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November 2014

Controller’s Office Lean Story

The Controller’s Office began its Lean journey in the fall of 2011. The office currently has three certified Lean Leaders and 10 staff members on the path to certification. The office has completed 36 projects focused on improving the student experience (from the 2020 plan), improving services to departments and reducing costs and time. Lean methodologies are embedded in all departmental activities, and staff members are encouraged to challenge the norm in their daily duties. Staff continuously review processes for non-value added steps and to improve efficiency. Because the Controller’s Office staff has a variety of responsibilities that support multiple operations campus-wide, most of its Lean projects require cross-functional Lean teams. One of the more impressive Lean projects was led by the Strategic Procurement Office. By re-negotiating vendor contracts for improved pricing, cost savings of over $975,000 and cost avoidance of $2,239,260 were realized in fiscal year 2014.

Another example of a successful Lean project was led by the Grants & Contracts Office (G&C). This office administers over 400 active grants each year. These grants require monthly or quarterly invoices to be submitted to external agencies such as the National Science Foundation. Prior to G&C’s Lean journey, the time to process these invoices and reports was up to three days depending on staff availability and other resources. The staff recognized the need to standardize and streamline this process and adapted the Banner Workflow module to automate the routing and approval of these invoices and reports. Once implemented, hundreds of invoices and reports are now forwarded to awarding agencies electronically, eliminating the use of paper filings for most submissions. The result is a more efficient G&C Office process, improved customer service for the funding agencies, and better cash flow for the University. One of the Accounts Payable Office projects involved a new electronic Travel & Expense Module. Some of the benefits of the Travel Module include faster payment time for travelers and improved transactional information for reporting and future decision making. The new system also allows the traveler to see the status of their reports and track the progress of their reimbursement payments.

The Controller’s Office is focused on improving student services through Lean. One particular project with this focus was the elimination of a paper-based system for processing check requests by student organizations. The new system makes it easier for students to request a check and avoid walking check requests around campus for approvals and then hand delivering them to the Controller’s Office. Not only is the process simpler for students but the student organization’s shadow system was eliminated, enabling student organization treasurers and advisors to view their balances and transactions in real-time.

The Controller’s Office is deeply committed to Lean and continuous improvement. One of the reasons for their success has been Dale Hinrichs, Associate Vice President for Finance/Controller, and the steering team member for the Controller’s Office. Dale is retiring at the end of December and all of the staff in the Controller’s Office want to thank Dale and acknowledge his many contributions towards the Lean program. Because of his efforts, the Controller’s Office is well positioned to continue its focus on Lean and continuous quality improvement as Dale spends more time relaxing and enjoying his love of wine tasting.

Winter Term Lean Fair

Miami University Lean Initiatives Office is pleased to offer a Winter Term Lean Fair for all university employees at the Farmer School of Business, beginning at 8:30 a.m. on January 16th. The event will provide an interactive experience for attendees and showcase the application of Lean in the University. Please mark the date on your calendars and look for more detailed information in the December Lean newsletter.