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Bringing landscaping materials, supplies and equipment to one campus location created numerous benefits for the 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," Dobbs says. "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."
The process of developing Beaumont Depot also has helped Dobbs' department break down some of the kinds of barriers that can form between departments in any organization.
"We've learned to develop really strong relationships with other departments in the physical plant, such as engineering and architectural services, communications, building services, and the business functions," he says. "We've had to sit down and talk quite about how we can develop this as a business operation and how we can best meet the needs of all the departments.
While the project grew out of financial challenges on campus, those challenges also created opportunities to rethink the department's operations.
"Because we were open to this type of business concept during a difficult time, we actually became a stronger entity," Dobbs says. "I believe this is the key to our success — MSU as a whole, as well as physical plant. It forces us to look at what we're duplicating within all the departments of physical plant that we don't necessarily need to do.
"We have assumed some roles that other departments didn't want, and they have assumed some roles that we didn't want. It's been mutually beneficial."
Revamped Grounds Operations Brings Savings, Synergy and Jobs