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Outside suppliers to replace Office of Lab Supplies July 1

MIT is going to proceed with a reengineering plan to work with commercial suppliers for the purchase of laboratory supplies beginning July 1, Senior Vice President William R. Dickson said yesterday.

Mr. Dickson met Tuesday with the staff of the Office of Laboratory Supplies and announced a decision that had been anticipated. The Supplier Consolidation Team sought proposals from several major manufacturers and distributors of scientific supplies two months ago (Tech Talk, March 8).

OLS, which now has 30 employees, will cease operations as of July 1, Mr. Dickson said. At the meeting, personnel counselors were on hand to meet with employees whose OLS jobs will be abolished and to talk confidentially about their situation in finding another job at MIT or with other organizations.

The head of the Supplier Consolidation Team, Diane Devlin, assistant director for purchasing, told Tech Talk the move reflected the rapid changes in world business involving information technology and logistics technology.

"The level of service from Office of Laboratory Supplies has always been excellent. This is not about the work OLS people are doing-which makes the elimination of their positions all the more difficult. They have done a good job.

"It is now cheaper and more convenient to use the gigantic suppliers and their regional warehouses for the OLS business lines in scientific supplies, office supplies, gas cylinders and furniture," she said. "MIT, even with its large volume of purchasing, cannot compete with the giant supply firms."

The switch from thousands of suppliers to a small group is expected to result in very significant savings in costs and will inaugurate a new way of doing business at MIT. MIT's need to maintain in-house inventories and distribution systems will be minimized, and delivery of goods and services to offices is to be done within 4 to 48 hours.

Also attending yesterday's meeting with the OLS staff was Robert Lewis, assistant director of personnel for employee relations, several personnel officers, a benefits counselor and a representative from an outplacement firm. Employees were briefed on the information and resources available to help them in securing other jobs. Each individual will be given an accounting of his/her personal benefits package. Personnel officers and benefits counselors are establishing regular, ongoing office hours at the OLS building, WW 15.

"By MIT policy, most employees receive working layoff notices of at least two months," Mr. Lewis told Tech Talk. For OLS employees, because of length of service, the layoff notice period will range from two months to 43 weeks. The formal notices will be issued June 1, but Tuesday's session was to inform them in advance so that they have as much time as possible to make necessary plans.

"We will also be meeting with the union representatives of the OLS employees who are in a union. The union bumping process is rather complex and a personnel officer will be working with the manager of labor relations in administering this process."

Mr. Lewis said the outplacement firm has scheduled an initial session with OLS employees for later this week, and each employee will participate in two all-day seminars to discuss skills assessment, job objectives, resume preparation and interviewing skills.

"At the end of those seminars, employees will have a professionally prepared resume and a better understanding of how transferable their skills are. Over the following weeks, the outplacement firm will offer additional half-day seminars, use of their library facilities, and individual counseling services.

"In accordance with MIT policy, employees will be allowed a reasonable period of time during the work day/work week to look for other opportunities.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 3, 1995.

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