Rutgers University-Newark has a decades-old tradition of using its academic resources in service to the people of the state, especially in its hometown. This sharing of public scholarship often takes the form of collaborations of RU-N faculty and students with city government or the business community. However, two current projects -- involving Rutgers Business School (RBS) Professor Kevin Lyons and his students – are aimed at benefitting both the public and the private sectors, as well as Newark’s citizens.
Lyons and his Supply Chain Environmental Management classes, both undergraduate and graduate, are working with the City of Newark’s various procurement divisions to streamline their purchasing processes and make awarding of contracts more efficient and less time-consuming. “We’re examining purchasing policies at the state and local level, and the layers of bureaucracy, that can stretch out awarding of a contract to take six months,” he says. “Outsiders bring a fresh eye and can see things more objectively,” he explains.
The end goals are to improve city services through more efficient and timely purchasing of goods and services. Other cities, including New Brunswick, Chery Hill and Burlington, VT., have turned to Lyons for similar expertise over the years.
Lyons’ group is examining everything from IT systems to waste management collection to fleet management. Some tweaks to software programs, to eliminate a redundant step in the purchasing process, have already been suggested. He and the students will make their analysis and prepare their assessments without impeding the city’s work processes, he notes. The first phase of their project, a detailed analysis of their findings, will be delivered in December 2014. Over the first six months of 2015, the city will implement the recommendations, with Lyons and his team of students carefully monitoring the process and measuring results.
PSE&G’s purchasing staff also is helping in the endeavor, bringing a corporate perspective, according to Lyons.
On a second front, Lyons and his students also are working with the city’s manufacturing community to make it more competitive. Unlike the city’s manufacturing base of a couple of generations ago, today’s Newark-based manufacturers are primarily small businesses, and many are struggling to compete in today’s economy. Lyons helped prepare a 2012 Brookings Institution report on Newark’s manufacturing competitiveness, a report that identifies several challenges facing the city’s manufacturers, including the need to invest in new product development, a skills gap among workers, an aging workforce, and infrastructure constraints.
In response to the study, the RBS Center for Supply Chain Management has launched its Newark Industrial Solutions Center (NISC). Funded by RBS, the Garfield Foundation and the Brick City Development Corporation, NISC’s mission reflects both RU-N’s and the business school’s “demonstration vision for civic engagement and problem-solving,” according to Lyons. NISC will develop, strengthen and promote industrial competiveness and economic development by leveraging the tools and capabilities of RBS’s supply chain resources. Lyons is already working with several Newark-based manufacturers to improve several of their key business functions: supply chain and logistics, workforce development, business development strategies, new decision-making tools for industrial production databases, and new ways to analyze customer demand.