Quality Issues Forum 2003

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Excerpts from remarks made by Executive Vice President and Provost Rodney A. Erickson on May 9, 2003 at the Quality Issues Forum held at the Penn State Nittany Lion Inn:

Requesting Cost Savings Ideas

“Penn State is nationally recognized as one of the most efficiently run universities, but we are committed to cutting costs even further and finding new sources of
non-tuition revenue.”

“Gary Schultz and I are co-chairing a Task Force to identify additional cost savings, recommend cost avoidance strategies, develop new ideas for generating non-tuition revenue, and make investments now that will reduce costs in the future.”

“This is a long-term effort, but we have already identified $3 million in central cost savings and $3 million in new non-tuition revenue to help reduce next year’s tuition bills from what they would otherwise have had to be. These include more administrative streamlining, program consolidation and elimination, and fringe benefit cost containment. “

“Improvement Teams charged by the Task Force are examining publication costs, telecommunication services, travel expenses, and energy savings.”

“We’ve also requested cost savings ideas from the entire university and the community has been forthcoming in offering suggestions. Over 230 responses have been received so far, and the suggestions are being reviewed by appropriate working groups or individual units.”

Originally Skeptical about TQM

“I confess that a dozen years ago I was very skeptical about what was then called Total Quality Management could bring to the operations of a University like ours. I recall sitting in one of my predecessor John Brighton’s early TQM presentations and wondering where this then-buzz word would lead us. “

“But later, first when I served as dean of the Graduate School, I came to appreciate much more fully, and to observe firsthand the benefits of continuous quality improvement and the successful teams we brought together to streamline our enrollment management, information-sharing, and other critical processes. “

“The end result was truly transformative in terms of the organization and operation of the Graduate School. We were doing far more business with fewer staff and with much happier applicants, incumbent students, and academic partners who felt like we were working with them rather than against them. “

“In the years that have followed, nothing has diminished my enthusiasm for our efforts at quality improvement. What is perhaps most gratifying-now these many years later-is that continuous quality improvement has been institutionalized at Penn State to the point where it is second nature. “

“I can’t tell you the number of times when I’ve been in meetings to discuss issues and problems, and very early on the suggestion is made, “Let put together a team and re-work this process. It’s become part of our culture here at Penn State.”

Service Remains the Centerpiece

“I’ve read the descriptions of the new improvement teams for this year, and was pleased to see that the descriptions included goals such as, “Simplify a process,”” improve management,” “improve employee morale,” “reach new audiences,” “improve communication strategies,” and “promote a healthy and safe work environment.” Many of these worthy goals are qualified by statements such as, “while maintaining or enhancing customer service.” Yes, CQI involves cost savings and efficiencies, but it also means better meeting the needs of those we serve. Service remains the centerpiece of our work.”

CQI projects are not always glamorous; they don’t always make the front page of the Intercom, or involve rewards and recognition. We are usually looking at processes-how things get done. CQI projects involve details that usually aren’t easy to resolve, but that are important to the University.”

Examples of CQI Teams

Let me give you some examples of recent CQI projects -from teams represented here today-that have improved a number of important functions. All of the teams are working to enhance stakeholder satisfaction.

“For example, the Steam Service Shift Schedule Team (that’s quite a tongue-twister) is enhancing employee morale as well as health and safety. They have measured the current turnover levels, sick time and grievances, and they hope to achieve a reduction in all three measures when they check their results in a few months.”

“Teams in the College of Agricultural
Sciences’ Information and Communication Technologies
unit are improving the services they offer to faculty and staff in their College. They used focus groups to determine current customer satisfaction levels so that they will be able to track the success of their improvements when they re-measure customer satisfaction.”

“Numerous teams have made an impact on student learning and student and faculty satisfaction. For example, the Innovation and Quality Teams sponsored by the Schreyer Institute give students more of a voice by enabling them to recommend course changes during the semester. This in turn helps make teaching and learning more rewarding. “

“The Student Affairs’ Pulse Team continually studies students’ needs and expectations and their overall satisfaction with aspects of academics and campus life. This information is used by units to make improvements in their programs and services.”

“The new Grade Collection System where faculty enter grades directly on eLion has already drastically reduced the number of late grades.”

“Many teams are streamlining processes in ways that will reduce costs and enhance effectiveness. For example, the Outreach Magazine Process Improvement Team streamlined their process so much that they are now able to produce more magazines per year in less time and with less mailing cost.”

“The Outreach Marketing Communications Production CQI Team has reduced by half the time that projects are in their shop, while enhancing the quality of proofreading and other services that are important to their customers. “

“The Civil and Environmental Engineering Academic Administration Team is reducing the administrative paperwork for undergraduate student administration and advising, and improving the management of student records.”

“The Technical Imaging Team has created solutions to expedite transactions, thereby enhancing service.”

“The Student Rating of Teaching Effectiveness Team implemented process improvements and reduced SRTE error rates.”

“Another way to reduce costs is through agreements with vendors and consortia. The Travel Services Online Team has achieved savings through volume discounts that have saved the university $334,000 per year over the lowest available airfare and $210,000 per year on car rentals.”

“Many teams have achieved tremendous cost savings through solutions like the elimination of printing and mailing costs and the reduction of paperwork. One example is the Benefits Enrollment Team that has eliminated $74,000 worth of mailing costs each year. That adds up quickly. “

“The Registrar’s Call for Courses Team has reduced paper work to the extent that they now use only two filing cabinets where they used to use eight.”

“Many teams have streamlined processes to such an extent that they have been able to save labor costs that have then been redeployed to higher value-added service activities. For example, the Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Financial Processing Team has enhanced the efficiency of financial forms processing and now provides better administrative services with fewer staff.”

“The Web-based Student Applications Team saved $24,000 in the 2002 student application cycle that was recycled into new service initiatives like an online visit schedule and an online transfer course evaluation.”

“The Electronic Gifts Processing Team has reduced their turnaround time to 24 to 48 hours.”

“Over the past decade we have seen remarkable results from improvement teams at Penn State. The end result is that we have truly been able to “do more with less” while increasing the satisfaction of those we serve.”

Photo Gallery

A glimpse of six new Improvement Teams

Teams featured on the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment’s Quality Spotlights Web Site

Intercom Insert [PDF]