Oak Ridge Discovers New Ways to Save Tax Dollars Through the Columbus Initiative


Agency: Department of Energy

Title: Oak Ridge Discovers New Ways to Save Tax Dollars Through the Columbus Initiative

Background Information

When Troy Logan, an auditing staff member at one of the Department of Energy (DOE) facilities in Oak Ridge, submitted an idea for saving money by returning used gas cylinders to vendors, he never dreamed that his suggestion would ultimately lead to a company-wide roundup of cylinders that saved $285,000 a year. Like the idea a maintenance team offered for changing door locks more economically, his suggestion got action through and endeavor known as the Columbus Initiative.

A joint effort of DOE's Oak Ridge Operations (ORO) and its prime contractor, Martin Marietta Energy Systems, Inc., the Columbus Initiative was created as a way of responding to shrinking post-Cold War budgets and to strong public perception that federal agencies and government contractors waste taxpayer dollars. Its purpose is to "seek a new world" of more cost-effective ways of doing business by implementing innovative ideas from staff. As ORO Manager Joe La Grone says, "Wise, prudent, and judicious use of dollars will determine how well we fare--now and into the future. Innovation and ideas that will reduce costs are needed now from all levels if we are to succeed."

Through this ongoing cost-management process that is an integral part of the Total Quality Management effort in Oak Ridge, staff from all payrolls are encouraged to suggest ways of waving money and to participate on project teams. The goal, says Gordon Fee, president of Martin Marietta Energy Systems, is to show our customers that we can deliver more value for less money, that "we truly are trying to continuously improve all aspects of our operation and, therefore, reduce costs."

The Columbus Initiative is paying big dividends. By the end of 1994, Oak Ridge staff at the Department of Energy will have saved about $200M (out of a funding base of $1.8B per year) through more than 260 cost-savings projects completed in FY 1993 and FY 1994. (Cost savings are of three types--cost reductions, cost avoidances, and returns on investment--and have already been incorporated into current and out year budgets.) Successful projects include reduction of radiological areas, provision of on-line access to policies and procedures, reductions in security force costs, increased efficiency in environmental sampling, and implementation of a more progressive prescription drug plan.

Through the Columbus Initiative, Oak Ridge staff are showing that they are wise stewards of the resources entrusted to them. With each new success, they are also becoming more eager to keep the momentum going. Machinist Russell Woody voiced such enthusiasm after being part of a team that designed a "no- rad walkway" through the area surrounding their shop, thus increasing productivity and safely reducing costs associated with protective clothing and frisking: "It would be nice to see money saved from projects like this put back into the organization to support other efforts to improve the way we do things." In Oak Ridge, DOE and Martin Marietta Energy Systems managers are working to do just that.

Main NPR Category: Cutting Back to Basics, Cutting Red Tape

Related NPR Categories: Employee Empowerment, Customer Service

Contact Person: Donna Griffith

Contact Phone: (615) 574-7180

Contact Address: P.O. Box 2008

Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6484

Contact e-mail address: XSG@ORNL.GOV

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