More than a dozen Whitman School supply chain management graduate students are working on projects designed to help Syracuse University improve its sourcing processes, which could generate cost savings and create more effective purchasing processes for campus users. The projects engage students as part of the Operational Excellence Program under Fast Forward Syracuse.

The Operational Excellence Program helps the University develop more effective business processes, achieve campus-wide efficiencies, and create opportunities to fund investment in the Strategic Plan and the Campus Master Plan. Under Operational Excellence, the University is evaluating opportunities to deliver better levels of service to students, faculty and staff to improve the overalleffectiveness of the University.

Lab supplies are one area where Whitman supply chain students have been evaluating whether the University can save money through exercising the economy of scale principle.

“The projects on which the supply chain management students are working have two goals,” says Patrick Penfield, professor of practice in supply chain 
management and director of executive education at the Whitman School. “We are helping the University save money and improve its processes, and the students have the benefit of valuable experiential learning, solving real-world challenges.”

The five projects all involve identifying more streamlined processes for requesting proposals for high-cost commodities, such as computers, lab supplies, and software and license fees. The students are outlining potential cost savings using the principle of economies of scale to identify ways to consolidate spending in these categories.

“The leading reason I chose the Whitman School is its emphasis on experiential learning,” says Cory Sanderson ’15, an M.S. in supply chain management candidate. “This sourcing project has been an excellent source of exposure to how businesses operate on the ground.”

Sanderson says the students are comparing pricing for licensing agreements for software the entire campus uses. He adds that they are reviewing the possibility of consolidating service providers for a variety of website maintenance and development functions, which could provide the University with a higher level of transparency on the details of its annual expenditure on these services, as well as reduce the overhead of administering the contracts for these services.

“If, for example, all the schools and colleges that needed a certain kind of software used the same web-based platform, the University could save a great deal of money,” says Penfield. “So the students are looking into that to see if that makes sense and, if so, how to make that happen in the most efficient way.”

The students presented their findings in a business case format to the Operational Excellence Steering Committee members on April 27. Results of the analysis from all teams include savings opportunities and/or process insights and recommendations, as well as next steps. Even though the students have finished their class project, the work doesn’t stop there. Going forward, initiative teams will complete any remaining analysis and develop formal recommendations for the University, which will be presented to the executive committee over the next three to four months.

“It has been a pleasure working with the students. Their fresh perspectives and skills have been incredibly valuable to these initiatives. We look forward to launching additional sourcing initiatives with student teams in the 2015-16 academic year,” says Verda Blythe, director of operational excellence.

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