David Graves      December 22nd, 2014 in Blog

A number of my relatives work in the automotive industry, with the two closest to my age being engineers. My brother-in-law, Dave,  is an engineer with Toyota, and his job making sure the assembly process for SUV’s and mini-vans goes as planned. One key for automotive plants is managing inventory, allowing you to build the vehicles from the different parts, but not having too few or too many parts at the plant. One serious problem that many businesses used to have was when plants had to store and manage a large volume of parts (and the space to keep the parts), causing the company to spend more time and energy focusing on managing the parts and less time and energy focused on building vehicles. This led to Just in Time Inventory (JIT), where a company manages the materials needed to make their product by having a critical amount of items to function, but not so many that they become a storage facility instead of their true focus of building cars, planes, etc.

Many admissions offices have an inventory problem, and no matter how hard we try to manage it, we are still stuck spending more time than we want managing documents and less time making decisions. The inventory we struggle with are documents, or more precisely transcripts, recommendation letters, forms, etc. Test scores are not an issue, as they are all electronic and match up automatically with a file, but all other items without applications need to be managed by hand.

Imagine if you will you are having an SUV built specifically for you (similar to “building” your admissions application), and you are working with the company to have it made. With Just in Time inventory, the company would want the frame of the SUV to come in first, then all of the parts needed for assembly to arrive right after the frame ( by the way, your frame and most parts are unique to you, so it’s not like you could attach any SUV door, engine or wheels). That way, the SUV could go right on the line, parts could be matched right to your vehicle, and a little while later your SUV is ready. But what would happen if you had all the parts sent in ahead of time. Better yet, what if thousands of people had their parts sent in before the frame was sent? The car company would have to store all of the parts in a warehouse, listed specifically with the name of the buyer, and wait for the frame to come in. When the frame does finally come in, the company will have to filter through all the parts to find the right items, send it over to match the frame, etc. And what if 10,000 of those buyers decided to cancel their order and never send in the frame? The company would have to return/trash those parts.

This is what happens in admissions. If you have your supporting documents sent in prior to applying (the frame of the vehicle), we have to put these items in storage in one of our “holding files”. Right now, we have about 20,000 documents sitting in our holding files waiting for applications to arrive. Every day we check the holding files to compare against the previous day’s applications and see if any documents match (filtering through a part of the 20,000 documents), and we must then hand match the items and enter in data. Every day up to the deadline the holding files grow as we get more and more documents. The days after a deadline are the worst, as it takes about a week to go through the holding files. And about 4 months after the deadline, we will purge 15,000+ documents from the holding files for students who never applied.

This is why we suggest you do not wait until right around the deadline to apply, that you send in documents after you apply, and why we give a week after the deadline for school documents to be submitted. It is much easier to match an item right when we receive it rather than us slogging through the holding files. This is also why we have built our online counselor and teacher recommendation forms, as these documents will go right into your file. Remember, this is only for supporting documents, not test scores, as SAT/ACT scores are only accepted electronically, are imported into our student system, and the electronic data can be matched right when an application arrives. So send in your test scores well before you apply just to make sure we have them.

So please, help us become more efficient so we can focus more attention on your application and less on the inventory of documents. Thank you for your help, and Go Dawgs!

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