September 28, 2011

Facilities Initiatives May Save $15 Million

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Correction appended

Administrators touted the facilities initiative within the Administrative Streamlining Program, which they say has led to a more efficient delivery of services and will result in an expected $15 million in savings by 2015, at a Facilities Services meeting Wednesday.

The Administrative Streamlining Program is a University-wide project designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of support operations and services. ASP’s energy efficiency initiatives alone will provide Facilities Services with a projected $4.5 million in annual savings, said Lanny Joyce ’81, director of energy management.

Joyce said Facilities Services may spend up to $44 million over the next five years to improve the efficiency and delivery of services and save money in the long term.

Of the $15 million Facilities Services expects to save by fiscal year 2015, $10 million is expected to come from a combination of reducing staff, minimizing resources and implementing a Zone Management structure, said David Howe, interim director for Facilities Administration and Finance.

Conceived in winter 2010 and instituted in early fall of 2010, Zone Management is a new organizational structure for administering facilities by zones rather than individual departments or technical functions.

Through the Zone Management strategy, Facilities Services hopes to improve delivery of services by creating more effective partnerships and accountability among staff members.

“The Zone Management strategy implies that facilities activities within each of the four zones is conducted as a collective and can thus gain from economies of scale,” said Kristine Mahoney, director of facilities and operations. “Staffing is assigned by zone in order to create a sense of familiarly … and with this efficiency, there are savings to be earned.”

Lori Barry, director of facilities operations for the College of Veterinary Medicine and one of the program managers for the Zone Management project, said she thought that the strategy was also helpful for building strong relations between zone superintendents and their staff.

“We all have a tendency to operate in our own little worlds, but the zone initiative is telling us we have to step out of that box,” Barry said. “We are all part of Cornell and we all have a responsibility to each other.”

Despite the savings raked in from improved efficiency and the increased collaboration among staff, many administrators noted that the project was still very much a work in progress.

“We’ve laid the ground work … but right now we’re honing in on the issue of staffing within the zones,” Barry said.

Karen Muckstadt, director of facilities management, said that although she had seen “positive change” as a result of the zone model, she remained concerned about staffing for each of the zones.

“At this point, I don’t think zone leaders have an adequate number of resources,” she said.

The additional $5 million to be saved will come from efforts to improve energy efficiency across campus, Howe said.

Joyce noted that the Utilities and Energy Management Department has “much more capability to cause cost reductions” as a result of the streamlining program.

“The University has made the resources available for us so that we can have people whose jobs are solely for optimizing energy systems on campus,” Joyce said. “We have more tools than before the [economic] crunch, not less.”

Mahoney said that while savings from the Administration Streamlining Program are beneficial to the University, efforts to improve efficiency across campus are not just about the money.

“We are very concerned about the way we have adjusted ourselves and the explicit results the community will see and feel as a result of improved efficiency,” she said.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that the initiatives in the Administrative Streamlining Program will save Facilities Services approximately $4.5 million a year. In fact, it is only the energy efficiency initiatives within ASP that will generate the $4.5 million in savings. Additionally, the article originally stated that the University invested $44 million in Facilities Services to improve efficiency standards. In fact, $44 million is the maximum amount Facilities Services might spend over the next five years.

Original Author: Liz Camuti