What We’ll Find

Now that our inaugural Top Shops benchmarking survey has closed, it’s time to delve into the data to confirm beliefs and (hopefully) uncover some surprises.


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At this time, our Top Shops benchmarking survey has concluded. (Thank you to all who participated.) Our next step is to go through the wealth of data we collected from all types and sizes of machining businesses and create a summary report of the survey results. It will take some time, but I’m looking forward to this phase of the project. For you to hire a company to do this—gather and report business intel related to specific shop practices and performance levels—wouldn’t be cheap. The only investment we required for our benchmarking initiative was a bit of your time and company information.

We’ll highlight our survey findings in the August 2011 issue. By then, you might already know your company’s primary deficiencies or have a good idea as to what they are. If so, you can immediately review the data related to those aspects of your business and compare it to other shops. On the other hand, you might not have a solid notion as to which areas of your business lag behind your competitors. The data will reveal those, too.

For example, you might be surprised to find that your turnover rate is much higher than comparable shops. That should spur you to find out why it is a challenge to keep employees onboard and determine if it is a contributing factor to the business pains you’re experiencing. As you review the data, identify the areas in which the difference between your shop and the top-performing shops are the greatest, and consider what actions you might take to close the gaps.

From an editor’s perspective, I’m eager to discover unexpected results. Clearly, we expect leading shops to post significant figures related to sales per employee and sales per CNC machine. Their spindle utilization is likely to be high, too, while setup times are low. This won’t be a surprise.

However, I hope some of the questions we posed lead to unexpected conclusions. Could it be, for instance, that leading job shops and contract shops simply don’t place much value on lean manufacturing? Or, despite all the talk about environmental initiatives, is “going green” something that machining businesses aren’t actively pursuing? Is it possible that standards certification isn’t directly connected to shop success? We’ll see.

I’m also looking forward to reading answers to one of our open-ended survey questions that asked participants to describe how a new technology, machining strategy or strategic initiative influenced to the company’s performance the most.

We plan to make this benchmarking survey an annual event. By participating each year, you’ll be able to go back and track whether the efforts you’ve taken based on past survey results are contributing to significant change in a given area. Leverage the benchmarking data to bolster your continuous improvement efforts.

If you did participate this year, feel free to provide survey feedback. We want to make Top Shops the most effective machine shop benchmarking tool that we can.