Students advise Probate Court
Industrial Engineering students helped a local Probate Court "do more with less" in an effort to streamline operations.
Genesee County Probate Court is not immune from the ‘doing more with less’ mantra most public sector entities are dealing with in a tough economy right now. Fortunately, though, some Kettering University Industrial Engineering students offered some practical analysis that could help the court as it looks to tighten its budget.
As part of their senior capstone project in Dr. Matthew Sanders’ class, LeAndra Leverette, Roger Olle, Laura Piccinini, Aaron TenHuisen, Alex Turkawski and Shaun Yuchasz took an exhaustive look at Genesee County Probate Court in search of ways for them to streamline operations, make services more customer and employee friendly and, hopefully, offered suggestions that will help the court save both time and money.
The busy court is currently dealing with staffing reductions, putting added strain on remaining employees. The students used several Industrial Engineering principles to help ease those burdens on the court’s employees.
“We used concepts that we’ve learned at Kettering and tried to implement them into the court,” TenHuisen said. “This (staffing reductions) has led to inefficiencies that have put more stress on their jobs, so we tried to use these (IE) concepts to alleviate that.”
The students presented several ideas to probate court employees Sept. 14. Among the suggestions was making better use of the court’s website as a tool for the community. For example, instructional videos could be created and put online, explaining to the community what forms and information they’d need when visiting the court, how to fill out those forms and where to file them. This would cut down on time that employees have to spend with patrons, making sure they are filling out correct forms when they come into the court.
The students also suggested reorganizing the layout of the office so employees helping patrons would have quicker access to scanners and printers. Sorting bins for different files would also be arranged so that forms could be sorted into categories as they’re processed, not later on.
Students also showed court employees ways that printers and other equipment could be used more efficiently to cut down on printing costs.
The idea behind working with the court was simply to give an outsider perspective. Sanders’ students have done similar projects using IE principles to solve practical problems in several industries and businesses, working with Genesys Hospital, Flint Farmer’s Market, Fernco, Lowry Computer Products, Family Orthopedic Associates, Sodexo, Genesee County, Crystal Filtration Co., CBC Recycling, Simco LTD, Android Industries, General Motors SPO, Mercedes Specialty Foods, Atlas Technologies, Ring Screw Textron, Landaal Packaging Systems and Harvesting Earth Farm, among others.
“The students don’t go to say, ‘Hey, this is how you should be doing things,’” Sanders said. “They go in to observe and make suggestions from what they see using Industrial Engineering principles. Maybe some things will work, maybe some things won’t. They are just offering a fresh set of eyes on the problem.”
The court employees were impressed with the professionalism of the students and how thorough their analysis and presentation were. They plan to implement some of the strategies presented by the students.
“It was very beneficial to us,” said Jim Bauer, probate court administrator. “Like everyone else, we’re dealing with budget cutbacks. The students asked really good questions and made some good suggestions for us to consider.”
Another group of students in Sanders' capstone class worked on a project to help a local hospital reduce, or eliminate, patient falls during hospital says.
Contact: Patrick Hayes