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Updating the FOSS Kit Refurbishment Process in Tucson

Sharyn V. Chesser (retired), Science Specialist, Tucson Unified School District Science Resource Center
September 15, 1998 | Materials Management

After one year as coordinator of the elementary science materials with the reality of having to do more with less, I knew our team needed help. The FOSS boxes purchased in 1993 were beginning to show wear, so the first step was to move from cardboard to plastic boxes which could be locked. The search and purchasing happened in the spring semester while the transfers occurred during the summer.

In August I contacted the University of Arizona, Eller School of Business, to find out if the MBA Consulting Group (a group of MBA students) would provide professional assistance in streamlining the refurbishment system. The students were interested in opportunities to apply their expertise in the community. The charge to us would be the cost of photocopying the final report and an optional donation. The price was definitely right so the administration and our science team said go for it!

The MBA consulting team set the project objectives:

  • Analyze and improve the current process for receiving, refilling, and delivering science kits in order to reduce the cycle time of the process while maintaining an accurate inventory of kit contents. Parts of the process to be improved included the physical process layout, the coordination of deliveries, and the development of delivery schedules. It also included analyzing and documenting the tasks of the current staff and recommendations for appropriate staffing levels for each activity in the process.
  • Study the feasibility of implementing a computerized information system.

The students shadowed key staff members, participated in the refurb, and reviewed our entire process. They factored in that high school (business education) seniors hired annually refurbish the majority of the kits and special education teens count and sort items.

Once the benchmarks were observed and described, alternative methods to improve the process were considered. The team also conducted an audit of the information system to determine its effectiveness.

Their input was exciting. First, the group customized a new database (Microsoft Access) to track the scheduling, delivery, and availability of kits. The Tucson Unified School District technology department installed the software. (The system should greatly reduce the number of files required to track kit inventory, delivery dates, and locations, reducing the amount of data entry.) Second, the team recommended a more efficient floor plan for arranging outgoing kits and prepackaging more supplies. Those suggestions are currently being tried. Their other recommendations will be considered in stages:

  • a standardized measuring station;
  • graphical packing instructions; and
  • creation of a video of the refurbishing process to help train new or "float" help.

Part of the final report was a projection of possible problem areas as the Science Resource Center grows, namely, the need for more space, additional personnel, and new trucks.

Although it is too early to fully evaluate the changes, the preliminary results have been very encouraging. The new system should save the Science Resource Center office manager countless hours and simplify the paperwork, making it easier for other staff to assist. The refurbishment process continues to be streamlined, and the recommendations will be considered as time allows. The graduate students were so enthusiastic and sincere. I would urge any center to seek similar assistance.