industry is essential. However, you already have a pretty good idea how your industry performs so it’s imperative that you reach outside and above your own industry into other industries that perform a similar process but may have to perform this process extremely well in order to succeed.

This is from Benchnet.com-see link on my left sidebar under resources.

Benchmarking may be inside or outside one’s industry. Often competitors are unwilling to share beheir best practices. What have others done to solve this problem?

Henry Ford obtained at least one of every car model that was ever built to see what he could learn from it.

Taiichi Ohno adopted Ford’s entire business system as the Toyota Production System and built upon it.

Henry Ford’s observation of “disassembly” lines in meat packing factories inspired his moving assembly line.

Frank Gilbreath adapted military drills and their associated motion efficiency principles to civilian industry.

United Airplines has adapted racing pit crew methods to its maintenance activities.

When I worked at Rodale Press, Inc. we purchased competitors products to learn about the products themselves, but also about their billing, customer service and other services. We also had more than one employee assigned to “follow” companies that were competitors or ones we felt we could learn from. This information was widely shared.

At another company I worked for, iZone Group, there was culture of reading and sharing “book reports” from business and other books people were reading. This and shared eating facilities where executives and all employees met on a regular, yet unstructured enviornment lead to many innovative ideas.

Non-Profits, government agencies and all levels of government can also benefit from benchmarking.

What examples do you have?

Good benchmarking requires at least the following attributes and activities:

1. A curious mind.

2. A corporate commitment to purchasing competetive proudcts and the time to examine them.

3. A corporate commitment to keeping up with industry standards, attending trade shows, the overall development of on-going learning and development of its employees and knowledge base.

4. Establishment of time and processes where front-line employees, creative and product development and executive talent can meet to share insight and ideas.

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