March 30, 2011

Nearly 150 UW projects under way to improve effectiveness, reduce costs

Those are the results of a January 2011 survey. Respondents identified 141 separate process improvement initiatives that met at least one of five goals: reduced costs, increased quality, reduced waste, improved turn-around time and/or enhanced satisfaction. Respondents also identified other results such as improved compliance and improved collaboration.

“These results are encouraging, but not surprising,” said Ruth Johnston, special assistant to the provost for the Organizational Effectiveness Initiative, a priority activity of the Two Years Two Decades (2y2d) Initiative. “Clearly, budget cuts have motivated some of these projects. Its important to note that units which re-examined their processes did so in most cases not just with an eye toward reducing costs but also enhancing the quality of service.”

Respondents reported multiple positive outcomes from most process improvements. While 77 percent of respondents cited reduced costs, 71 percent also noted that quality was increased. Waste reduction was reported by 66 percent, and enhanced satisfaction (by clients and others) was cited by 73 percent.

Cost reduction correlated with an increase in satisfaction in more than 70 percent of the initiatives.

Process improvement in one division of UW Libraries resulted from the Task Force on New Models recommendations, which identified the combination of these units as an opportunity for the streamlining of services, says Heidi Nance, head of interlibrary loan and document delivery services.

Prior to the merger – or “harmonization” of these units — some users were confused about where to go for interlibrary loans (ILL) and document delivery services (DDS).  “We used to have two interlibrary loan offices in the Libraries — one in health sciences, and one in the main library,” she says. “Each offered different services and had different fee structures.

Tesla, an electric car, can plug in to one of the new outlets in the garage at UW Bothell. The south garage has six charging stations.

Tesla, an electric car, can plug in to one of the new outlets in the garage at UW Bothell. The south garage has six charging stations.

“Before the merge, health sciences would charge for services, while the main library usually didnt.  Some students and faculty were confused about where to send a request and whether they should expect to be charged. It turned out that students requesting the same services would be charged if the request was made at one location and not charged at another location. Faculty with dual appointments, one in health sciences and another in upper campus, did not understand the reason for the different service levels.

In addition, health sciences and the main library used the same application on the same server for recording information about loans, but they had adapted the software in somewhat different ways. “The whole system had become unwieldy,” Nance says. A task force recommended a new structure spanning both the main and health sciences libraries, along with a consolidation of the way loans and copies or digital scans were handled. Implementation began in the summer of 2009, along with a dedicated appropriation that allowed health sciences to migrate from a fee-based service to one that was essentially free.

“ILL is a crucial element in responding to library users needs,” Nance says. “These services are enormously popular. As weve had to cancel serials due to budget cuts, interlibrary loans allow us to meet patrons needs even if we dont subscribe to the journal. Were moving more to a ‘collective collection of materials through our participation in consortia. From the library patrons perspective, they shouldnt need to know or care whether the articles are from material held on our campus, or from another library in our network.”

Consolidation and harmonization of services also means the Libraries can make more efficient use of staff and student workers. Software and procedures in the main facility and health sciences are now so similar that workers can be cross-trained. “We can now move staff to the most critical tasks, and backups in particular areas are less common,” Nance says.  The changes have allowed the unit to absorb a 2.5 FTE reduction in staff while offering new, more streamlined and efficient services.

At UW Bothell, the campus used grants, energy rebates and a loan to make changes in energy consumption that will have a financial payback of slightly under a decade.

“We had pledged to follow the Universitys Climate Action Plan, but the implementation costs money,” says Tony Guerrero, director of facilities services at UWB. “The problem was how to do this within our current budget constraints.”

The answer came in the form of an “energy service company,” or ESCO, which is hired to perform a comprehensive evaluation of current energy uses and recommend a cost-effective plan for energy reduction. UW interviewed consultants and hired Johnson Controls Inc. for the work.

Solar arrays on the north and south garages can supply 10 kW of energy each.  The energy will be used for garage lighting, vehicle charging, or both. Excess energy, if any, will be fed back into the power grid.

Solar arrays on the north and south garages can supply 10 kW of energy each. The energy will be used for garage lighting, vehicle charging, or both. Excess energy, if any, will be fed back into the power grid.

The campus received a $745,000 grant from the Department of Commerce, $33,000 from federal stimulus funds and plans to recoup at least $250,000 in Puget Sound Energy rebates and incentives. The remainder of the $2.2 million cost of the project has been borrowed and, based on current estimates, the loan should be paid off in less than 10 years. “That means we are expecting savings of at least $185,000 annually in reduced energy costs,” Guerrero says. Put another way, the reduction in UWBs carbon footprint is equivalent to taking 123 cars off the road per year or planting 251 acres of trees which would remove an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Johnson Controls found that one of the most cost-effective steps UWB could take was placing energy-saving window film on windows, which reduces summer heat gain inside buildings. This relatively simple change will achieve nearly 33 percent of the energy savings goal.

Recommissioning and tuning up the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems will achieve about 21 percent. “Our buildings are about 11 years old,” he says. “There are ways of improving our operations that are more efficient while reducing wear and tear on equipment. We also are installing new fume hood controls and dampers that automatically switch over to outside air and keep the conditioned a
ir inside the lab when the hood is not in use, which saves about 70 percent on their previous energy costs.”

Electrical improvements bring another 44 percent of savings. These include installation of more efficient lighting and vending “misers” that power down candy and soda dispensers until someone actually wants to use the machines. Software is being installed that automatically powers down 2,600 campus computers when not in use. This facility improvement measure has the most return on investment.  The cost is only 3 percent of the project but will save at least 31 percent of the projected electrical savings.

Just making people more aware of their energy use is expected to save about 10 percent of the expected total. A “utility dashboard,” which charts real-time energy use will be available for students, faculty and staff online and on touchscreens in at least three campus locations. The dashboard is an important tool to increase awareness and thereby influence energy usage.