Mewborn has right questions to trigger proper benchmarking

I just read Amanda Mewborn’s most recent article for Industrial Engineer magazine on benchmarking ("Benchmarking Made Easier," May 2014). Mewborn’s contributions to the magazine are always worth reading, as they are thoughtful. I’d like to share my thoughts on this topic.

I believe benchmarking is more than the steps of arriving at a number but a process that begins with questions that Mewborn poses in her column. Benchmarking involves identifying a point of comparison and then an investigation into why the numbers are different.

If I find a worked hours per workload unit at the 50th percentile for a particular department of comparison (in my case we use Premier), I consider that as a starting point for the department at one of our facilities to review why they are taking more time to perform the same workload. We will then go and gather as much information as possible on the other peer departments. In the end we hope to learn why there is a difference and act, if appropriate.

In identifying a point of comparison by starting with a peer group, I find it best to start with departments that have a similar workload. Process and staffing decisions often are influenced by workload. For example, smaller departments often have less specialized positions, while larger ones usually include more specialized positions. In certain circumstances I might also include other factors, such as acuity or teaching status, if I believe they are beneficial to the benchmarking.

Kailin Tu
Manager performance engineering
Meridian Health
Neptune, N.J.

Let’s make lean Lean

I appreciate that IE magazine covers topics including lean and Six Sigma. It’s frustrating, however, to see that the publication chooses to capitalize Six Sigma but does not capitalize lean. Both are formal methodologies and both deserve proper noun status.

The difference is particularly glaring when you write about so-called lean Six Sigma. I hope you would reconsider your style guide in this regard.

Mark Graban
Chief improvement officer
San Antonio

Editor response: The style choice regarding lean and Six Sigma is not a reflection on the importance of either concept. With few exceptions, Industrial Engineer follows the Associated Press style guidelines, which indicate that Six Sigma is capitalized while lean manufacturing is not. 

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