BENCH-MARKING AS A PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY IN THE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY (A CASE STUDY OF THREE MANUFACTURING FIRMS IN ABA, ABIA STATE)
The main aim of this study is to examine benchmarking as a performance management strategy in manufacturing industries. Data were collected from both primary and secondary sources. The major source of primary data were the respondents randomly selected from three manufacturing industry in Aba, Abia State. The major instrument used in the data collection was questionnaire. The data were presented in tables as frequency distribution and in the analysis, the techniques of performance and frequency were applied. In testing the hypothesis, the z-test was applied. The major findings of the study were; manufacturing company’s engage in benchmarking to achieve industry’s best practice and to keep abreast with competitors. Benchmarking serves as performance management strategy by setting performance standard. It identifies performance gap by comparing actual with target performance. It serves as a performance control technique by affecting changes that will eliminate the performance gap. Benchmarking is an effective performance management strategy which is used to improve individual and organization’s performance.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Organizations vary in their performances. Some register high performance while some register low performance. Even, some organizations’ performances show a cyclical trend over a long period of time. However, high performance can be maintained for a relatively long period if organizations take necessary measures to avoid performance drawback (Adei, 2006: 18) it is therefore important for companies to initiate and implement measures that will ensure that their performance conforms with best practices in the industry. This can be achieved through benchmarking which organizations can measure themselves against their industry practices and other competitors (Medrano, 2007:43).
Benchmarking is a performance management tool used initiate performance improvement. It measures comparative performance of companies and brings innovative ideas that can be implemented in different industries with an adopted process (Aimiuwu, 2007: 28). Through benchmarking, business processes can be compared among different organizations. It promotes superior performance giving an organized structure for companies to learn how “the best in class” do things, understand how other companies methods differ from its own and fund the gaps that will change and improve its process (Oladunmi, 2005:40). Since benchmarking is a tool used to manage performance, many organizations use it to generate data leading to process and performance improvement.
Benchmarking opens organizations to new methods, ideas and techniques to manage their performance with a view to improving their effectiveness. It helps to crack resistance to change by demonstrating other methods of solving problems than the one currently employed by the company. Through benchmarking a company ensures that it produces a high quality product whose standard compares with “the best in class” in the industry (Ugbaja, 2008:19).
Since benchmarking is performance management tool, not a philosophy properly or a strategy, it must be used properly. It will be helpful if not offer much opportunity for improvement.
The application of benchmarking as a tool of Total Quality Management (TQM) in manufacturing firms may usher in the climate of change and continuous improvement in all the areas of operations. In other words, benchmarking may be a very good intervention technique for a positive change, and for manufacturing firms to survive in a competitive business environment, there is the need for the acquisition and exchange of practices among the firms (Agbaeze, 2007:158).
Through benchmarking, a firm can maintain high performance over a long period of time, initiating and implementing measures that will ensure that its performance that conforms with best practices in the industry in which it operates. This calls for effective performance management predicated on benchmarking.
Performance management incorporates the configuration and measurement of distinct output areas. Performance indicator provides the mechanism by which an organization measures critical business tool, particularly in translating a strategy into result. Thus, in the manufacturing sector, performance management significantly drives organizational performance, individual performance, career planning, succession planning, training, transfer and business strategy (Ewurum, 2006:1) amplifies this when he states that in performance management, effort is made to capture and coordinate all the issue that will make for the delivery of effective performance by organization members.
Manufacturing concerns are not performing optimally in Nigeria today. According to (Ifedi, 2010:9) there is little doubt that manufacturing firms in Nigeria have since the early 1980s been endangered. In order to manage the performance and achieve set goals in the highly competitive business environment, most manufacturing firms have been engaged in benchmarking. It is against this background that this study sets out to examine benchmarking as a performance management strategy in manufacturing industries.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
There are impediments to effectiveness of benchmarking as a strategy for performance management in manufacturing firms. Benchmarking entails comparison of performance. The
problem of how to measure performance and the indices to use often crops up. Data collection presents a very great challenge in seeking to measure performance in manufacturing firms. Competitors are not always within to disclose the necessary information that are required for benchmarking firms and this makes it difficult for benchmarkers to know the performance gap that should be filled to achieve best practices. Thus, a fundamental problem is how to collect large amounts of external data to set the benchmark.
