Carolina Counts reaps $58 million in savings
- April 2008: Efficiency study by Bain & Company is announced.
- July 2008: Holden Thorp becomes Carolina’s 10th chancellor.
- October 2008: U.S. economy plunges into recession.
- July 2009: Bain presents final report to the Board of Trustees.
- July 2009: University faces state budget cuts of $18.5 million.
- August 2009: Joe Templeton is named special assistant to chancellor to share goals with campus.
- August 2009: Carolina Counts is launched to suggest and help implement improvement projects.
- September 2009: Mike Patil is named executive director of Carolina Counts.
- September 2009: Berkeley and Cornell use Bain & Company/Carolina Counts model for cost cutting.
- January 2010: 10 campus initiative areas are identified.
- January 2010: Website is launched to outline objectives and monitor progress.
- February 2010: Anonymous employee survey is conducted for feedback about the connection between people’s work and the University’s mission.
- June 2010: $21.8 million is saved (39 improvement projects are completed).
- July 2010: Carolina faces 5 percent permanent cut in state funds.
- September 2010: Information Technology Services completes restructuring of teaching and learning services under an at-cost business model producing an annual savings of more than $400,000.
- August 2010: Departments in Campus Services change organizational structure, reducing the number of supervisors with only one employee reporting to them from 34 to 19, and reducing the number of supervisors with two or three people reporting to them from 39 to 31.
- June 2011: $32.7 million is saved (84 improvement projects are completed).
- July 2011: Carolina absorbs a 17.9 percent loss in permanent state funding.
- October 2011: The University sees a 24.7 percent drop in energy consumption since summer 2009, when a team of HVAC experts with Energy Services initiated a program to optimize equipment performance while adjusting temperatures during times buildings were vacant. The annual savings: more than $10 million a year in other funds.
- December 2011: Thorp speaks to President Barack Obama about Carolina Counts during White House roundtable discussion on college affordability.
- May 2012: Carolina Counts creates model for Shared Service Center.
- June 2012: $48.3 million is saved (113 improvement projects are completed).
- July 2012: Carolina faces state budget cut of 1 percent.
- January 2013: 115 of 165 improvement projects are completed.
- February 2013: Anonymous employee survey is conducted as follow-up to the 2010 survey.
- June 2013: $58.1 million is saved (118 improvement projects are completed).
- July 2013: Carolina faces state budget cut (details to be determined).
In spring 2008, when an anonymous donor funded a private outside study to explore ways the University could be run more efficiently, it was difficult to imagine the dividends – in the form of cost savings – that would come of it.
And no one predicted that in October, on the cusp of a presidential election, the national economy would teeter on the edge of a depression, or that the housing market would soon collapse and millions of U.S. jobs would disappear.
Nor could Holden Thorp have known, when he became chancellor in July 2008, that the University would face cuts in state appropriations each of the five years he was in office, including a $100.7 million cut in 2011–12 alone.
The effects of the Great Recession hit North Carolina – and this campus – hard.
But the impact might have been even more drastic if not for the study completed by Bain & Company, which grew into a campus-wide initiative called Carolina Counts. Mike Patil, the executive director of Carolina Counts, spearheaded and continues to lead the effort.
In its first full year of implementation (2009–10), Carolina Counts tracked cost savings of $21 million per year in the recurring state-funded budget. For the fiscal year just ended, Carolina Counts reached recurring savings of $58.1 million per year in state funding. During the past four fiscal years, the cumulative savings stand at $160.1 million in state funding.
Patil said there are two important points to remember behind these impressive figures.
First, the University did not undertake these efficiency measures in response to budget cuts. Carolina Counts was set in motion the summer before the economy collapsed.
Secondly, the credit for the significant savings does not belong to Patil or his office, but to the people across campus who changed the way they did business to create greater efficiencies.
“The work is done, not by this one-person office, but by a community of people who have done what they thought was the right thing to do and more,” Patil said. “We just helped to provide a structure and impetus.”
During the upcoming academic year, thanks to the campus’ continuing efforts, Carolina Counts is projected to surpass $66 million in annual savings.
Some of the movers and shakers of Carolina Counts
Bernard Law, Equipment Maintenance Management Program
Before Carolina Counts, each department entered into an annual service contract with outside vendors for equipment maintenance, based on vendors’ estimates of anticipated repairs. Under the new program, rolled out in April 2012, two outside management companies were hired to pay vendors for each job based on the actual time and materials required. Bernard Law, director of purchasing services, and his team visited 87 departments to explain the new program. Among the 21 departments that agreed to try it, service costs were reduced an average of 28 percent.
“It was exciting to see how the new program saved $153,000 the first year. The challenge in the months ahead will be to get more departments to see the benefit of trying it. And that benefit is huge because all the money saved gets to stay within the department.”
Mary Crabtree, Health and Safety Management Information System
Mary Crabtree, manager of workplace safety, led efforts to upgrade the electronic database system known as Health and Safety Management Information System, developed in the 1990s. One new feature is a web-based scheduling system that employees who are under occupational medical surveillance programs (such as a physician who must undergo annual tuberculosis screenings) can use to schedule required evaluations.
“Improvements to our electronic workflow system have made vital information more accessible, and needed services more convenient to schedule and receive. As a result, the process for employees to comply with state and federal safety regulations is simpler. It takes less time away from work to meet these requirements, which in turn saves money. It has also placed emphasis on making UNC a safe place to work, which in my job is the bottom line.”
Andy Johns, Activities, Interests and Relationships
The integrity of Carolina’s vast research enterprise is ensured by federal conflict of interest (COI) policies, the University’s internal COI policy and a UNC system policy on external engagements. As these regulations have grown, faculty members must provide the same information again and again. One faculty member did this 17 times in one year. Andy Johns, associate vice chancellor for research, led efforts to develop a software system enabling information to be kept on file and downloaded as needed for all COI policies. The system will operate this fall.
“We can’t change the policies imposed on us, but we can control how we administer these policies to better support our research faculty, who now spend an inordinate amount of their valuable time responding to them. We want to help give them more time to focus on their research and teaching.”
Carol Tresolini, Unified Business Center
Traditionally, each academic unit reporting to the provost’s office, including small public service and instructional centers, designated staff members to perform needed human resources and finance functions. Under the direction of Carol Tresolini, vice provost for academic initiatives, a new unified business center now performs these functions for the smaller units – not only increasing efficiency and saving money, but also allowing staff to focus on programming.
“We started talking about doing this about five years ago, even before the Bain analysis, but Carolina Counts gave us the impetus, the imperative and the sense of urgency to make it happen. It was not an easy transition, but one worth doing and one that has also produced dividends in countless ways.”