A “Lean Machine” – University of Dayton Uses Lean to Improve Back Office Operations
I have a warm place in my heart for Dayton, Ohio considering I was born there and lived in the area through kindergarten. My dad got his MBA from the University of Dayton. I was happy to get an email from the U of D telling me about their application of Lean principles toward the improvement of university operations.
I sometimes get asked about using Lean in academic settings. I’ve always thought that you might not get much buy-in from professors to use Lean methods in the classroom (Bob Emiliani might, thankfully, disagree and has been working hard to promote Lean thinking in the classroom), but you could certainly use Lean to improve the back office operations of a college and that’s what it appears they are doing in Dayton.
From their press release:
Tactics to improve efficiency and work quality with roots on shop floors and assembly lines are paying dividends for the University of Dayton on the business side of serving students.
That’s a good start realizing, correctly, that Lean is about both efficiency AND quality.
The university talks of their focus on the students and the desire to “relentlessly focus on improving their experiences.”
What are their results so far?
Using Lean Six Sigma activities, the bookstore reduced the number of new textbook returns by 5 percent, freeing staff to focus more on customers. Dining services consolidated salad prep and now is able to serve more locations. Other areas around campus have saved on printing costs by using reusable printer cartridges and consolidating printers and copiers.
Thursday, I will be recording a podcast with Paul Piechota, director of the University of Dayton School of Engineering’s Center for Competitive Change and a Lean Six Sigma champion and black belt, who says:
“Through Lean Six Sigma activities, organizations adopt a philosophy of engaging employees and using data to solve problems. The entire focus is on customers. It’s not just a manufacturing tool. It’s been used in banks and hospitals. This can be used in our business operations.”
U of D is getting students involved in the projects, as they expand their program:
The University rolled out the initiative in the bookstore, dining services and facilities management in July. It hopes to expand the initiative into 40 areas next semester and to eventually reach a total of 200.
University of Dayton students will work with each area. Through their work in the projects and completion of the University’s Six Sigma green belt class, they will earn their industry Six Sigma certification.
The focus on customers (students instead of patients, as we’d talk about in healthcare), the focus on reducing waste (instead of slashing costs) reminds me of good Lean healthcare work. Some of their approach reminds me of the mission at Catholic health systems (like the system where my Healthcare Kaizen co-author Joe Swartz works):
“In our Catholic, Marianist tradition, we’re trying to be even better stewards of our resources and adapt to the changing economic times,” Burkhardt said. “To remain at the top of our game, we need to exponentially improve our students’ experiences.”
When I did some pro-bono consulting work for Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, they had a similar mission-driven reason for doing quality improvement work… the biblical requirement to be good stewards of the resources given to them (by donors).
The podcast with Paul, from U of D, will be coming out soon. Stay tuned. If you have any questions for me to ask Paul, leave a comment on this post.
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