History of SUMAR

In the spring of 2009, Princeton University’s provost, executive vice president, vice president for finance and treasurer, vice president for human resources, and members of their staffs came together as the Cost Savings Working Group (CSWG) to monitor the effects of the financial crisis, prepare for its impact on the University budget, and to review and pre-approve for the Priorities Committee and Board of Trustees the departmental and central budget reduction plans to meet the University’s $170 million budget savings goal. 

Addressing cost-savings goals focused the University on the ways it does business, and resulted in a number of areas actually growing stronger from the budget-cutting exercise. Consequently, instead of disbanding the CSWG following the attainment of the $170 million goal, the same group of individuals has continued to meet regularly to support initiatives that will Strengthen University Management and Resources (SUMAR).

SUMAR identifies and facilitates projects that lower operating costs and enhance management practices to enable the release of resources toward teaching, research, and the student experience. The committee began tracking central and departmental savings in 2010 with more than 50 initiatives with potential savings of more than $13 million annually. It continues to track legacy cost savings and evergreen initiatives (e.g., controlling health care and energy savings) and today counts more than 77 projects with potential recurring annual savings of approximately $34.5 million (through calendar year 2017). SUMAR continues to solicit ideas from the University community and provides periodic updates on successful projects through this web page and at AAMG presentations in order to encourage and support the entrepreneurial spirit that strengthens our institution.

Click here to view examples of current and ongoing representative SUMAR projects. Examples of past SUMAR projects include:

Energy and Utility Savings
Efforts continued toward the long-term goal of decreasing the University’s utility budget by lowering consumption by approximately one-third of a 2008 baseline. An additional goal was the reduction of heating and cooling consumption on campus to meet Sustainability Plan objectives. Examples of progress toward the goal included:

  • Installed high-efficiency LED lighting and motion sensors throughout campus over approximately seven million square feet
  • Integrated Occupancy Sensors for lighting into HVAC control in East Pyne/Chancellor Green, Schultz and other locations on campus. These sensors reduce air conditioning to offices unoccupied during the summer months
  • Automated HVAC control systems optimization software installed in a total of 68 buildings. This software monitors system problems for necessary repairs
  • Upgraded controls and lighting in Carl Icahn Labs, Lewis Thomas, and Bowen
  • Projects completed in the central plant included the installation of new burner controls, a heat exchanger to use wintertime air to cool water, new controls on the large natural gas compressor, and the remaining plant energy conservation projects.

Medical Leave Management
A medical leave manager has been in place since September 2015 and has monitored 50-60 absences per day over the course of the year. The position has simplified the experience for managers and employees, provided consistent experiences and messaging, and reduced some costs while increasing efficiencies. Adherence to leave processes has not increased the burden to confirmed patients, and has resulted in earlier return to work dates (some with light duty). Because accommodations are trending towards technological interventions (e.g., speech-to-text conversion, auditory processing) and not physical (e.g., ramps or elevator usage), no increased cost is expected as a result of these earlier return dates.

Procurement Initiatives
Since meeting initial annual savings targets in 2014, Procurement Services continued to transition from a transaction-focused organization to providing more comprehensive and strategic support for the University’s procurement needs. Recent initiatives generated approximately $1.2M in savings between FY15 and FY16. They included:

  • University Copier Program: Replacement of over 200 campus photocopiers with new energy-efficient, smaller-footprint, multi-functional devices providing copy, print, scan, and fax capabilities that reduce the cost per print by 40%
  • University Travel Program: Program savings have been achieved through negotiated air and hotel travel agreements, additional credit card rebates, and services provided by the University’s travel management company, such as increasing the number of unused airline tickets that were reissued
  • Temporary Staffing: In advance of a competitive bid planned for early 2017, re-negotiations with two staffing providers reduced the markups for several positions without impacting the wages paid to the workers
  • Individual Department Support: Provision of sourcing support on a variety of department initiatives including website development, musical instrument purchases, dry ice, and vehicle acquisitions/dispositions that resulted in departmental savings.