Miami University (United States)

Contributed byAI Ryan

Miami University (MU; is the 10th oldest public university in the United States with an enrollment of over 19,000 students on its Oxford campus in southern Ohio. MU is nationally recognized for its strong academic programs and commitment to undergraduate teaching. MU began its Lean journey following the 2008 economic downturn, recognizing that to maintain its competitive advantage with limited resources and a changing higher education environment, adopting Lean could provide an ongoing philosophy for improvement that is used every day across the university. The Miami LJniversity Lean Initiative (MU-Lean: https://miamioh. edu/about-miami/leadership/finance-business/lean/) began in 2009 with its mission to reduce expenses without having any adverse effect on academic outcomes and the student experience. Consultants provided an initial assessment and phased plan for the implementation of MLJ-Lean:

Phase 1. Create a mission and define breakthrough objectives Phase 2. Build an organizational structure Phase 3. Develop training and certificates Phase 4. Build momentum in Finance and Business Services Phase 5- Position early adopters in projects with impactful results Phase 6. Expand to other areas of the university and reach out to all employees

Phase 7. Expand internal training and certifications

Phase 8. Create a sustainable culture of continuous improvement.

MU-Lean successfully completed Phases 1-5 during its first 4 years, and progress on Phases 6-8 is ongoing.

Three keys to Lean success and sustainment were established: leadership from the top; structure to support MU-Lean; and investing in our own people. MU-Lean receives active support of the President of the university (who participated in Lean leader training), the executive cabinet, and its Board of Trustees and is led by the Director of MU-Lean (i.e., the Lean Champion) and the VP for Finance and Business Services. The Lean Champion and two support staff are the only employees whose sole responsibilities are MU-Lean. Additionally, MU-Lean is guided by the university-wide Lean Champion and executive steering team, and divisional steering teams coordinate Process Improvement Teams (PITs) within their area. Along with employees involved in the process, each PIT would include a member of the divisional steering team and specialists from HR, IT, etc. as needed to complete their project. The Miami Lean certification program, taught primarily by an internal staff development team, takes 24-30 months and has over 100 hours of formal training including both technical and people skills (e.g., Lean, Project Management, Culture and Leadership, Train the Trainer), participating in five PITs and leading three (as well as presenting a significant project to a review board prior to graduating from the program). Graduates expand and sustain the Lean leadership needed to lead and facilitate PITs, manage and coordinate Lean events, and serve as Lean trainers and mentors. Monthly newsletters, an active website, information-sharing sites, annual university-wide Lean Fair, and quarterly reports to the President and Board of Trustees provide regular communication in support of MU-Lean. Systems are in place to track and report the Key Performance Indicators for the MU-Lean program. As of May 2019, 1,514 Lean projects have been completed for a total yearly savings of over $83.3M (i.e., $42.6M in cost avoidance, $27.6M in cost reduction, and $13-1M in revenue generation; note that annual savings are only counted in the first year of the project and not ensuing years, providing a very conservative estimate of savings). Over 2,500 employees have participated in some level of Lean training. Importantly, the newly hired President has indicated his support for MU-Lean, which continues to make inroads in all divisions of the University and create a sustainable culture of continuous improvement.

As an example of MU-Lean at work, the “Activities & Initiatives Reporting Systems (AIRS)” Lean project was conducted to evaluate and improve the current process for collecting and retrieving annual faculty activity reporting (e.g., scholarship, grants, service) so that this information can efficiently and effectively support multiple needs across the university (e.g., faculty CV and bio-sketch, promotion and tenure dossiers, program reviews, departmental reports, university accreditation). Preliminary analyses indicated that each of the six academic divisions had its own customized paper-based annual faculty activity report form, timeline, and workflow, and the university’s 1,200+ faculty members were spending over 6 hours/year completing this form and responding to other program, department, college, and university requests for faculty activities (every academic department and division also spent 42 staff days per year), and yet the system was unable to provide ready answers to important questions (e.g., how many undergraduate students have published papers with their professors? Do we have faculty with expertise in Italian history?). A PIT was established, led by the Dean of the Graduate

College and including representatives from the colleges as well as resource experts in HR and IT. The project was divided into three phases.

The goal of Phase I was to determine the current and desired future states for AIRS, including the design of a common reporting template across colleges. It resulted in a university-wide, standard annual faculty activity template. The cumulative annual reports for a faculty member would serve as the promotion and tenure dossier, and the annual reports would include additional information that would support information and reporting needs across the institution. Phase II defined the system requirements for an electronic AIRS database where data are entered once and available for use over time. The PIT established a clear business case for an electronic AIRS database and provided the RFP information needed to select a software vendor and product that met the university’s needs. Phase III, the selection of a vendor and implementation of the electronic AIRS system, was successfully completed in 2016.

Results from the AIRS Lean project are summarized in Table 3-2. Comparing the current AIRS investment of time to what will be required using the new electronic system (based on vendor experiences and best professional judgment), the time required of faculty members to submit their annual report will be reduced by 33%; the time required by support staff would be reduced by 50%. The software cost of $5бК was easily offset by an 83% increase in productivity and cost avoidance of S2.3M. Importantly, the new electronic AIRS database provided mutual gains in value to all owners of the process: faculty, department, college, and university.

Other successful MU-Lean projects include5:

■ Self-registration process for online master’s degree program:

Automation and integration of both the online registration and billing processes for an online master’s degree program enrolling over 1,000 students replaced the current manual process completed by university

Table 3.2 Scorecard Performance: Improvements to AIRS Reporting

Metric Calculations (per Year)

Time (hours)

Cost ($)

Current state



Future state




90,542 (savings)

2,263,550 (savings)

staff. The new process reduced data-entry time for staff, reduced the possibility of billing errors, and provided a simplified bill for students.

■ Geothermal free cooling: The MU-Lean PIT examined efficiency improvements in the geothermal heating/cooling system and determined that operating the system in “free cooling mode” (blending low-temperature geothermal well water with cooled water from the heat pump chillers) during the spring could provide the campus with 218 hours of free cooling annually and a 43% reduction in kilowatt hours used for this cooling.

■ Student package center: To accommodate a 20% annual growth in package delivery to students and reduce student waiting in line to retrieve packages, a Lean team recommended the installation of a substantial number of “intelligent lockers.” Delivery companies will deliver straight to the lockers and notify students via email including a PIN code. Students can retrieve their packages at their convenience using their smartphones and without waiting in line.

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