Pilot business program lowering cost at UD

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

A business strategy for continuously improving efficiency and customer service is being rolled out with good results so far at the University of Dayton, part of a program that also educates students.

It’s called Lean Six Sigma, a popular tactic that has plenty of advocates and detractors, including more than a few not-so-complimentary Dilbert cartoons.

But if applied in the correct spirit and with integrity, it can revamp and improve operations, said Paul Piechota, director of the University of Dayton School of Engineering’s Center for Competitive Change.

Piechota is a big advocate for the process. He’s also co-author of a new book, “Keeping Your Business in the U.S.A.: Profit Globally While Operating Locally.”

The book debunks myths that U.S. manufacturers can’t compete with cheap-labor countries, Piechota said, by detailing seven recipes that are common denominators among successful companies, including those in the Miami Valley like Hamilton Caster and Midmark Corp. Piechota and the center have worked similar projects for Miami University, The Wiremold Company and Liberty Savings Bank, among others.

UD began with three pilot efforts in July, starting with the campus bookstore, dining services and facilities management. The goal is to expand to 40 areas next semester and to eventually reach a total of 200.

Twenty to 30 students in business and engineering will work on the programs. They’ll earn certificates that are similar to those in the martial arts, in this case, a green belt as part of their an industry Six Sigma certification.

Piechota said the overall goal is a 10 percent improvement in the quality of delivering products and services to students.

UD’s dining services consolidated salad preparation and is now is able to serve at more locations with better use of staff. Up to $100,000 per year will likely be saved by buying reusable printer cartridges rather than brand new ones for replacements.

Julie Banks, University Retail Operations Manager, said the program holds great promise for lowering costs as well as reducing textbook returns to publishers. The campus bookstore is developing a formula for the ordering process and working to educate faculty on better ordering procedures. The campus has gotten more on-time orders from faculty than ever before, she said.

“So far, we’re encouraged,” Banks said.

For the program to work, Piechota said, it must be genuinely bottom-up driven by front-line employees who have direct contact with customers.

A key metric is employee engagement and successful employee organization improvement suggestions. “The strategy is zero layoffs,” he said. “My personal mission when we work with companies is that we drive zero layoffs. If I make sure things are done more efficiently and productivity is increased, as well as costs lowered, there are no need for layoffs.”

Tom Burkhardt, University of Dayton vice president for finance and administrative services, said the programs tie to improvements around the university. “In the past year, the University has revamped its curriculum and tuition plan to better serve students. Now, we’re tackling the way we perform the business of serving students,” he said.


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