Below, Rich Sable, CBET, product manager of Charlotte, N.C.-based EQ2, LLC, defines benchmarking and explains why it’s something HTM professionals should have in their vernacular—and do.

24×7 Magazine: What exactly is benchmarking?

Rich Sable: Benchmarking is a process of measuring your processes or services against similar-sized organizations or leader organizations of similar size and service. It can also involve comparing locations or departments within your own organization. Additionally, this comparison of key performance indicators (KPIs) allows you to find deficiencies in one or more of your processes or services. This information can then be used to create a continuous process improvement plan.

Rich Sable

Rich Sable

With benchmarking metrics focused on quality, time, or costs, a leader can find gaps in their processes or services and turn those gaps into opportunities for performance improvement. This creates an environment where organizations (or business units within an organization) continue to improve as they seek to rise to the top of those in the comparison group.

Many times, the assumption is made that a department is functioning well if [customers seem generally happy and don’t complain much.] But does a good working relationship with customers mean we are providing the best service? While positive relationships with customers is an important aspect of success, there are other factors that better measure departments’ success —and they can be presented to executive leadership.

For example, it may be discovered that doctors or patients have complained at the executive level about patient delays or cancelations of procedures due to equipment-related anomalies or unavailability. Further, our departments may be repairing and returning devices to the respective departments, but are we performing these repairs according to our department’s policies or procedures? Do we even define KPIs, such as turnaround time, in our policies and procedures? “If we don’t measure it, how can we improve it?” becomes a driving force for benchmarking, and your computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) must hold the information to measure your KPIs.

24×7: What are the different types of benchmarking for HTM?

Sable: First, HTM leaders can choose external benchmarking for their organization. With this method, they must identify their lines of service, organization size, number of FTEs, inventories, and geographical location as a minimal start. Normally, this type of benchmarking requires a subscription to a service provider that then categorizes their organization and compares their performance against a similar organization.

Because the provider may have a large pool of similarly sized organizations, the best KPIs float to the top and the entire group is measured against the top value or average value depending on the algorithm used. As time progresses, leadership can determine if the trend is moving in the correct direction and then develop a plan to correct the trajectory if the outcomes are not as expected.

Additionally, HTM leaders can do internal benchmarking of their organization. By this, leadership defines the KPIs, sets goals they deem realistic, and measures using data collected to prepare the statistics. Using data in their CMMS to calculate the KPIs, HTM leaders compare the actual results against the goals to help identify areas for improvement. Alternately, or additionally, with the performance data in hand, continuous improvement programs can be enacted and the results measured over time.

24×7: From an HTM perspective, what are the next steps leadership should consider?

Sable: Leaders need to determine which KPIs to measure and then decide whether they’ll use internal benchmarking, external benchmarking, or both. For KPIs, AAMI has an HTM Benchmarking Guideavailable, which provides KPIs for both external and internal benchmarking. In addition to KPIs, the guide details the importance of HTM as a community to develop a standardized language, which will make it much easier for organizations to compare against each other. Also, this common language helps ensure that we are using the same data in computing the same KPIs.

Minimally, leaders should consider performing an internal benchmarking, and the guide has an entire section devoted to this type of measurement. As mentioned earlier, these KPIs can be used to determine the performance trend over time and used to demonstrate the department’s performance to executive leadership. Coupled with a continuous improvement program, these metrics will drive results. Now that we are measuring it, we can improve it.

Finally, leaders must set realistic goals for items, such as work order response times and work order completion times, for the various priority levels. Using a standardized code for work orders and ensuring that staff members understand how to code the work order will result in proper coding, which is key to creating useful data.

In addition to KPIs, other work order statistics can be useful in determining your department’s effectiveness, such as the number of times a patient or staff member has been injured or the number of case cancelations or delays. Again, leadership must develop the terminology and the staff must use it when completing work orders to obtain correct results.

24×7: How does EQ2 help with benchmarking data configuration?

Sable: We can review current data in a client’s CMMS and help to identify potential problems with it. For example, not having items properly defined or using improper or inconsistent coding on work orders precludes calculating meaningful metrics. Other times, clients may be missing key information, and we may be able to steer them as to where to find it in their accounting, purchasing, or finance departments.

When it’s impossible to correct the history, we can help a client set up practices so that, moving forward, they can extract the necessary KPIs. After the initial 30- to 90-day period of properly documenting work orders, KPIs will begin to populate and trends will become clear, enabling improvement management to begin. Moreover, EQ2’s HEMS CMMS has dashboards and reports focused on benchmarking and data used for benchmarking. With all of these tools, HTM management will have the data to showcase the department’s strengths and ever-improving performance—and the smiles and hellos [from internal customers] will keep coming.