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Today’s companies always have to be on their toes, watching their competitors’ every move to gauge where the market is going and what moves should be made. As the composites industry grows and becomes some competitive, some companies are recognizing the importance of benchmarking.
(Published on May-June 2006 – JEC Magazine #25)
HEIN GAARENSTROOM, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING, ESM EUROPE AND SALES ELECTRONICS EUROPE AT PPG INDUSTRIES FIBRE GLASS BV.
Benchmarking is essentially the practice of observing ones competitors and comparing them to ones own business. It can be applied in many ways, for example examining a new product or process a competitor has recently revealed, a business transaction, or the hiring of new personnel. We sat down with Hein Gaarenstroom, PPG Industries Fibre Glass bv’s Director of Marketing ESM Europe and Sales Electronics Europe, to learn more.
JEC Composites Magazine: To what extent does your company engage in benchmarking? And how does it work at your company?
Hein Gaarenstroom: Benchmarking is an important part of our business. We use it in many ways and for many different areas. We use it for our products, benchmarking those with competitive products and internal standards, and also for customer surveys where we interview customers about our products, service and quality.
We have done benchmarking in environmental subjects like air pollution and energy consumption, and we use it in financial matters. If we know the outcome, we analyse it and try to learn something from it. Then we implement improvements.
Established in 1883, PPG Industries is a leading diversified manufacturer that supplies its products and services around the world.
The company makes protective and decorative coatings, sealants, adhesives, metal pre-treatment products, flat glass, fabricated glass products, continuous-strand fibre glass products, and industrial and specialty chemicals, including photochromic ophthalmic lenses, optical monomers, silicas and fine chemicals.
J.C.M.: What are the advantages and disadvantages of benchmarking?
H.G.: If benchmarking is used in the right way, it can you give very valuable information that can be used for improvements in products and service. It gives you a relative idea about the subject although, at the same time, that is also the disadvantage, because it’s always relative. So are you comparing the right things with each other?
J.C.M.: True, that’s a good point. So do you feel that benchmarking is common in the composites industry, and what is the trend? Do you believe there will be more or less benchmarking in the future?
H.G.: Benchmarking is not only common in the composites industry, it is used more and more in related activities, for instance environmental studies by officials or the European Commission. It is also a tool that is used regularly in statistics. This trend is continuing.
J.C.M.: What effect do you feel benchmarking has on the composites industry?
H.G.: That is hard to say. But I am convinced that benchmarking has played an important role in that composites now are much more competitive against steel and aluminium than a couple of years ago.