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The first step to achieving facility and maintenance success is setting goals, but that can be more challenging than it first sounds. Simply wanting to be better is not enough. Instead, proper planning starts with the careful plotting of two key locations: where you currently are and where you want to be. Benchmarking is the step-by-step process of discovering not only these two locations but also the shortest distance between them. 

Let's cover each step in detail. We can start by looking at how to decide what to benchmark. 

Choosing what to benchmark 

You have a lot of options, including products, services, and processes. For facility and maintenance managers, processes are likely the most important. Whatever you choose to benchmark, it's important that you're able to collect good data. You need to be able to accurately and reliably measure something before you can benchmark it. This is where a good CMMS comes in handy. When looking for ideas for what to benchmark, you can check to see what you're already tracking in the CMMS. The fact that you're already tracking it means it's both important and trackable. 

Don't feel that you're limited in what you can benchmark because of the need for reliable data. It's possible to benchmark abstract concepts by looking at their effects. For example, there is no unit of measurement for love. You can't weigh it or calculate its mass. But you can measure the size of the Valentine's Day card and the price of that box of chocolates.   

Deciding how to benchmark 

There are four basic ways to benchmark. 

Internal 

Take any two metrics from inside your organization and compare them. For example, you could compare the mean time between repairs for the morning and afternoon maintenance shifts. 

The advantage is that this doesn't take a lot or time or money. If you have a good CMMS software, you've already got all the information you need. Remember, you're only looking at two metrics from inside your organization, so all the data is already inside your CMMS. The disadvantage is you're less likely to see large improvements. Let's say that you do manage to bring the shifts closer together, so that when they fix something, it stays fixed roughly the same amount of time. The problem is your "best" shift might not be all that great to begin with. In that case, you've only made the shifts uniform, not objectively better.     

Competitive 

Take an internal metric and compare it against an industry competitor's. For example, the amount of time it takes the facility team to clear snow from walkways compared to the building across the street.     

This one is perfect for when you're reaching for industry best practices, but it can be challenging to get the data you need. In the simple snow example, you could easily track how quickly the building across the street clears walkways. But what if you wanted to know their KPIs related to HVAC or regulatory compliance? When it comes to direct competitors, organizations are reluctant to share information. 

Functional 

Take an internal metric and compare it to a similar or identical function from another industry. This one makes more sense once you see some examples. So, a hotel can compare its processes for check-ins to a car rental agency's. Different industries, but they have the same function. Another example could be comparing order selectors in warehouses and maintenance technicians finding parts and materials.    

There are challenges, and the biggest one is finding good examples to compare. It's hard to think outside your industry, and differences between industries can make communication challenging.   

Generic 

Take an internal metric and compare it with functions that are not even the same but just related by concept. For example, a taxi company might compare different KPIs with an ambulance service. Or a hotel might look at KPIs for a hospital. There's not a lot in common between the two, and people think about them as being very different, but on the most basic level, taxis and ambulances are all about transporting people. And hotels and hospitals are all about room and services allocation.     

 

This one is tricky, again, because it's often hard to think of good KPIs outside your industry to compare. Someone at a taxi company very likely has little idea of what an ambulance service tracks. The big advantage is the possibility of finding new ideas for improvement. 

 

Calling visitors to watch Hippo CMMS demo to understand the software better

  

Setting up how to benchmark 

Let's look at competitive bench-marking in more detail. At each step, you'll ask yourself a series of questions, with the answers guiding your decisions.   

Plan 

What's the process? 

What're the KPIs? 

Search and observe 

Which company is seen as the best? 

What can we learn by benchmarking this company? 

Analyze 

Which characteristics make their process better? 

What activities do we need to change to reach parity? 

Adapt 

How does the knowledge gained help us improve our process? 

Improve 

How can we make changes in our process? 

  

Working with gap analysis 

There's more than one working definition of gap analysis, so let's say here it's closely related to the last two steps, adapt and improve. It's worth going through an example to see how it all fits together. 

First, we've identified the KPI we want to improve, percentage of unscheduled work orders. Second, we check our existing data, and find we're at about 50%. Remember, this is where a CMMS comes in handy. If we had to calculate this number using old-fashioned paper- or spreadsheet-based methods, it would take us a long time to sort through all the papers and files. There's also a good chance we'd end up with unreliable results. It's pretty easy to forget to carry a number here and there or copy and paste into the wrong cell. 

Third, based on our benchmarking, we know our goal should be about 20%. Now we know we have to find ways to make up a 30% gap. Fourth, we start the process of closing the gap. We'll start by looking at different possible solutions. If that 20% is from benchmarking other companies, we'll already have a good idea of how their processes differ from ours. If we're less sure about the reasons behind the gap, we can try different solutions. One is increasing the number and frequency of PMs. With a good CMMS, this is easy. Once the preventive maintenance program is set up, it's easy to adjust the schedule by dragging and dropping PMs on the calendar. We can also look at the types of PMs we're doing on the assets that are more prone to failure. Our CMMS has complete asset maintenance and repair histories, and that data can be quickly mined to see what we're missing. 

Benchmarking with CMMS software 

Benchmarking always comes down to numbers. If you can't measure it, you can't benchmark it. More than anything else, you need reliable data. Modern cloud-based CMMS solutions are great at collecting data and then keeping it safe and making it accessible. Your provider does all the IT work for you, including data backups and software updates. 

A good CMMS solution does more than collect and protect data. It also helps you leverage your data for better decision-making. Autogenerated reports packed with KPIs and graphs paint the maintenance picture. Once you can see your operations, you can start to control them. Is it possible to benchmark without a CMMS? Of course. But it's impossible to do it efficiently. Which goes against the whole idea of benchmarking in the first place: to find new standards of excellence, reach and then surpass them. 

To learn more about benchmarking, check out Hippo's new ebook, Benchmarking for Better Practices.

Benchmarking for best practices

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan Davis started out writing for textbooks before branching out to video games and marketing collateral. He has a master’s degree in journalism and a certificate in technical writing.