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Building Performance Benchmarking: Beyond the NumbersApril 25, 2013
Competition is the nature of most industries, and survival depends in part on making sure that your facility is designed and utilized as efficiently as those of your competitors. That means finding some sort of “industry standard,” a yardstick you can measure your facility against. But benchmarking can’t be a matter of stacking yourself up against the “average” facility. After all, how do you define average? Don’t look for it in the raw data. Meaningful benchmarking must transcend the numbers.
Don’t get us wrong; metrics matter. Obviously you have to be able to analyze your facility’s space (per square foot and per capita), size, wattage expended and other critical data. But all facilities are not created equal. A dedicated facility, for instance, may be used in a very different way than a facility shared with other operations or departments. Neither of these methods are “right or “wrong,” but if you simply compared the numbers you’d have trouble reconciling the differences. Try to set an “average” between the two, and you may either create waste or hobble productivity. What’s more, benchmarking can’t predict the future. You may need to be facing expansions, or reductions, or other future issues — and the benchmark numbers you carved in stone won’t help you evaluate these needs.
How can you use benchmarking to better advantage? View it as information, not as a mandate. Instead of setting down precise square footage measurements, head counts or dollar amounts as some sort of gold standard, create ranges. Smart benchmarking recognizes “influencing factors” — inevitable variables such as safety, changes in space allocation, or structural redundancies to accommodate future growth.
Another important aspect of benchmarking is recognizing and dealing with differences in the ways facilities are measured, constructed and operated. We’ll take another look at this in our next article. Stay tuned!