Standard benchmarks

Benchmarking has been around for many years, now. But it is still surrounded by many misunderstandings. One of the biggest is that it's about numbers. Of course, the metrics (numbers) are an important part of benchmarking, but they're only a part. What benchmarking is really about is work processes. And the numbers are just convenient indicators of how well the processes may be working.
By Richard L. Dunn Editor May 13, 2002

Benchmarking has been around for many years, now. But it is still surrounded by many misunderstandings. One of the biggest is that it’s about numbers. Of course, the metrics (numbers) are an important part of benchmarking, but they’re only a part.

What benchmarking is really about is work processes. And the numbers are just convenient indicators of how well the processes may be working. Nevertheless, the metrics are inseparable from the processes and are often used to determine where real benchmarking is most likely to pay off.

During a meeting of plant engineers not long ago, our discussion turned to benchmarking. The question arose: Would it be possible to come up with a few essential benchmark metrics for plant engineering and maintenance that could be used universally throughout industry? We didn’t have time to discuss the question much, but it has been haunting me since.

I personally think it is possible, but I’m equally sure it would take a group effort to decide on and define such benchmarks.

Here are some ground rules I would set for a group of essential benchmarks:

Taken together, they must relate plant engineering and/or maintenance performance to the business success of the plant or company.

They need to be clear, concise, and universal in their definitions so that they are truly comparable from plant to plant and industry to industry.

They should be easy for plant/company management to interpret and understand. Otherwise, they run the risk of widespread misuse.

And here are some of the areas where such benchmarks should be developed:

Safety: Safety just has to be at the top of every plant’s list of priorities. It is both morally and fiscally sound.

Scheduling: No process can be optimized without effective scheduling.

Planning: Planned work is essential to top performance.

Operational productivity: Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) may or may not be the ultimate measure, but we need a standard method of some kind.

Cost: In the final set, there has to be at least one metric with dollar signs on it.

So there’s the challenge. I’d like your input on how to meet it. Contact me at rdunn@cahners.com .