Civil maintenance benchmarking for urban retailer

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Recent Engagement: Our client, an urban water utility, had previously taken part in the MHC 2012 Civil Benchmarking Study comparing metropolitan and regional water utilities’ cost, service and productivity performance across a range of civil maintenance activities. The results of this 2012 benchmarking were used to set 3-year improvement targets. They now required MHC to:

  • Provide insight on the efficiency and effectiveness gains achieved by their maintenance workforce since their 2012 result
  • Compare their efficiency, effectiveness and work practices to a leading peer group in 2015, and
  • Provide insight on appropriate efficiency and effectiveness improvement targets going forward, and appropriate leading practices for the business.

In addressing our client’s challenges, MHC utilised two important tools to develop impactful and streamlined benchmarking outputs:

  1. Benchmarking Engine, and
  2. Activity Datapack.

Complementing this, MHC convened an Industry Tour to facilitate knowledge sharing of best practice with some of Australia’s leading water organisations.

Benchmarking Engine

Over years of benchmarking water and electricity utilities, MHC has accumulated a wealth of data which defines efficiency in cost, effectiveness in service and productivity, and a range of best practices to achieve these levels. These are stored within our Benchmarking Engine – a tool which currently stores 3,000 data points from 21 water organisations – and allows for customised benchmarking reports to be easily produced.

Our client required some important peer group and trending performance comparisons. These included comparisons to a desired peer group and industry group based on characteristics such as metropolitan versus regional utility, and geographical location. As our data spans 5 years, trending insights could also be provided.

This Benchmarking Engine was a critical component of the delivery for our client, particularly being able to undertake an efficiency and effectiveness comparison to a metropolitan peer group in 2015, and investigate performance improvements delivered by their own maintenance workforce since 2012.
Figures 1 and 2 show example graphical outputs from the Benchmarking Engine (note that the values shown are for illustrative purposes only and do not represent actual performance).

QSI 18-Water-RE-Civil Maintenance BM-fig1

Figure 1: Example chart for total cost per task comparison between utility and industry averages (cost charts with or without management overhead are typically provided)

QSI 18-Water-RE-Civil Maintenance BM-fig2

Figure 2: Example chart for productivity comparison between utility and industry averages (typically measured in relation to the time taken to complete a repair)

Activity Datapack

To facilitate consistent and accurate data gathering from our client, MHC developed an Activity Datapack, as shown in Figure 3 (which was automatically inputted into the Benchmarking Engine). The datapack defined each benchmarked activity’s scope and the relevant, cost, service and productivity metrics, providing fields for data population. From our client’s perspective, the datapack empowered them to gather accurate data from their organisation through a reasonably streamlined process with minimal disruption.

QSI 18-Water-RE-Civil Maintenance BM-fig3

Figure 3: Actitivty Datapack format for Leaking Water Main

Industry Tour

MHC’s extensive working relationships with Australia’s leading water organisations enabled the facilitation of a knowledge sharing industry tour. Whilst our client was keenly interested in their cost, service and productivity performance vis-à-vis a specific peer group and the industry, a qualitative exploration provided them tangible actions to consider in adopting the best practice of others (for example, centralised works planning and scheduling, minimalist crewing and depot strategies, proven field technologies, centralised procurement practices, and optimised third party arrangements).

Information gathered from the benchmarking exercise and the industry tour was delivered to them in two reports:

  1. Industry Benchmarking Report which detailed our client’s performance against the current state of the industry, and
  2. Utility Benchmarking Report which contained detailed analysis on our client’s performance improvement since 2012, areas for improvement and recommended improvement initiatives.

Through our engagement, our client confirmed they had met their 3-year performance targets (which were originally provided through our benchmarking study in 2012), and they were now performing well in many civil maintenance activities compared to the industry.

The study also provided two other key benefits:

  1. Clarification of future cost, service and productivity targets, and
  2. A series of recommended improvement initiatives, aligned with the practices of the leading peer group, that were required in order to achieve future targets.