Again there is the issue of measuring the performance of the manufacturing firms using defined criteria and those of its competitors in the industry. Lack of a single universally accepted appraisal system applied by every firm is a problem in itself as it results in had haphazardly implemented benchmarking exercise.
Moreover, a poorly implemented benchmarking exercise undermine effective performance management as it results in waste of time, financial and human resources. Finally, benchmarking is an expensive and length they process which many manufacturing firms can not embark upon as they afford
the cost. This can be associated with lack of management commitment and manager’s resistance to change. The question now is how manufacturing firms use benchmarking as a strategy for performance management?
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The main objectives of the study is to examine how benchmarking can be used as a strategy for performance management. Thus, the specific objectives of the study are;
1.To examine how benchmarking can be used in measuring performance.
2.To find out how benchmarking can be used to identify performance gap.
3.To examine how benchmarking can be used in controlling performance.
4.To examine how benchmarking can be used to improve performance.
5.To identify the factor militating against benchmarking as a strategy for performance.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Answers will be sought in this study for the following questions;
1.How can benchmarking be used in measuring performance?
2.How can benchmarking be used to identify performance gap?
3.How can benchmarking be used to control performance?
4.How can benchmarking be used to improve performance?
5.What factor militate against benchmarking as a strategy for performance management?
The following hypothesis will guide the study;
1.Ho:Benchmarking does not measure performance by setting performance standard.
Hi:Benchmarking measures performance by setting performances standard.
2.Ho:Benchmarking does not identify performance gap by comparing standard and actual performance.
Hi:Benchmarking identifies performance gap by comparing standard and actual performance.
3.Ho:Benchmarking does not control performance by correcting deviation from the set performance standard.
Hi:Benchmarking controls performance by correcting deviations from the set performance standard.
4.Ho:Benchmarking does not improve performance through total quality management.
Hi:Benchmarking improves performance through total quality management.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is significant in respects. Firstly, it will be of great importance to manufacturing firms especially these which do not understand what benchmarking entails and those with poor performance management practices. The study will provide information that will enable them access in
depth and thorough knowledge about the essence, methods and advantages of benchmarking and effective performance management.
Secondly, these firms will through this study see the need to improve their current practices of performance management as it will elicit higher productivity, profitability, growth and sustainability of the firms as well as customer and employee satisfaction.
Thirdly, manufacturing firms which engage in benchmarking and performance management practice but have not achieved positive results in their performance will find this study very important. This is because it will highlight the militating factors. The recommendations of the study will enable them take remedial actions.
Finally, the study will be useful to those who will carry out studies in related areas in future. It will serve as a reference material to them. Even, the findings can provide the bases for further studies.
1.7 SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This study focuses on benchmarking as a strategy for performance management. But the scope is restricted to three manufacturing firm in Aba (Abia State).
The limitation of the study is as follows:
1.Uncooperative Attitude of Some Staff of the Firm:
Their refusal to provide information required from them affected the volume of data available for the study.
The study could have been very extensive if more manufacturing firms in other states were included. Hence, the restriction of the scope of three firms in Aba.
3.Pressure of other Academic Work
The researcher could not accomplish the study in a record time because of the pressure of other academic work on campus.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS AND ACRONYM
This is a performance measurement tool used in improving performance indicators.
This is the established standard against which performance is measured.
This is the firm carrying out benchmarking exercise.
This is the firm whose performance is being used as a benchmark.
!Total Quality Management
This is a management philosophy which emphasises continuous improvement on the quality or process by which work is accomplished.
This is the practice of optimizing production and service delivery for its stakeholders.
This is the practice of assessing individual or organization’s output or service delivery.