Benchmarking is critical for anyone who has aspirations of leadership or simply seeks to perform at a standard that is acceptable to key stakeholders.
In each case an objective comparison of performance in key areas needs to be made against the performance of competitors. Once the performance gaps have been identified, opportunities to either close the gap or to move further in front of the pack can be assessed.
Benchmarking is integrally linked to risk assessment, objective and target setting and the implementation of improvement programmes. The following steps are needed.
- Determine what needs benchmarking.
- Determine appropriate level of performance (ie. possibly as reflected in Vision, Mission and Policy Statements).
- Identify causes of performance shortfalls.
- Develop an objective benchmarking protocol.
- Select benchmarking partners.
- Undertake the assessment to identify performance gaps.
- Determine affordable opportunities to close gaps or enhance performance.
- Set Objectives and Targets.
Community surveys are indicating a high level of concern about dust during ship-loading from local residents. You are also aware from your legal contacts that the newly elected government is drafting new environmental protection measures for air that will necessitate a reduction in dust air emissions. The effective mitigation of dust at the port facility is a business priority and consistent with the Policy Commitments of responding quickly and effectively to community concerns and of legal compliance.
The next step is to identify the sources and causes of the dust emissions, which may include carry-back on conveyor systems, excessive dryness of loaded product and the factors such as wind speed and direction during loading.
A benchmarking protocol is then prepared to enable an objective comparison of performance against the performance of a competitor with a reputation for environmental excellence operating at a different Port. The competitor is contacted and found to be agreeable.
The benchmarking can be undertaken in-house or by a third party specialist, which is preferable if a scoring system is applied. The study finds that the competitor has lower dust emissions and higher community support. This has been achieved by a number of factors:
- Moisture levels in the competitor’s product are higher because of less residence time in the storage shed and the product is intrinsically less dusty. There is an opportunity to modify logistics and improve outcomes.
- The competitors belt scrapers are self-adjusting and much more effective at reducing product carry-back and dust. These scrapers retail for $3,000 each compared to the existing units which retail for $1,500 each. The replacement of the three scrapers can be achieved for about $10,000.
- Spillage off the competitor’s conveyor belts is reduced because of more reliable power. Conveyor flexing falling power trips spills product onto wharf and contributes to dust. The problem with power trips can be minimized by more even loading of the belt.
In this example the performance gaps with the competitor can be bridged relatively easily. There are reputational advantages to the competitor of participating in the process and a recognition on their part that it is in the industries best interest that everyone performs to a high environmental standard to prevent the introduction of legislation that will impact on everyone.