Benchmarking at Xerox

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Source link: The case examines the benchmarking initiatives taken by Xerox, one of the world's leading copier companies, as a part of its 'Leadership through Quality' program during the early 1980s. The case discusses in detail the benchmarking concept and its implementation in various processes at Xerox. It also explores the positive impact of benchmarking practices on Xerox.

"Benchmarking at Xerox is still very much a matter of competitive advantage. It is used to keep Xerox's edge razor-sharp, to discover where something is being done with less time, lower cost, fewer resources and better technology."

- Warren Jeffries, a Customer Services Benchmarking Manager, Xerox, in 1999. BACKGROUND NOTE
The history of Xerox goes back to 1938, when Chester Carlson, a patent attorney and part-time inventor, made the first xerographic image in the US. Carlson struggled for over five years to sell the invention, as many companies did not believe there was a market for it. Finally, in 1944, the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, contracted with Carlson to refine his new process, which Carlson called 'electrophotography.' Three years later, The Haloid Company, maker of photographic paper, approached Battelle and obtained a license to develop and market a copying machine based on Carlson's technology.

Haloid later obtained all rights to Carlson's invention and registered the 'Xerox' trademark in 1948. Buoyed by the success of Xerox copiers, Haloid changed its name to Haloid Xerox Inc in 1958, and to The Xerox Corporation in 1961. Xerox was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1961 and on the Chicago Stock Exchange in 1990. It is also traded on the Boston, Cincinnati, Pacific Coast, Philadelphia, London and Switzerland exchanges. The strong demand for Xerox's products led the company from strength to strength and revenues soared from $37 million in 1960 to $268 million in 1965.

Throughout the 1960s, Xerox grew by acquiring many companies, including University Microfilms, Micro-Systems, Electro-Optical Systems, Basic Systems and Ginn and Company. In 1962, Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd. was launched as a joint venture of Xerox and Fuji Photo Film.

Xerox acquired a majority stake (51.2%) in Rank Xerox in 1969. During the late 1960s and the early 1970s, Xerox diversified into the information technology business by acquiring Scientific Data Systems (makers of time-sharing and scientific computers), Daconics (which made shared logic and word processing systems using minicomputers), and Vesetec (producers of electrostatic printers and plotters).

In 1969, it set up a corporate R&D facility, the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), to develop technology in-house. In the 1970s, Xerox focused on introducing new and more efficient models to retain its share of the reprographic market and cope with competition from the US and Japanese companies. While the company's revenues increased from $ 698 million in 1966 to $ 4.4 billion in 1976, profits increased five-fold from $ 83 million in 1966 to $ 407 million in 1977. As Xerox grew rapidly, a variety of controls and procedures were instituted and the number of management layers was increased during the 1970s. This, however, slowed down decision-making and resulted in major delays in product development.

In the early 1980s, Xerox found itself increasingly vulnerable to intense competition from both the US and Japanese competitors. According to analysts, Xerox's management failed to give the company strategic direction. It ignored new entrants (Ricoh, Canon, and Sevin) who were consolidating their positions in the lower-end market and in niche segments. The company's operating cost (and therefore, the prices of its products) was high and its products were of relatively inferior quality in comparison to its competitors. Xerox also suffered from its highly centralized...
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