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Benchmarking Design: multiplying the impact of technical assistance to MSMEs in design and product development

This work takes as challenge-level exploratory study in the importance, scope and dimensions of the benchmarking of product design for the state advisory in design and product development for micro, small and medium producers. The initiative falls as the zero phase of the project made for the Admission to the Research Career of Scientific and Technological Research Commission of the Province of Buenos Aires (CIC-PBA). Our approach comprises the sub-national policies to support micro, small and medium industries (MSMIs). This study allows us to glimpse how benchmarking can contribute to design in a system of institutional support for technical assistance for MSMIs based on network-to new product designs to multiply their effects.  

Applications of benchmarking in the Province of Buenos Aires
In previous work, we surveyed and analysed various applications of benchmarking tools in the public sector through international, national, subnational and local organisations.

In the provincial public sphere, different organisations are currently applying the technique of benchmarking for improvement and institutional development. In this sense, the policy applications of benchmarking can be cross-regional and sector joint actions.

In turn, these actions can be grouped into two basic types of dimensions:

  1. Government support (internally).
  2. Support for private organizations (external environment).

In the Province of Buenos Aires, the possible use of benchmarking at the state level includes all the Provincial Public Administration (central, decentralised and self-sufficient). According to its purpose, benchmarking can be incorporated both for the development of their own organisations and for support of other public, private or mixed organisations, that may be subject to its regulations, controls or policies.

Under this approach, the Ministry of Production, Science and Technology could build and manage networks aimed at benchmarking and productive economic development of regions and/or production organisations (e.g., MSMIs).

Specifically, the implementation of provincial regionalisation policies, benchmarking with the control board, constitutes the most appropriate set of tools for monitoring the management and development indicators, as a way of assessing the impact ofvarious policies in each region.

To facilitate these actions, from the perspective of the whole production policies, the Ministry of Production, Science and Technology could implement benchmarking policies, supporting MSMIs such as:

  • Development of a bibliography and methodology of benchmarking.
  • Establishment of networks of provincial benchmarking (in materials production).
  • Survey and systematisation of technical assistance to industries.

From these actions, and particularly from the permanent disposal networks, methodologies and results achieved with the technical assistance, micro and small industries could learn, evaluate and implement best management practices in their industry (both organisational as product) systematically incorporating benchmarking into their processes.
Benchmarking design in the organisational structure of the CIC
Currently, the CIC is the organisation of the Ministry of Production, Science and Technology, Buenos Aires, which is responsible for promoting research and providing technical assistance through its various research centres.

Among its twenty-six centres is the Industrial Design Center (CDI) – created by agreement with the National University of Lanus – which acts on the translation by the CIC of policies issued by the ministerial portfolio.

The CDI investigation is assisting and advising the MSMIs in Buenos Aires, but by its strategic geographical location it involves mainly the territorial patches of the following industrial sectors:

  • Clothing.
  • Leather, footwear and leather goods.
  • Furniture and parts.

Understanding that the CDI is the most immediate operational core of public policy, in research and industrial-design assistance that is targeted to the industries of strategic dimension, we therefore consider it as most suitable to incorporate and develop benchmarking activities.

Technical assistance in design and product development
The technical assistance to MSMIs consists of industrial design, requires significant resources and professional endeavours.

On the other hand, considering that these public policies, in the form of technical assistance, can not respond in a timely manner, increasing and varied demands of design and development of new products, we feel obliged to propose creative solutions to reach as many productive organisations.

Also, from the standpoint of public administration responsibilities, we owe a commitment to use resources on a basis that allows us to capitalise on the present and future, the different experiences that are acquired in the processes of technical assistance in industrial design.

It is then, under this approach, that technical assistance takes a more important dimension, with the multiplier effect of digital media.

In this logic, also fits the idea that government should not assist technically in “black box” and get involved in the generation of competitive differences between companies.

Therefore, the proposed technical assistance, in order to remain transparent and easy to promote to producers, is expected to collaborate with more uniform sectoral developments.

