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Setting benchmark in facility management does not come easy. To understand today’s benchmarking it is essential to know the impact of automation on the art and science of benchmarking for facility professionals – a way to reduce operating expenses and improve sustainability. Here is an outline….

Identify the areas: This goal will tell you whether you are doing well or should consider making some changes in your buildings, but it won’t tell you what to do to get better. Many FMs, when they first consider benchmarking, make this the key objective for their benchmarking – they just want to see how they’re doing. They often have not thought through what they will do once they find out the results. So this knowledge can be very helpful for recognizing potential problems, but not identifying the solutions leading to improvement.

Identify actions, to be taken to improve building performance and justify them. This is an extension of the first goal. Once you’ve identified where you may be underperforming, the question becomes, “What are the better-performing buildings doing that my building is not?” Often, this will involve a second level of benchmarking – the benchmarking of best practices. In addition, the benchmarking tool will give you evidence to justify to management their implementation (see the next goal).

Some benchmarking tools benchmark not only physical attributes of buildings, but operating procedures, such as, “do you request a proposal whenever a contract is up for renewal, or do you just glance it over and renew it if everything appears in order?” You may find that for buildings such as yours, companies that re-compete renewals are spending 20% less than you are. Result: Benchmarking can be used not only to make building improvements, but also changes to operating procedures.

Justify the budget: Many FMs are able to identify best practices to implement that will make their facilities run better. But many will be hard-pressed to “prove” the potential benefit of implementing that practice. Without that proof, it may be difficult for the expenditure to be approved. However, through benchmarking, one might find, for example, that the facilities which have implemented occupancy sensors were able to reduce their utility bill by at least “x per square foot.”

When many facility managers who benchmark discover that similar organizations are spending less than they are, they try to find out what the others are doing differently to be better. What is less obvious is the facility manager who discovers that his/her organization is spending much less than others – believe it or not, this can be a negative finding; for example, it can be a sign that one is not doing enough preventive maintenance or is underpaying staff.

Justify the staff: This is a separate goal because staff is so important to the successful facility management.

Know when to outsource: You may find out that all similar buildings have similar budgets for maintenance, but only those who are running these programs with in-house maintenance and janitorial staff. If you, then apply a filter that looks at those who are outsourcing similar buildings and find they are spending less than you; you might consider outsourcing these functions in your buildings.

For contractors, there may be some additional goals:

Demonstrate that your clients are doing better than the norm: If you are a contractor and find your clients are performing in the top half of all buildings, you then will have good, quantifiable data to use in your marketing materials to help attract new clients.

Show your clients how to improve: Conversely, if you discover your clients (or perhaps just certain buildings) are underperforming most similar buildings, through benchmarking, you will be able to identify why and what your buildings may need to do differently to become best-in-class.

Justify your pricing to clients: Many contractors spend a lot of time negotiating with their potential clients. Through benchmarking, a contractor can prove which services being offered are priced competitively and thus save a lot of time in negotiations.

Provide additional services to clients: Many facility clients want to know how their buildings are doing compared to those of other facility professionals. Not only is it likely the contractor has access to the key benchmarking data, but the client may have staff who could input the data and analyze it. If the time becomes extensive, the benchmarking can become a very valuable service for the contractor to offer to clients. The ability to offer this service can become a big differentiator when potential clients are determining which contractor to engage.

10 tips to get the most out of benchmarking your facilities

1. Understand your benchmarking goals. Do you want only to compare facilities or also to improve them?

2. Be sure the way you measure area is the same as others in the benchmarking database.

3. Understand the differences between medians and averages; medians are more meaningful for benchmarking.

4. Identify the types of reports you wish to obtain before selecting a benchmarking tool.

5. Identify the filters to generate comparison reports (age, size, climate, industry, etc).

6. Know when the comparison data was captured and what error-checks were employed.

7. Know how to identify whether the comparison database is large enough, diverse enough and has enough growth potential.

8. Know what to do when there are not enough buildings in the comparison database to generate a meaningful report.

9. Make sure the system is very user friendly and easy to use.

10. Know how to apply judgment and draw accurate conclusions from the data.

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