The National Academies

NCHRP 14-13 [Completed]

Customer-Driven Benchmarking for Highway Maintenance Activities

  Project Data
Funds: $299,819
Research Agency: Booz-Allen & Hamilton
Principal Investigator: William Hyman
Effective Date: 5/7/1999
Completion Date: 3/31/2003

Background: Traditional maintenance management systems focus on efficiency and cost, and they measure performance in terms of resources used. The next generation of maintenance management systems needs to measure maintenance in a manner that is sensitive to customer wants and requirements and that provides accountability in terms of the quality of maintenance services provided. The National Quality Initiative being pursued by state transportation and highway departments places a premium on instituting methods of Total Quality Management now frequently referred to as "Continuous Improvement."

NCHRP Project 14-12 has addressed one aspect of continuous improvement by providing guidance on the development of quality assurance programs for highway maintenance. A major aspect of the guidance is the establishment of levels of service or threshold values for use in maintaining an acceptable condition of the highway system and its components. Complementary work is needed on another aspect of continuous quality improvement, benchmarking.

The American Productivity and Quality Center defines benchmarking as "the process of identifying, understanding, and adapting outstanding practices from organizations anywhere in the world to help your organization improve its performance." Benchmarking can be used to improve any activity performed by an organization, including highway maintenance activities. A critical part of any benchmarking effort is selecting performance measures for comparing the effectiveness of the agency's current practice and practices used by other organizations and determining the best practice. These performance measures should be related to requirements and expectations of external and internal customers.

Objective: The objectives of this research are to develop a primer that illustrates the benefits and promotes the use of benchmarking and to develop a guide that assists in implementing benchmarking in the highway maintenance community. These documents will assist maintenance personnel at state and local agencies in identifying and adopting better ways to conduct maintenance activities.

Tasks: To accomplish the project objectives, the following tasks are envisioned: (1) Identify, describe, and analyze pertinent domestic and international literature on benchmarking based on applicability to this research. (2) Identify, describe, and analyze surveys conducted by various state and local transportation agencies of customer requirements and expectations related to maintenance activities. Identify performance measures for maintenance activities that appear to be consistently important to internal and external customers. (3) Describe existing or proposed benchmarking methodologies that are most applicable to highway maintenance activities, both for state and local agencies. Recommend a practical methodology for benchmarking highway maintenance activities. Identify specific, representative maintenance activities that will be used to illustrate the use of the methodology in Task 5. (4) Submit an interim report, within 6 months, to document the findings of Tasks 1 through 3 for review by the NCHRP. The report will include an updated work plan for the remainder of the project (including candidate agencies for Task 7) and detailed outlines of the documents to be developed in Tasks 5 and 6. (5) Develop a guide for benchmarking maintenance activities that relates outcomes (e.g., customer satisfaction, preservation of the infrastructure) to inputs (e.g., funding, staffing, materials, customer expectations) and recognizes that some outcomes can be affected by several maintenance activities. The guide will describe the methodology for benchmarking, illustrate its use for representative maintenance activities, recommend how an agency should select performance measures, and recommend how an agency can refine the information in the guide to meet their particular needs. The guide should be in a workbook or other suitable format for maintenance managers. It is intended that this guide will be a resource document for future training courses developed by others. (6) Develop a primer that explains in plain language the concept of benchmarking and how it fits into a continuous quality improvement program. The principal audience for the primer is highway maintenance personnel who work within the right-of-way but it should be informative for maintenance engineers, managers, administrators, and legislators. Illustrative examples are encouraged. (7) Provide technical support for four transportation agencies (including at least one agency below the state level) to evaluate the utility of the guide and primer in implementing benchmarking. Revise the documents based on the evaluations and report on what revisions were made. (8) Submit a final report documenting the entire research effort. The documents developed in Tasks 5 and 6 and subsequently revised in Task 7 shall be provided as stand-alone materials.

Status: The final products have been approved by the project panel. The contractor's final report has been published as NCHRP Web Document 58, and the guide has been published as NCHRP Report 511. A four-color brochure has been attached to the report.

Product Availability: The contractor's final report has been published as NCHRP Web Document 58. The draft guide and primer have been published as NCHRP Report 511.The primer is also available in PDF.

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