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What’s Happening in EUS: WashU IT Depot Works to Overcome Supply Chain Adversity

Submitted by David Leisure

As many know, 2021 posed a monumental supply chain crisis, the effects of which were felt across every industry, especially in the technology sector. This shortage caused long delays in the depot’s ability to fulfill orders. This inability to fulfill in a timely manner unfortunately caused a lot of our customers to be frustrated with our service. The issue was compounded by the fact that the number of items ordered by our customers increased by over 30% from the previous year, a trend that has been consistent since the depot started providing computing hardware to the university back in 2018. To put that in perspective, in the past 7 months, the depot has fulfilled 10,246 items, or an average of 1,440 a month and are building on average more than 400 computers a month. This incredible volume of work is being shouldered by a small and highly productive team of six.

Thanks to the honest and open feedback from our customers we were able to ascertain and understand the biggest points of frustration they felt. This allowed us to do a targeted deep-dive analysis of why we were unable to meet their expectations. The outcome of that analysis resulted in putting real change in motion to resolve those shortcomings.

First and foremost, we have had a real problem getting orders fulfilled in a timely manner and communicating effectively with our customers, both when they should expect their order and when there is an issue that will cause us to fall short of their expectation. To help mitigate these issues the depot has transformed the customer experience for ordering in ServiceNow to be much more informative. There are now several new features presented, such as true visibility into the status of your order, including the stage it is at and what/who it is waiting on to progress forward. We added the ability to let customers know ahead of time if an item they are ordering is backordered with our vendor and when we expect to get that item back in stock. Additionally, we are adding in-stock details for each item, so our customers will know the quantity of each item in stock. We have also added the capability to have items shipped to people’s homes and the ability to track those items once they ship. Lastly, and one of the most vocalized pain points is lack of communication throughout the order process, we heard you loud and clear, and have now put mechanisms in place to enhance our communication capabilities with our customers.  

The supply chain issues are unavoidable, but we are taking steps to help save our customers the frustration that creates. For instance, over the summer some of our backlogged and stagnate requests sat for over 5 months due to long delays from our vendors, who were simply unable to provide the computers we ordered. Delays like this rightfully angered many and we shared in your frustration. Therefore, in July, we added a second depot location at North Campus to increase our output as well as provide additional storage capacity. In the coming months we will expand the operations at North Campus and will be building out a true warehouse and fulfillment offering to service the university. This will allow us to pre-order and stock a much larger quantity of items as well as refine our build and fulfillment processes to increase output and lower the time to fulfill.