An excerpt on quality management benchmarking from The Handbook for Quality Management (2013, McGraw-Hill) by Paul Keller and Thomas Pyzdek
Benchmarking is a popular method for developing requirements and setting goals. In more conventional terms, benchmarking can be defined as measuring your performance against that of best-in-class companies, determining how the best-in-class achieve those performance levels, and using the information as the basis for your own company's targets, strategies, and implementation. Benchmarking involves research into the best practices at the industry, firm, or process level. Benchmarking goes beyond a determination of the industry standard; it breaks the firm's activities down to process operations and looks for the best-in-class for a particular operation. For example, Xerox corporation studied the retailer LL Bean to help them improve their parts distribution process.
The benefits of competitive benchmarking include:
Benchmarking is based on learning from others, rather than developing new and improved approaches. Since the process being studied is there for all to see, a firm will find that benchmarking cannot give them a sustained competitive advantage. Although helpful, benchmarking should never be the primary strategy for improvement.
Competitive analysis is an approach to goal setting used by many firms. This approach is essentially benchmarking confined to one's own industry. Although common, competitive analysis virtually guarantees second-rate quality because the firm will always be following their competition. If the entire industry employs the approach it will lead to industry-wide stagnation, establishing opportunities for outside innovators.
Camp (1989) lists the following steps for the benchmarking process:
1.1. Identify what is to be benchmarked
1.2. Identify comparative companies
1.3. Determine data collection method and collect data
2.1. Determine current performance "gap"
2.2. Project future performance levels
3.1. Communicate benchmark findings and gain acceptance
3.2. Establish functional goals
4.1. Develop action plans
4.2. Implement specific actions and monitor progress
4.3. Recalibrate benchmarks
5.1. Leadership position attained
5.2. Practices fully integrated into process
The first step in benchmarking is determining what to benchmark. To focus the benchmarking initiative on critical issues, begin by identifying the process outputs most important to the customers of that process (i.e., the key quality characteristics). This step applies to every organizational function, since each one has outputs and customers. The Quality Function Deployment (QFD) customer needs assessment, discussed in Chap. 15, is a natural precursor to benchmarking activities.
For more information on benchmarking analysis see:
Learn more about the Quality Management tools for process excellence in The Handbook for Quality Management (2013, McGraw-Hill) by Paul Keller and Thomas Pyzdek or their online Quality Management Study Guide.