Benchmarking is a step-by-step process that moves you from where you are to where you want to be. Along the way, you collect key insights into both your operations and those of industry leaders.
Let's look more closely at what benchmarking is and how you can use it to improve facilities and maintenance management.
What to benchmark
You can benchmark any product, service, or process. For maintenance and facilities managers, you're most likely going to look at processes, how you fix and maintain assets. The key is to be able to gather quantitative data. If you can't accurately and reliably measure it, you can't benchmark it.
It's also possible to benchmark things you might at first consider a bit too abstract. For example, you might be interested in how the maintenance department is seen by other departments. But how can you measure sentiment? How can you weigh feelings and opinions? All you need is a well thought out survey.
Ways to benchmark
The four basic types, in no particular order:
Just like the name suggests, you compare two metrics inside your organization. For example, you can compare the number of work orders closed out by the morning and afternoon shifts.
This type of benchmarking is great because it's generally cheap and easy. You're working with data that all in one spot, which hopefully is your computerized maintenance management software. (More on that later.) But the problem is you're less likely to see large improvements. Let's say the morning shift closes out two work orders a day while the afternoon shift averages three. You can compare how they work and eventually get the morning shift up to three closed work orders a day. But objectively, your numbers are still really low. Because your "best" started off so low, you can reach your goal without really getting a lot better.
Here you're making a direct comparison between you and a competitor in your industry. Airline A can compare all their KPIs for engine maintenance and compliance to the KPIs from Airline B.
When your goal is to reach the level of industry best practices, this is the way to go. But there are a number of challenges. If you want to know how a direct competitor does something, you can always try asking them directly, hoping they give you honest answers. Or you can try to get the information other ways, which may create legal issues.
You're working with similar or identical functions, but they're outside your immediate industry. For example, A hotel can look at its KPIs related to check-ins and compare them to a car rental agency's. Same function, different industry. Or you could look at how Amazon picks products at its warehouses and compare that to how the maintenance techs in your department find spare parts.
It can be hard to find the right functions to compare, and then differences in corporate cultures might make it hard to work with other companies. Once you overcome these challenges, there's a lot of opportunities to improve your organization.
With this one, you're comparing KPIs for functions that are not the same but are related because they're the same basic concept. So, a taxi company might look at the processes for an ambulance. Taxis and ambulances are very different, and people use them for very different reasons, but both services are, at their foundation, about moving people from point A to point B.
One of the advantages of generic benchmarking is that it's easier to approach other companies. You're so far outside their industry, they're not going to feel threatened at all. But that distance also means it's harder to find the right fit. Also, because you're looking at companies far outside your industry, it's more challenging to know who's best in class.
How to benchmark
Let's go through the steps of competitive benchmarking. Basically, you ask yourself different questions at each step.
What is the process?
What are the KPIs?
Search and observe
Which company is considered the best?
What can we learn if we benchmark this company?
Which characteristics make their process superior?
What activities do we need to change to achieve parity?
How does the knowledge gained enable us to improve our process?
How can we implement changes in the process?
Additional steps involve gap analysis, where you start looking at the distance between your current processes and what the industry leaders are up to. Once you see where you want to end up, you can start to chart your course.
When to no longer benchmark
Never. The goal is not to become the best and then stop. You're not climbing Mount Everest. There's no peak. Instead, you're working toward continuous improvement. Once you've locked in one process, move on to the next. Every time you get a new asset, there are new opportunities to benchmark new processes.
Why to benchmark with CMMS software
Remember, if you can't measure it, you can't benchmark it. You need reliable data. And the best way to get reliable data on your maintenance operations is with CMMS software. A modern cloud-based CMMS is great at collecting data and then keeping it safe, secure, and always up to date. It also ensures all maintenance and work order data is accessible from any desktop or mobile CMMS app. Once it's got the data, the software can start working on it, calculating a string of KPIs for you. Is it possible to benchmark without a CMMS? Sure. But that's the same as asking, "Is it possible to walk from New York to Las Vegas?" The answer is yes, it's possible. But why not fly? It's so much faster and easier.