State Relations

December 17, 2012

UW’s LEAN Initiative Continues to Attract National Attention

After a fall election marked by a spotlight on efficiency efforts, it’s fair to say that interest will likely continue to grow in “LEAN” management.

Since January 2010, UW’s Finance & Facilities (F2) department has been using LEAN as a comprehensive approach to improve management of people and processes, as well as delivering more efficient and effective services to campus customers.

F2’s LEAN process involves streamlining day-to-day work activities and processes, engaging the staff and encouraging them to identify and solve problems, and encourages people to continuously improve their work in a hands-on way.

Earlier this year, UW’s Creative Communications department was recognized by a national magazine for its financial turnaround, which utilized the LEAN process.

This month, the University’s LEAN initiative was recognized yet again, this time by The National Consortium for Continuous Improvement in Higher Education (NCCI).

V’Ella Warren, the UW’s Vice President of Finance and Facilities (F2) and CFO, recently hosted representatives from Cornell University, including NCCI’s President Kathy Burkgren.

The purpose of the visit was to highlight how Finance and Facilities is implementing LEAN in the area of process improvement.

In the December newsletter for the national group, Burkgren reported back on the  visit:

The University of Washington is change leadership in action and has made tremendous strides since 2009 with the introduction of process improvement which is changing their culture. Through process improvement, they are creating a culture where people feel valued, know their ideas matter, and feel they are empowered. Creativity is valued and celebrated. During our visit, I not only saw engaged staff, but highly engaged staff. I saw recognition among and between colleagues at all levels. I witnessed career development through challenging work. I saw respectful, constructive, and timely feedback happening right before my eyes among employees, managers, and senior leaders. My colleagues and I heard about how staff at all levels, by working together, eliminated backlogs of work, standardized processes, improved customer service, and significantly streamlined processes to save time and dollars. We heard testimonies of collaborations among workgroups. I saw boards with easy-to-update metrics and metrics tracked and updated daily so that monthly and quarterly metrics almost create themselves (or so it seemed). It was truly amazing. Kudos to the University of Washington!

Two examples of LEAN process improvement in action on campus:

  • Electronic Purchasing: Procurement Services’ efforts to migrate legacy system purchases to new ones have resulted in cost savings of $8.5M for the 6-month period ended September 2011, and $105M cumulative savings since July 2002.
  • Savings from UW Contracts: Purchasing Services has achieved savings of $13M for the 6 months ended September 2011, and $59M from January 2009-September 2011, via purchases made on University-wide contracts they established.

Sustainability efforts also benefit from the LEAN approach, especially as applied to improving building efficiency.

One example:

  • Smart Grid Demonstration Project: Electrical meters have been installed in all Seattle campus buildings and metering data are being collected.  Webpage “dashboards” present real-time building energy consumption information. This is expected to encourage conservation of energy by building occupants. This is part of an innovative project conducted in collaboration with the College of Engineering, Battelle, Bonneville Power Administration, McKinstry, and Seattle City Light.

Learn more by visiting Finance & Facilities LEAN webpage.