The Kennedy Benchmarking Clearinghouse (KBC) is an organization for implementing an emerging methodology called "consortium benchmarking" in a competitive business environment. The partners in the KBC include NASA Kennedy Space Center and a number of its contractors. Within the KBC, the partners are represented by professionals in quality management and related disciplines.

"Benchmarking," as used here, is a disciplined approach for comparing and measuring your processes against best-in-class organizations (in any industry), identifying the best practices that enable superior performance, and adapting those best practices within your own organization to achieve breakthrough performance improvements. Benchmarking denotes a methodology, based on principles of quality management and process improvement, for developing and using quantitative and qualitative techniques, measures, and criteria for assessing the performances of processes and organizations. This methodology encompasses intra- and/or inter-organizational standardization, as appropriate, to facilitate exchanges and comparisons of performance-assessment information among individuals and organizations, with the ultimate goal of adapting best practices and thereby improving performances.

This Flow Chart depicts the steps of benchmarking according to the KBC model.

Consortium benchmarking — benchmarking performed by a group or groups of organizations— is predicated on collaborative, long-term partnerships for sharing the best and most effective practices of all member organizations and of innovative "best-in-class" outside organizations as well. It offers a less-costly alternative to conventional benchmarking because member organizations share the burden of benchmarking studies. Consortium benchmarking is appropriate when any or all of the following conditions occur:

  • Partners have limited resources to devote to benchmarking.
  • Partners have minimal experience in performing benchmarking studies.
  • Partners share a technological culture and language, so that meaningful comparisons can be made quickly and easily.
  • Partners share the same measurement system.
  • Partners frequently use similar technologies, processes, and systems.
  • Partners are located in proximity.
  • Partners meet regularly or at least have already established a forum.

The KBC model for consortium benchmarking (see figure) incorporates a vision, a charter, a two-phase methodology, norms, a reporting structure, and a code of conduct. Within the KBC, processes to be examined in benchmarking studies are selected according to a consensus approach that reflects a multiple-organizational determination of needs, priorities, and objectives. The KBC has provided a foundation for continued benchmarking at Kennedy Space Center through the development of common terminology and techniques. In addition to enhancing benchmarking skills among members, the KBC has strengthened an organizational culture that values continual improvement and teamwork to achieve excellence. This unique model for consortium benchmarking is transferable to other organizations interested in accelerating business changes that can lead to large improvements in the performances of products, processes, and services.

This work was done by Tim Barth of Kennedy Space Center; Cathy L. Horton of NASA Headquarters; Darcel E. Drew of the Boeing Co.; Jeannette J. Eads of EG&G Florida, Inc; Nilgun A. Leavitt of Dynacs Engineering Co., Inc.; Sara C. Morrison of United Space Alliance; and Fred A. Lockhart of Lockheed Martin. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com under the Mathematics and Information Sciences category, or circle no. 161 on the TSP Order Card in this issue to receive a copy by mail ($5 charge).

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to

the Patent Counsel
Kennedy Space Center; (407) 867-6225.

Refer to KSC-11888.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the February, 1998 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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