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INTRODUCTION TO THE GUIDE Transportation agencies have recognized that continuous improvement is essential to managing a maintenance organization effectively in the face of growing demand, tight budgets, and limited staff. There is an imperative to improve the effectiveness and efficiency with which agencies deliver maintenance products and services to their customers. Effectiveness refers to the ability to deliver the attributes of maintenance products and services that customers want. Efficiency refers to the extent to which the use of resources is minimized in delivering those products and services. In response to the need for continuous improvement, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) funded Project 14-13 with the objective of developing a primer and a guide on customer-driven benchmarking. The purpose of the primer is to promote customer-driven benchmarking and to educate top management and other managers on the concept's main ideas and benefits. The purpose of the guide is to provide a "how to" manual. The project also involved preparing a final report--describing the research project, key findings, conclusions, and recommendations--which is published as NCHRP Web Document 58. You have the guide in your hands. It was developed by preparing a draft and obtaining extensive review comments from various agencies including states, counties, and a toll authority. Preparation of the guide included field testing most of the procedures in the guide in three states (California, Minnesota, and Ohio) and then using the feedback from the field tests to revise the guide and to produce a document that is practical and easy to use. Benchmarking is widely employed in both the public and private sectors to compare performances and to identify best practices. Benchmarking is a rigorous discipline that involves the use of accurate, agreed-upon measures. The basic steps of benchmarking are forming a partnership, reaching agreement on a set of common measures, taking measurements, identifying best performers and corresponding best practices, and following through with agency implementation and continuous improvement. 1
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Introduction to the Guide In customer-driven benchmarking, the measures used focus upon the results important to customers. In the past, maintenance organizations have used measures that tend to be internally focused--for example, the quantity of production and resource utilization (labor, equipment, and materials). Today, maintenance organizations are becoming increasingly focused on customer-oriented measures such as the smoothness of roads, the legibility of signs at night, sight distances at intersections, the attractiveness of roadsides, and the speed with which roads covered with ice and snow are returned to bare pavement. Four types of measures are used in customer-driven benchmarking: 1. Outcomes. Outcomes are the results of performing maintenance activities that are important to customers. Examples of outcomes are smooth roads, edge markings that are easy to see in poor weather, and traffic signals that are reliable and work almost continuously. 2. Outputs. Outputs are measures of accomplishment or production. Examples of outputs are linear feet of ditches cleaned, the number of bags of litter collected, and acres of grass mowed. 3. Resources. Resources consist of labor, equipment, materials, and financial costs. 4. Hardship factors. These are factors outside the control of the maintenance organization that make it more difficult to satisfy customer desires and needs. Examples of hardship factors are weather, terrain, and population density. Customer-driven benchmarking combines all four measures to give analysts and managers a broad perspective on how well various organizations are achieving outcomes that matter to customers in a manner that uses the fewest possible resources while taking into account the level of production and uncontrollable factors such as weather. Organizations that do this the best, as determined through measurement, are sources of practices that agencies should consider adopting. This guide is divided into four chapters. Chapters 1 through 3 educate the reader regarding key concepts. Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the concepts of customer-driven benchmarking; 2
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discusses important prerequisites that must be satisfied (such as obtaining strong leadership commitment to the effort); communicates the time required to benchmark for the first time (at least 2 years); dispels a number of benchmarking myths; and lists critical success factors. Chapter 2 examines key issues in forming a benchmarking partnership, including important elements of a benchmarking agreement. Chapter 3 discusses important issues of measurement, including various types of measures, key attributes of measures such as statistical validity, the need for each benchmarking unit to use the same measures, and sources of candidate measures--for example, the proceedings of the National Workshop on Commonly Recognized Measures for Maintenance. Chapter 4 is the "how to" portion of the guide and is organized by the five main steps of customer-driven benchmarking: 1. Select partners, 2. Establish measures, 3. Measure performance, 4. Identify best performances and practices, and 5. Implement and continuously improve. This guide contains six appendixes. Particularly useful are examples of survey questions and a compendium of customer- oriented measures. The guide also employs icons to further direct the reader. Icons appear in the margin of the text to draw your attention to important points. The following is a list of icons used in the guide and their meanings. MEASURE TIP 3
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Introduction to the Guide IDEA CAUTION STEP EASY METHOD RIGOROUS METHOD ADVANCED METHOD QUALITY CONTROL/QUALITY ASSURANCE 4
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QUESTION ANSWER 5