OPMT 360 helps City of Big Lake explore transition to a paperless system

December 20, 2017 / By: SCP

It can often go unnoticed, but the environmental and personnel costs for a city in terms of paper, ink, and paper filing can be significant.  The tradeoffs a city faces, though, when considering going to a paperless electronic system are sometimes not well known and can prevent the switch in systems. 

Students in Prof. Sheneeta White’s Fall 2017 Service Operations Management (OPMT 360) course worked with the City of Big Lake in a Sustainable Communities Partnership project to explore the benefits and costs of switching to a paperless system.  The project provided an opportunity to apply the concepts learned in class to a real-world problem.  The class broke into groups and each group provided recommendations concerning whether and how the City of Big Lake should go paperless.

The ability to take course content outside the classroom increased the learning opportunities for students. 

“Students were given the opportunity to tackle an unstructured problem. Often in the classroom setting, the problems or cases are nicely prepared with the understanding that students will be able to find the answers. Well, they really need to be able to handle ambiguity and decision-making that comes with working for businesses,” explained Prof. White.

In addition to dealing with the ambiguity and nuances of real-world problems, students were also able to explore the importance of city decision making to sustainability efforts.  By studying the context facing the city, students were able to come to new insights about going paperless.

“The project has helped me understand how much paper and ink cities really use. By doing research and this project, I have come to believe that every city should implement going to a paperless system because there are so many benefits that come along with it,” described Anna Yang (’18).

The hope is that this project will help the City of Big Lake and other communities see the full potential benefits of moving to more sustainable actions.  As Anna Yang said, “this project advanced the common good by allowing people to see the benefits of going green and that encourages other people to keep implementing sustainable practices.”