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May 21, 2013

Purdue projects help cities increase efficiency, cut costs

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —Purdue University's Technical Assistance Program and students in a senior-level industrial engineering class combined efforts this spring to work on 10 projects for two Indiana cities.

TAP and student teams worked on seven projects for the city of Lafayette and three projects for Noblesville, all designed to improve efficiency and performance and reduce costs.

"This was a great opportunity for our students to work on real-world projects while helping fulfill TAP's mission of aiding Indiana governments and businesses in their efforts to increase efficiency," said Mark Lehto, an industrial engineering professor who teaches the class.

The projects covered a range of issues the cities faced, with a goal of improving a service, function or quality and/or reducing costs.

One project in Lafayette addressed the routing used for street sweeping trucks and the transport of those trucks' collected waste to the landfill. The recommendations are expected to save 30 truck hours per year in landfill trips and to decrease the route lengths for sweeping by using optimized route planning.

"I firmly believe that government must continually work to bring high value to its taxpayers. The Purdue Technical Assistance Program does just that," said Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski. "By having these students take a comprehensive look from the outside, it brings a fresh perspective to our operations. This type of independent analysis is critical to ensuring the City of Lafayette is as efficient as possible."

In Noblesville, a student team created an Excel-based scheduling and payroll system and database for the police department. It is expected to cut down on time spent under the current process, which involves manual calculations.

"The students were truly a pleasure to work with," said assistant police chief Scott Kirby.  "They met with us multiple times and took a complicated payroll system, that was still being created by hand, and produced a prototype computer program that gave us a road map to make our system more efficient and cost effective." 

Since 1986 TAP programs and services have assisted more than 12,000 organizations, trained more than 26,000 employees, created or retained $872 million in sales, increased capital investments by $217 million, contributed to cost savings of $107 million, and created or retained more than 11,000 jobs in Indiana.

In addition to the 10 projects for the cities, students in the senior design class did another 21 projects, including seven for health care providers, three for Purdue Memorial Union and residence halls, and 11 for companies and manufacturers.

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu

Source: Mark Lehto, 765-494-5428, lehto@purdue.edu