The merger of the concept of customer focus and
the technique of benchmarking brings back visions of MRPII.
Remember MRP II? It's that concept of intertwining various
functions or practices in a manufacturing company to create a
continuous, closed-loop network of information and material flow.
Still a reasonable objective, is it not? Yeah, sort of. The
problem with the concept over the years has not been the concept
itself but how it was implemented.
The customer was out of the loop except for
forecasts and order entry (modules of fully integrated systems
that were, when purchased, not even installed—the old routines
were interfaced and maintained). The shop floor product handling
and raw material & component parts flow routines were simply
translated as is into the data files without very much cleaning up
or simplification. Bills of material and inventory record files
weren't really ever 95-99% accurate.
Customer focus and benchmarking combined allow
a discovery and change implementation effort to improve only that
which will pay back from a customer perspective. This approach
treats nothing as given; everything is suspect but only the
priority issues will be addressed; change can take any form based
on what is viewed as best practice (e.g. a total automation
solution like MRP II, therefore, is only one of many ways to make
The joint goal becomes to pick the best
solution to the 'best' or most significant problem. The customer's
perspective will provide initial clues to the most significant
problems that should be addressed. The benchmarking process
continues the discovery of root, detailed problems & closes
the loop with planning for implementation of solutions uncovered
internally or externally.
Discussion point: If benchmarking with customer
focus had been a first or early step in MRP II implementation, how
many companies would have purchased let alone attempted to
install, fully integrated software solutions without first
spending a lot of time and money on process simplification? Yeah,
sort of not many!
Customer-focused benchmarking addresses these issues:
1. Who am I doing this for, and how does it help?
2. Is the problem because of what's happening here or at the
3. Perhaps we need a joint commission or a PARTNER, both to
identify and to solve problems.
The whole benchmarking effort becomes a supply
chain management issue or a customer-supplier relationship
Therefore, the best way to set up the
benchmarking program is to link it to other customer-focused
initiatives, such as customer advocate programs. Networking these
different efforts helps coordinate not only the available
resources, but also links the customers into sharing objectives
and possibly becoming an active resource or problem-solving
Benchmarking is a total quality management
practice. It searches for quality problems (the best ones to
address) and quality solutions (the best changes to implement to
solve the problems long term). Customer focus is a total quality
management practice. It searches for a more positive,
contributive, proactive partnership relationship between customer
Key to breakthrough success: merge total
quality management practices to grow and share resources and build
a stronger, more unified team. On their own, training and employee
involvement pay back big time, together breakthrough improvement
can be achieved.
Customer focus and benchmarking on their own
can make a difference in your organization's performance, merging
the two can lead to a significant difference.
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