When Good Enough Never Is
Robert Camp, a logistics engineer for Xerox, says that “Benchmarking is the search for industry best practices that lead to superior performance.”
Camp led his company’s first foray into benchmarking in 1989, an endeavor often considered the initial attempt at the process, even though W. Edward Deming had started teaching quality control practices in the 1950s. Ford and Motorola also joined Xerox with initiating the benchmarking revolution in the 1980s, joining the Total Quality Management toolbox as another way of honing best practices.
In the next few weeks, we start another process of surveying electroplating and anodizing shops in North America when we launch the Products Finishing Top Shops Benchmarking Survey at PFonline.com on December 1. This is third year in a row we have conducted this industry-wide benchmarking program, and have seen steady increases in shops that take part in the program because they know that to succeed in today’s competitive business environment, good enough never is.
Every shop that takes part in the benchmarking survey and completes the questions receives a series of three comprehensive reports that show what the average and mean is for significant statistical categories, as well as how the “Top Shops” perform so finishers can aim high. We have heard from many shop owners over the past few years who have taken the data supplied in the Products Finishing Top Shops Benchmarking Survey and used it to set direct goals for their managers and employees to improve efficiencies and increase productivity.
Electro-Spec, for example, finished atop our Top Shops list in 2016, and its executive team relied heavily on the benchmarking numbers of the best shops in 2015 to set goals and objectives for 2016. It paid off well.
Suffice to say, benchmarking is not a one-time adventure. Instead, it is a 12-month series of measurements and improvements that managers and supervisors must undertake in order to get the most out of their employees, equipment and procedures.
In essence, if a shop is not hitting even averages—and we break these down by size of the shop and type of shop so that you can compare apples to apples—then there must be some serious soul searching by the company executives on what needs to be done to reach those numbers.
Staying flat isn’t acceptable any longer. Staying below water may give you no choice but to find another line of work.
Camp is considered the guru of benchmarking, having worked 23 years at Xerox, and authored the book, Benchmarking: The Search for Industry Best Practices that Lead to Superior Performance. Camp says there are four ways a company can compare itself with others: internally, competitively within the industry, functional best and generic best. He says internal benchmarking is a way to find out who is the best at what they do inside their shop. Doing so often uncovers best practices that should be repeated by others in the organization.
Camp calls competitive benchmarking—essentially what the Products Finishing Top Shops Benchmarking Survey is all about—a “requirement.” He says Xerox viewed internal benchmarking a first step, and competitive benchmarking a close second. Functional benchmarking is a way to identify which operation in an organization works the best, and that means finding out whether your racking department is performing better than your masking department as compared to your zinc plating line.
When Camp speaks of generic benchmarking, he wants executives to ask, “Who is the leader in this process? What organization performs this function as a core process of its business?” For example, recordkeeping and billing is not a core function of the plating industry; finishing parts is. So when a shop wants to benchmark certain operations, they might look at banks and financial institutions for data and relevant comparisons.
The Products Finishing Top Shops Benchmarking Survey is a helpful program for those shops wanting to improve operations, increase efficiencies, and—let’s all be honest—to make more money.
If you have taken the benchmarking survey in the past, please do it again and see how well you are improving. If you haven’t taken it before, get ready to answer about 40 questions that could change the way your company does business.
“When you’re introducing benchmarking, listen for people in your organization who are asking benchmarking-type questions,” Camp says. “Questions that spell out the urgent need for benchmarking to happen.”
Originally published in the November 2016 issue.
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