Improvements through benchmarking: a survey of the Kenyan construction firms.
This study explores the extent to which benchmarking has been used as a tool for continuous improvement by the Construction industry in Kenya. Benchmarking is a technique for developing business practices through comparison with best performers in an industry. This technique has been used by many companies across various industries to improve performance and hence competitiveness with remarkable results. Having been developed by a manufacturing company and being applied successfully more by the manufacturing sector across the globe, the construction industry in some of the developed countries has also applied the technique and has realized performance improvement among several other benefits. Given the importance of continuous performance improvement in this era of cut-throat competition, the study set out to find out whether the Kenyan construction companies are aware of benchmarking, whether there are any improvements realized and if there are challenges being faced in the benchmarking process and implementation by the companies. To obtain the information, questionnaires were administered to the project managers or directors of the sampled general building contractors both by drop and pick method and oral interviews. The study established three key findings: that very few companies are using benchmarking consciously while a great number of them are aware of the technique but have not implemented. Various benefits accruing from 'the use of benchmarking have been realized including substantial performance improvement. Most construction companies are doing some form of benchmarking without knowing, mostly between the various projects handled and also between fellow competitors. A major conclusion of the study is that the construction industry is still lagging behind in the implementation of performance improvement techniques. including benchmarking and this is mainly due to poor the management structures found in most construction companies and also the stiff competition which has reduced profit margins leaving very little capital for investment in research and development. The main recommendations are that construction companies should seek to raise their performance levels and competitiveness by learning from' others, taking advantage of the improvement techniques being developed by the manufacturing sector and restructuring their organizational structures to make them more conducive for strategic changes.