DMPS Becoming “Lean” (Not Mean) to Improve Efficiency

Emma Knapp

Emma Knapp coordinates the school district’s continuous improvement efforts.

Des Moines Public Schools is becoming a lean (but not mean) educational machine thanks to the efforts of lots of people, but Emma Knapp, in particular, has earned an exclusive bit of recognition.

In her role as the district’s Continuous Improvement Coordinator Knapp recently achieved Black Belt certification in Lean Six Sigma, a methodology for collaborative team effort that improves organizational performance by systematically removing waste.

There are other LSS black belts in Iowa but they are overwhelmingly working in the private sector. As far as Knapp or other DMPS administrators are aware, her new credentials are extremely rare in the field of K-12 public education.

The project-based portion of Knapp’s black belt qualification benefited operations districtwide, clear out to the tip of the spear – the classroom.

Effective with the beginning of the 2016-17 school year the district adopted a new printing policy that routes all print jobs, from departmentally large to individual classroom small, through the in-house print shop housed at the Operations building on Dean Avenue. Once implemented, Managed Print held the potential to reduce overall printing costs and every dollar saved outside of the classroom is one that can be redirected there.

But there were kinks initially as the print shop was overwhelmed by the additional workload. In the first two months of the year production equaled the entire output of the 2015-16 school year. The print shop was running 24/7 but still unable to keep up with the promised 48-hour turnaround on job requests.

Enter Emma. Complicated story shortened, the print shop is humming now, down to 10 hours per day and six days per week. And the 48-hour turnaround has become a reality. Stop the presses (but only figuratively)!

So besides congratulations, there should also be some thanks coming Knapp’s way along with her new belt, blackened with the ink from saved money – and tightened.

To learn more about the district’s efforts to streamline operations and achieve efficiencies and savings click here.

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