Lean 6 Sigma tool par excellence, Benchmark are accelerators of change.
The benchmark is an English term meaning “reference ” or “standard “. It is a term developed in the 80s by the Japanese industrialists to counter the superiority of the Japanese.
Its purpose is to implement best practices, it is applicable in all areas, whether in product design, process, in commercial services … and of course, the implementation of Lean 6 Sigma.
His interest is strong in terms of learning, allows us more easily to break the paradigms. They are real accelerators of change.
We find the first writings of this concept with General Sun Tzu :
“If you know your enemy and yourself, you will not be afraid to do 100 battles“.
In essence, the benchmark is the fact of being in a position of constant questioning, where one will wish to improve oneself by looking for best practices by comparing oneself with others that we consider to be better. It will allow us to be more responsive by quickly accessing what is best while limiting the risk of going on dangerous paths.
This concept is strong for the Japanese. It is thanks to the Benchmark that the Japanese were able to leave the sackings of the Second World War more quickly and to implement the principle of the Dantotsu.
The internal benchmark
Especially within a company with multiple sites, internal benchmarks are very useful for standardizing good practices. They are all the more interesting as the information is easily accessible and simple to organize. That said, in view of the fact that we are “internally “, there is a risk of complacency or intellectual consanguinity.
The external benchmark
For its part, the external benchmark is the one that brings the most added value. There are different types that we detail below.
The goal is to compare ourselves with our direct competitor. “partners” are easy to identify. We immediately understand the interest for this type of Benchmark. On the other hand, in most cases, obtaining information is complex and the consequence is that there is rarely any “revelation”.
It is a question of going to see other companies of the same sector or not, and to compare the practices on a particular process: quality control, packing process … For a subject related to Lean 6 Sigma, we will be able to look at: tool used, result obtained, delay, barrier, level of maturity … The partners are simple to identify and often happy to be able to share around their know-how.
This is called Gemba Walk. The challenge is to build long-term collaboration and challenge each other. Ideally, we will share knowledge to advance faster. Typically, a company can do a project TPM and the other a project JIT. Once the 2 projects are completed, we benchmark each other.
This type of initiative is often between more than two companies. These are sometimes initiatives that can be put in place by CCIs, regions, associations…
Organizing a benchmarking must follow a minimum of methodology. It is not indeed a courtesy visit, or a tourist outing.
The first step is to define the purpose of the Benchmark. We identify what we want to compare and how (internal, collaborative …). This choice will be made with regard to the major current issues and the strategy to come (quality, Lean…)
It is at this point that we will choose the “ level” of Benchmark: let’s look at “a step above” or “the Top “. The interest of the first being that we will be able to quite easily appropriate what we will learn to implement it quickly, the second we will be able to give us a long-term vision. But can also scare…
2. Self evaluation
Then, we will assess ourselves to identify the company that can bring us knowledge. We will analyze our results in connection with the benchmark objective by being the most “honest possible”.
We build the Benchmark team. We will choose the people directly related to the targeted problem. The team should not exceed 10 people, mainly for security reasons, a company will not accept that 30 people “wander” in work area.
VWith regard to the objective and the type of benchmark, we will look for the most appropriate company. It is advisable to make a list, because probably the first company will not accept. Most often, this type of action through relationship, it is recommended to go around the company to find a person with a special contact. You can search from: other sites of your company, your competitors, your suppliers or even your customers.
With the list, the project manager will establish a relationship and try to find the company that accepts this benchmark. It is advisable to approach them by highlighting the fact that everyone has to gain (expansion of the sphere of relationship, mutual increase of knowledge).
Once the company “hooked”, it will be necessary to sign a memorandum of understanding (confidentiality, possible cost, security, photo …).
Internally, the project team will have to define precisely what data to collect and how to collect it..
4. Progress of the benchmark
On the spot, in addition to respecting the memorandum of understanding, the challenge is to collect all the data relating to our objective. It should be as specific as possible to facilitate treatment later. These data will allow us to compare with our situation. We must collect the same types of data that we used to establish our situation.
If we observe a situation where we are much less good, ask how they did to reach this level: step, barrier, resources, time…
5. Process information
In a short time, to avoid the loss of information, the team will have to meet to make the report and draw the conclusions. We will have to compare our situation with the one we have seen and identify the gaps. We will deduce a plan of action that we will validate with management. This action plan will return in the standard project management process. Once the actions have been put in place, the final balance sheet of the benchmark will be reported and the contribution of having made the Benchmark.