Bench-marking is the process of measuring against and improving on the products, the services and the practices of toughest competitors or those organizations regarded as leaders in a particular practice or business area ,its goal is to re-invent operations to achieve significantly better performance  and is best accomplished as part of a restructuring or re-engineering process. If you want to be the best- of- the- best in the printing industry, bench-marking can help. Here is how……

Identify what and areas you want to benchmark

Xerox identified America express as providing the benchmark for effective and professional telephone services. The port authority of Singapore provides a benchmark for similar organizations contemplating operational improvement. A high achieving printing press or print service provider in one area may be a valuable benchmark for another printing company, machine or consumable supplier seeking to improve sales success or business operations. Know your field of concern in your print business and areas of improvement for your organization.

Find out the leaders in that field of concern

The organization identified as providing the benchmark need not be a competitor. In fact, it is possible that the organization will be operating in a different field altogether. You can identify leaders in your field of inquiry through observation, word of mouth, and reading or published survey.

Set realistic target

Best -of –the- best or best in class are not absolutes. You need to:

  • Formulate criteria that define a class of companies you are interested in bench-marking
  • Define measures that can be used to compare companies to determine the best
  • Find companies that meet your ‘class’ criteria and that appear to be the best performers to defined measures

Collect the information

Some organization would be flattered to know that they have been selected as providing a benchmark and may invite you to send an individual or a small group on a fact finding mission. The saying that, if you never ask, you will never know certainly applies when it comes to collecting valuable information.

Alternatively, the key people in the organization identified may agree either to be interviewed or to respond to simple survey or questionnaire.

Talk to your customers

Improving customer service and product offering, presumably is one of the main reasons you have decided to benchmark, so don’t neglect to seek the customer’s views about the services you want to improve. You may even decide to ask the permission of the benchmark organization to speak to its customers about the area of its business that interests you.

Customers experience the outcomes of processes while doing business with your organization., so it’s important you get their views.

Plan the process to overcome differences

The key is to learn and discover why some operations in your press or print business are better; some are worse, and how both got that way. Having gathered your information, develop plans and decide on schedules to enable you to implement the best-of the- best throughout your organization by continuous improvement. Update your position and status constantly in the printing industry.

Do it quickly or don’t do it at all

People, their positions their interests and the organizational context are all subject to constant change, so it is important to implement new found practices that can improve your business offering promptly. You can help speed up the process by:

  • Allocating adequate resources to the areas you want to improve
  • Using experts as required
  • Preparing well in advance
  • Implementing one area at a time

Manage the change

Continous improvement is essential if you are going to continue to prosper in your print business. The good thing about using a benchmark as the focus of the change process is that a successful working model already exists for you to emulate. Remember, benchmarking is a process, so keep stakeholders (customers, staff e.t.c) informed and supported throughout the process or you will risk having your proposals collecting dust on the shelf. If indeed employees are having problems with change, act on those problems- perceived or actual-immediately.

Make measurement part of the process

Selecting critical success factors- the things that must go right and can be measured- must be part of the process e.g. training of machine minders and operators. These factors will influence the scope of the project, determine the key measures, help to identify benchmark partners, develop benchmark questions and be valuable in your preparations of the final analysis and recommendations.

Set new benchmarks

Continuous improvement means just that once you have created the momentum, encourage employees to be on the lookout for wining ideas and organizations succeeding in particular practices. Always listen to what customers have to say, they will tell you other areas you need to be focusing on.

In conclusion, while benchmark is the mark old world craftsmen used for manufacturing –all production and construction was compared to the benchmark to assure it would fit –the practice of bench-marking is a bit more sophisticated. As a management tool today, bench-marking is a means to improve your company against the most successful companies both in and out of your industry.