Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nothing like comments to prove the point - more about SIU killing the local economy.

From the comments of the last post -
After my experiences with outsourced photocopier and printer services at SIUC, I know it's possible for private industry to do worse than SIU. If you tried to use a photocopier at Morris Library before this year, you know what I'm talking about. My understanding of that particular situation is that local businesses are too small to provide what SIUC needs, but SIUC is too small and too far from St. Louis for major companies to invest the energy it would take for SIUC to get decent service.
Local businesses are too small to provide what SIUC needs? What a pile of crap! Giving this kind of work to a local company is exactly what SIU should be doing. That local company will work like heck to make it work. SIU will get great service. The SIU money will be in the local economy, instead of pumping it off to Atlanta (or some other remote location).

I'm now wondering if the little local company can't provide the under the table grease to make the deal happen or what? We are talking about copy machine for goodness sake.

I think this comment is exactly what I was writing about. This is exactly that SIU is doing wrong.


Anonymous said...

If we outsource X will local businesses "work like heck to make it work"? Not unless there are a bunch of other local companies competing for a shot at X. That's how capitalism works: private ownership + competition.

It may be that some services can be outsourced effectively, while the local economy is not ready for to step in elsewhere. Maybe in some cases one could let an interenal group form a new privative company - like say the web maintainance. But, there is no major formula for what could be privatized and what cannot be.

Are there local or regional privative companies that could bid for the photo copier contract? Who is doing this now?

Anonymous said...

You may or may not find the following story humorous.

I am a faculty member. We wished to place carpet in 2 offices, which were rather modest in size.

To get an idea of the approximate costs, we solicited a local business to obtain a quote. Their bid came in at $400 for both rooms. Note: there exists the possibility that the local business low-balled us.

Then, we began the purchasing process at SIU which included the following highlights:

* a charge of $150 was assessed for the initial estimate for the job

* a charge of $35 was assessed for a hazardous waste test (results of which were not given to us)

* Ultimately, the bid from SIU was $1500-$1600. This bid came along with a contingency clause that allowed for a greater charge if there was an overrun.

After all is said and done, the SIU installation will be around $1700, compared to the market price of around $400.

Peter in Carbondale said...

It is true that SIU would have to do a little work to outsource some things. There are lots of people selling and servicing copy machines in Carbondale. You could give the Copies and More guys a chance for example. I'm to lazy to go get the yellow pages and give you a list, but this isn't a hard problem. My guess is there are over 12 companies capable and willing to do this work within 20 miles of campus.

Try getting your phone installed at the Dunn-Richman, it is $150 to plug a modular jack into the panel. I have done this a few times and it takes less then a minute.

I think the carpet example comment is about how I see the SIU situation, really a good comment.

Anonymous said...

If everyone could make minror changes on their own, you'd have a real mess after a while. But, the SIU union "craft" workers charge a lot and do as little as possible.

Clarifier said...

Peter, you're very unrealistic on much of this. You would have to renegotiate strictly worded union contracts to do a lot of the outsourcing you suggest. No way is that going to happen. Also, there are state regulations that cause a great deal of the purchasing to occur as it does (Logan, as a comm college, does not have to follow these laws and has reasonable union contracts-yet another advantage). Other state university communities face the same issues. Yes, some outsourcing could be done and in the long run would be helpful. Btw, there is no way that private landlords would be a better alternative to dorms. One reason why some students chose Edwardsville, paraphrase their comments, "as soon as I walked in the dorm I knew I wanted to go there." Yes, brand new dorms and food services made the difference. We need better dorms to compete, not less. The belated Grand Ave complex is a start.

Anonymous said...

Kopies and More guys can't run their ass with both hands and every townie who has ever set foot in that shop or BigBoysQ'n knows that fact. And after working with them for many years I also know for a fact that they do not service copy machines, they whine or pay out the ass to the vendor's until a tech from STL is sent to fix something. Stiles could have pulled it off.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you thought my comment about local businesses being too small was a pile of crap. That's just about how I felt about your statement that private businesses couldn't possibly do worse than SIU at providing services.

I think some of the comments from other commenters get at my way of thinking:

1) Outsourcing works when someone else can do something better and/or cheaper than you.
2) For someplace like SIU to outsource effectively, there has to be a competitive market for whatever it is that SIU is buying. If there isn't, high price and poor service aren't surprising. Those features are common in monopolies.
3) For there to be a competitive market when SIU outsources, the process would have to be fair and simple for the sellers. When the process isn't fair and simple, the seller who knows how to play the game wins rather than the one who does things best and/or cheapest. For SIU currently, the seller that knows how to play the game often is the only one offering to sell.
4) Outsourcing before #3 is taken care of could lead to results that are as bad or worse than they are now.

Peter in Carbondale said...

SIU needs to change dramatically, it is failing. It is just plain stupid to think that SIU is more efficient then business. Some areas at SIU are complete failures and wastes of money. If you outsource, some of the businesses will fail. The difference is that when the businesses fail you fire them and get someone else. When SIU fails, there is almost never a correction.

I thought the example of student housing was more interesting. It is a complete disaster and SIU really doesn't have the tools to deal with it. They have allowed that huge machine to waste money for 20 (30?) years and now they need to put up new buildings or dramatically remodel, but the revenue has been wasted on bureaucracy. What do you do not that you have failed for 20 years straight? That is a really hard problem.

Let me write it again, there is nothing at SIU that business can't do much better if they are given the same amount of money. Give a copy machine place the money that SIU is spending today and they will do better (real costs, no accounting BS). But that isn't what SIU does, when a business fails and they bring it in house, they spend multiples of the amount of money. This isn't an apples to apples comparison to me.