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The phrases "Beaumont Depot" and "bottom line" probably were not used in the same sentence very often before 2009. But difficult financial circumstances and more than a little foresight combined to turn the little-used parcel of land on the Michigan State University campus into a central storage and staging area for an array of services and projects on the campus — and a triple win for its landscape services department.
First, it streamlined the process of overseeing the flow of materials for supervisors who must think like business people.
"We're held accountable in terms of how much material is actually being charged to the job, as well as the hours," says Gerald Dobbs, who is the university's landscape services manager. "Our challenge is to be the best buy here at the university for this type of service. So by keeping it centralized, we're able to reduce costs. That's been a real big boon for us.
"We're able to keep track of the materials and keep them secure, and we're better able to account for what we've got. If we have to respond rapidly and supply materials, we're able to do that because we know exactly where they're at. We also have the equipment available to load it. It's helped us in developing a service for the university so we're able to be a service provider of choice in this respect."
Second, Beaumont Depot has brought greater efficiency to the process of performing day-to-day landscaping activities.
"With everything being centralized in one location, we've cut down on a lot of effort of going from spot to spot on campus trying to locate enough material to do a particular job," Dobbs says. "We're more accurately able to account for and charge accurately to the work orders for the materials we need. We're also able to reduce labor costs because instead of charging the work order for several hours spent trying to locate materials in various parts of campus, we have it all in one location."
Third, the expanding operations have made the department more competitive — campus departments can choose to bring in off-campus contractors instead of hiring in-house departments, such as landscape services — and it has created more work. But it also has created jobs.
"It has provided quite a bit of extra work for our staff," Dobbs says. "We've been able to bring extra revenue to our department, and we've been able to hire a few extra people, who now have full-time jobs with benefits, in order to help us run this operation."