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While it is good to seek best practice through benchmarking with others there are times when the structure and characteristics of a system present some difficulty for direct comparisons.

Different environments produce differing results and in fleet activities there are many variables such as driving styles, locations, traffic conditions, journey characteristics and the weight being carried in the vehicle can render meaningful external comparisons difficult.

In reality the diversity of fleets and their operation do not readily lend themselves to meaningful comparison.

In this light external benchmarking in the normal sense, comparing one fleet against another does not sit naturally with the activity of fuel usage.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), such as the total kilometres travelled per year for instance, do not lend themselves to meaningful comparisons with others.

In the first instance the organisation needs to establish its current KPI’s and use these as a benchmark for improvement.

The object is for your organisation to reduce its total distance travelled and the fuel it consumes in doing so.




Benchmarking is an organisational change practice; basically it is the practice of finding new ways of doing things through an ongoing, systematic process to introduce best practice into your own organisation.

The search may be of products, services, or business practices and processes of those organisations recognised as leaders in specific business approaches, practices and processes that you have chosen as an opportunity for reengineering.

The power of benchmarking resides in its objectivity. Setting of arbitrary targets and change strategies is replaced by a function of what a third party has achieved and which cannot be disputed, and a benchmarking team itself develops the plan for implementation of change.

Even when it is the first time the organisation has conducted an analysis on the business process it is highly likely that the act of undertaking the analysis will be enough to identify considerable improvements to the process.

This is a major benefit of benchmarking, and if any of the improvements can be instituted immediately, without capital expenditure, then they should.




You can benchmark internally, by comparing yourself with other departments, business units, or locations within your own organisation.

Or on the other hand you can benchmark externally against:

  • Competitors (competitive benchmarking);
  • Others in the same industry (industry benchmarking) who may not be competitors whether because of differences in product mix or because they are in a different country.
  • Organisations not in the same industry but which have similar needs and processes. Known as generic benchmarking, this can be very effective even though it is generally the most difficult.

Process benchmarking refers to business processes and is indistinguishable for practical purposes from generic benchmarking.

Functional benchmarking generally refers to a function in the organisation, such as human resources management. A function is a collection of processes and to do it one needs to disaggregate the function into business processes, such as induction training, before being able to engage in meaningful comparisons. Hence, it too ends up being similar to generic benchmarking.




Benchmarking is like a turning wheel. If you are going to undertake benchmarking at all, you should make it an ongoing business practice, like strategic planning, budgeting, and continuous improvement.

Benchmarking is a cycle that repeats itself, rather than something done once and for all. It requires patience and a willingness to continually work at issues that arise.

As with all change processes, measurable improvements may take time to emerge and the organisation must be committed to ongoing and long-term change.

Each organisation’s approach to benchmarking may differ but successful benchmarking efforts share several common elements such as:

  • Involving the right people so that preparation and implementation are supported.
  • Choosing the right things to benchmark that is, those things being most important to the success of the organisation.
  • Having a common understanding of just what is involved so that the process can be managed. It is easy to spend a lot of time, energy and money in attempting to gather data that in itself is not usable.
  • Gaining a thorough understanding of your own situation so that when you compare your business practices to somebody else’s, you are not doing it from a position of ignorance.
  • The fundamental base for success is to ensure the comparison of like systems (apples with apples).
  • Choosing suitable partners. It is especially worthwhile to search carefully for those organisations that are most likely to offer value.
  • Turning ideas/lessons into practical improvement projects and managing the improvement projects to fruition.

Benchmarking programs should be continually refined and customised to suite the organisations own particular circumstance and be integrated into other management functions such as strategic planning, annual budgeting and improvement programs.





The benchmarking process has a number of essential elements or stages, but the process must be customised to suit each organisation.

Reasons to vary the approach include:

  • The size of the organisation (although more commonly found in large organisations, benchmarking is adaptable to small-medium ones);
  • The stage that enterprise bargaining and workplace reform has reached in the enterprise;
  • The degree of understanding by the workforce of the strategic plan;
  • Whether this is the first time the enterprise has tried benchmarking;
  • The sophistication of change management skills in the enterprise;
  • The degree of experience with continuous improvement tools;
  • The degree of experience and comfort the management and workforce have with data gathering and performance measurement.

Careful consideration should be given to the identification of stakeholders whose involvement and support will be critical to the successful outcome of the benchmarking exercise. These can be both external and internal to the organisation.

External stakeholders could include customers, suppliers and sometimes the wider community. Internal stakeholders comprise all levels in the organisation, from the chief executive officer to the “shop floor”.





Benchmarking is not a stand-alone solution; it should be used in the context of a well-planned, comprehensive and integrated improvement program.

Those who have made the best use of benchmarking have used it as part of major change/improvement programs.

Benchmarking is a complementary tool for organisational change to others such as:

  • Strategic planning. The strategic plan is used to help choose priority areas for benchmarking, and targets set as a result of benchmarking can be used in goal setting when the strategic plan is next being updated;
  • Continuous improvement in its various forms. The team-based culture and tools of process analysis are invaluable in the preparatory stages of benchmarking.
  • Employee involvement/empowerment programs. If these have been instituted successfully then the workforce is much less likely to be fearful and possibly hostile to the notion of having the organisation’s work practices compared to “the best”.

There is an enormous range in the level of detail to which the analysis of a business process could go. Essentially the organisation is trying to strike a balance between having too little detail and too much.

In the former situation the risk is that the analysis is too superficial to uncover the key aspects that should be the focus of comparison and subsequent performance improvement initiatives.

In the latter situation the risk is that there is so much detail that the organisation becomes lost in the detail and ends up with a myriad of small improvement opportunities rather than a few really major breakthroughs.

Too much detail also makes it difficult to establish benchmarking priorities. For instance, one organisation compared its cost to install its products against others around the world in the same industry.  But it didn’t examine how the best did it so it was unable to use the information to any significant degree to improve its own installation processes.

It had to go back to examine its own processes as a preparatory step to make comparisons with the processes of those which appear to be best performers.

It is important to involve people who actually do the work as well as technical people who understand the process from that viewpoint.

Generally this enables all the parties who have an impact on the performance of the process being benchmarked to develop a shared understanding of the process and how their individual contributions come together to produce results.

Leaving one of the parties out, or having them contribute in isolation risks poor analysis and it loses a good opportunity to develop teamwork.

For these reasons, the analysis of the process should take place in group sessions rather than by one individual.