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Bus route presentation

Logistics influence school days

CMU logistics students evaluate bus route efficiencies for Mount Pleasant schools

Contact: Heather Smith

​A select group of Central Michigan University students knows something you probably don't about Mount Pleasant Public Schools:

Bus routes dictate when the day starts and ends at the elementary, middle and high schools.

Local school district leaders reached out to CMU's Supply Chain Management Association student organization earlier this year when they needed help evaluating bus route efficiencies.

The ultimate goal? Make recommendations to get closer to an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule.

This would make it easier for parents who need to drop children off and pick them up at multiple buildings.

The district is composed of five elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. There was more than an hour difference between when the middle school and high school started at 7:30 a.m. and when the elementary schools started between 8:40 and 8:50 a.m.

This hour-plus difference also affected dismissal times.

"In class we are given scenarios, but there is almost always an exact answer that the professors are looking for," said Shelby Miller, logistics management and marketing double major, of Battle Creek, Michigan. "This project was an opportunity for us to put our heads together and think of some ideas to help the community schools."

Road to success or Rd. to success?

Throughout 2017, SCMA students collaborated with the professional engineering team from Ryder Systems Inc., in Novi, Michigan, to meet with school leaders and then analyze current bus route data.

Logistics is used in business to ensure goods are effectively and efficiently moved through all cycles, from manufacturing to distribution to delivery.

Working with Ryder introduced students to the importance of understanding and using current logistics-based software programs.

They also learned about something called "data scrubbing." This includes deleting redundancies in the data and making terms consistent — for example, making sure "road" and "street" are always spelled out or always abbreviated.

This process caught Randy Gensterblum off guard, but it was valuable in preparing him for his career.

"In logistics, you use Excel spreadsheets every day, but the importance of cleaning and standardizing data was something I had never realized," said Gensterblum, logistics management and purchasing and supply management double major, of Portland, Michigan.

With the updated data sets, the students developed different routes, strategies and scenarios to increase efficiencies. This included evaluating the impacts of starting earlier, starting later, adding more students per bus and increasing the number of buses used.

Cut-Bus logistics.jpg

“This project was an opportunity for us to put our heads together and think of some ideas to help the community schools.” — Shelby Miller, CMU senior, pictured fifth from the left with other CMU students and faculty and representatives from Ryder Systems Inc. and Mount Pleasant Public Schools 

Route recommendations

After more than six months of research, analysis and development, the SCMA students recently presented their findings to school district officials.

The recommended plan would get the beginning and ending times of all schools 39 minutes closer.

The reality is, MPPS already is running a pretty efficient operation, Gensterblum said in the presentation.

"You actually have it down to a science," he said, explaining that adding more school buses wouldn't help much.

Superintendent Jennifer Verleger was thrilled to hear the district is going in the right direction with its current bus routes. Nothing will change with busing routes this academic year, but she is eager for the district to continue working with the CMU students and Ryder to improve efficiencies.

This is exactly what Mark Spieles hopes for. The marketing and hospitality services administration faculty member and SCMA faculty advisor said these kinds of experiences connect students to their community as well as provide experiences working with professional organizations.

"We want to be a part of the process to help the district make improvements in the future," he said. "We have a great relationship with Ryder, and now that we have all the data, we can start looking at more creative solutions."

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