The Bank of Successful Projects Industrial Design and Design Benchmarking Network
Within the Commission, we propose the creation of the Bank of Industrial Design Successful Projects (BPE-DI) and Benchmarking Network Design.

The BPE-DI, with a smart search system, will capitalise on the CDI’s technical assistance in undertaking benchmarking actions.

The idea of forming a Benchmarking Network Design, which integrates the various MSMIs interested aims: to support and produce synergies across (within and between) sectors, work together (networking), facilitate the search for benchmarking partners, and assist in improving indicators of design management and new product development.

The BPE-DI and Benchmarking Network, would form a solid core to share successful experiences and find-in-industrial design at the provincial level.

Design dimensions of benchmarking
The application of benchmarking of product design or simply benchmarking design, requires different dimensions and indicators to set design, which allows them to be measured and compared with other products.

Although these findings may be somewhat complex and include more dimensions, we show in Table 1, we define groups in an exploratory way:

Table 1. Some dimensions of Benchmarking Design
A.1. Price
A.2. Target
A.3. Date of entry into the market
A.4. Average life
A.5. Positioning
A.6. Sales volumes
B.1. Number of parts
B.2. Material(s)
B.3. Quantity of each material
B.4. Production processes
B.5. Production scale
B.6. Standardised parts
B.1. General: height, length and width
B.2. Parties: height, length and width
B.3. Anthropometric dimensions
B.4. Variable dimensions
C.   USE
C.1. Physical ergonomics
C.2. Psychological ergonomics
C.3. Guarded
D.1. Cleaning
D.2. Repair
D.3. Spare parts
E.1. Reuse rate
E.2. Environmental impact
Source: own.

In the first instance, from a review of benchmarking literature and the cases studied, we can conclude that it is a technique that can be perfectly applied to the CDI.

We emphasise, in the words of Robert Camp: “The rationale for benchmarking is that it makes no sense to be locked in a lab trying to invent a new process to improve the product or service, when this process already exists.” [20].

On the other hand, we know that typically MiPyMIs must continually improve their products, focusing on the needs of citizens and the new challenges they face as a result.

It is in this instance, where self-assessment assists the CDI, the BPE-DI, Benchmarking Network Design and the subsequent comparison of productive organisations can play an important role. Benchmarking is presented as an opportunity to capitalise on the knowledge and developments that have benefitted other organisations throughout its existence. Perhaps its greatest benefit is based on the discovery of new and better ways of doing things.

Of course, to initiate a process of benchmarking involves the organisation making efforts in terms of: resource allocation, teamwork, sharing and finding information, and so on.

Therefore, the CDI has a key role to play in implementing benchmarking pilots at the provincial level of design.

With the ultimate aim of improving the capabilities of MiPyMIs and to increase the quality of their products, we propose a revaluation to make proposals for benchmarking and continuous implementation.

In short, we believe it is worth devoting resources to a benchmarking policy design in the Province of Buenos Aires. Because not only do we no problems in doing this, if we visualise important insights, they may help your application.


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Del Giorgio Solfa, F. (2012). Benchmarking Design: Multiplying the Impact of Technical Assistance to MSMEs in Design and Product Development. In E. Bohemia, J. Liedtka, & A. Rieple (Eds.), Leading Innovation through Design: Proceedings of the DMI 2012 International Research Conference (pp. 109-115). Boston: Design Management Institute. ISBN: 978-0-615-66453-8. DOI: 10.13140/2.1.1834.4647.
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Tesías, A. P., Rojas, A. G., Quesada, J. F., & Yanhi, C. Z. (2005). Consenso sobre un proceso de benchmarking en la atención primaria de salud de Barcelona. Atención Primaria, 35(3), 130-139.

Written By

Federico Del Giorgio
National University of La Plata

Contact Details


Department of Industrial Design.
Scientific Research Commission of the Province of Buenos Aires.
Sede Fonseca, 10 No. 1456
La Plata
Province of Buenos Aires

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