University Business honors TAMHSC for efficiencies

(BRYAN, TX) — The Texas A&M Health Science Center is one of nine colleges and universities nationwide recognized by University Business magazine in its winter 2012 “Models of Efficiency” national recognition program.

From left, Nathan Jennings, environmental health and safety specialist; Nancy Eaker, laboratory safety manager; and Erich H. Fruchtnicht, radiation safety officer.

Sponsored by Higher One – a company that assists in college business office operations – the Models of Efficiency program recognizes innovative approaches for streamlining higher education operations through technology and/or business process improvements.

“The Texas A&M Health Science Center has done an excellent job in creating a consistent process for an area where consistency is of the utmost importance – student safety,” said Tim Goral, editor in chief of University Business. “These process efficiencies are no doubt going to reap benefits above and beyond what can be easily measured in the short term.”

Each of eight TAMHSC campuses requires a safety inspection to determine the type of environmental health and safety (EHS) training needed for its faculty, staff, students and researchers. Inspections took three staffers working for four days, followed by 32 person-hours to enter the data and produce large reports. Each campus also had its own EHS department until three years ago when a single, combined EHS unit was formed, making consistency and continuity in inspections difficult.

Seeking to leverage new technologies, TAMHSC earlier this year began using Apple’s iPad, and the device’s portability, flexibility and power have greatly increased inspection efficiency. Using Zerion Software’s iFormBuilder mobile platform, EHS developed user-friendly inspection forms with headers and detailed drop-down menus of items that cue inspectors to look for specific safety deficiencies in a checklist manner.

The program also allows inspectors to take photographs and record voice memos. Once the inspections are completed, the data and audiovisual materials are uploaded to a server, which automatically generates reports. Taking full advantage of the iPad’s capabilities, inspectors use its FaceTime app to show particularly knotty problems to off-site experts and ask for counsel.

Nancy Eaker, laboratory safety manager, uses an iPad during an inspection.

“We wanted to make sure that since we’re one institution, we’re doing the same thing at the same time,” said Clay Hanks, Ph.D., TAMHSC director of operations and facilities management. “But it’s hard to get various experts in different fields on each of these campuses because it’s cost prohibitive. At the same time, we wanted to know what’s going on, on our campuses.”

As a result, the amount of person-hours required to inspect the eight campuses has been halved, saving the center $8,000 in staff and travel costs. Additionally, Dr. Hanks said validity and reliability of the inspections have increased, allowing TAMHSC to better target its training efforts, saving another $49,000 annually.

In addition to the Texas A&M Health Science Center, winter 2012 “Models of Efficiency” honorees include Baldwin Wallace University (Ohio); Dallas County Community College District (Texas); Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management (Calif.); Northern Michigan University; NorthWest Arkansas Community College; Polk State College (Fla.); Southern California University of Health Sciences; and University of West Georgia.

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