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How do your manufacturing processes compare to others in the industry? Are you trying to get by with old, outdated equipment while your competitors are continuously reinvesting in their operations to optimize quality and productivity? What strategies are other companies using to combat soaring energy and labor costs, and how do they compare with your own?
Unless you know where you stand, it can be difficult to know what aspects of your organization need to be improved to help you gain a competitive edge. That's where benchmarking-identifying, sharing and using best practices to improve business processes-comes in. According to Darrel Rigby, a director in the Boston office of the global consulting firm Bain & Co. and author of the Management Tools survey, "The objective of benchmarking is to find examples of superior performance and to understand the processes and practices driving that performance. Companies then improve their performance by tailoring and incorporating these best practices into their own operations-not by imitating, but by innovating."*
While benchmarking can be a one-time study, the goal is to incite continuous improvement within an organization. To that end, true benchmarking involves continuously comparing your company against others both within and outside of the industry so you are aware of the best practices that are being implemented in other organizations.
But where do you find this information? Case studies, such as those found in this and other issues of Ceramic Industry, can help. By reading the success stories of other companies, you can see how investing in new technologies often pays dividends in increased energy efficiency and productivity. Ceramic Industry has also recently completed a Capital Spending Study that provides information on equipment purchasing trends in the industry. (See Capacity Increases, Cost Reductions Drive Equipment Demand for an overview and for details on how you can purchase a copy of this valuable reference tool.)
Industry suppliers such as those listed in the Equipment Digest in this issue are another resource.** While they won't give you specific information on your competitors, many suppliers have representatives who travel nationally and internationally to similar types of plants and can provide general insights on best practices both within and outside your industry sector. Industry consultants are also a valuable source for this type of information.
In today's economy, the companies that continuously adapt and improve their operations will be in the best position to compete on a global scale. Evaluate your performance against successful organizations, and don't be afraid to make changes. With the right processes and equipment, your company can become the industry standard.
**Supplier listings indicate paid advertising.