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OLS Closure Meets With Mixed Success

By Cristin Gonzlez
staff reporter

Laboratories and offices around campus have had varied reactions to the July 1 closing of the Office of Lab Supplies. The closing was the result of the ongoing re-engineering effort to cut costs at the Institute.

The OLS had been in charge of supplying laboratory apparatuses and supplies, office supplies, gas cylinders, and furniture to MIT offices and laboratories. As a result of the closing, MIT now buys supplies from a few large vendors who carry products from different manufacturers.

The decision to close OLS was made last term by the Re-engineering Steering Committee, which is made up by the Institute's administrative vice presidents and Provost Joel M. Moses PhD '67, who was then dean of the School of Engineering.

Their decision was based mainly on the work of the Supplier Consolidation Committee, a re-engineering team that studied how OLS worked and how to make it function more smoothly at a lower cost. By closing OLS, and purchasing supplies from independent vendors, the team hopes to save the Institute approximately $1.8 million every year.

"A lot of people make use of OLS," said Eileen Nielsen, Administrative Officer for the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, in an interview last May. "We feel that [closing OLS] will have a large impact in terms of convenience."

Closing piques some lab workers

These concerns still hold, as the the closing of OLS does seem to be inconvenient for several labs. Under OLS, they were often able to obtain what they wanted within the same day they asked for it.

Under the present system, things must be purchased explicitly, so that a lab ordering supplies will often have to wait more or less three days before getting what it needs.

At present, one of the major inconveniences for labs seems to be the procurement of office supplies. Under the new regulations, it takes an office much longer to get supplies that many times are needed quickly.

"It stinks! You can't get what you want anymore. They had three times as many supplies at OLS. You can't even get Kleenex anymore," said Neal Silverman G, who works in the laboratory of Professor of Biology Leonard P. Guarente '74.

"It's absolutely the most absurd thing, and significantly more work for us. For example, I had to go to the supermarket yesterday to buy Carnation milk," Silverman said.

Most problems with this system were encountered when it first started to function. "I think they were making a lot of mistakes at first," said Daniel C. Lin G, who works in the laboratory of Associate Professor of Biology Alan D. Grossman.

But despite several complaints, other labs have found the conversion smooth, and without problem.

According to Wenglong R. Lin, a postdoc in the Fermentation Microbiology Laboratory, "we don't really see anything that is different from before. We even find some of the items much cheaper."

"It's been inconvenient, but it hasn't exactly shut us down. It's slowed things down a little bit and things you should be able to get the same day you now can get in a day or two, especially secretarial supplies," said Ann Sacra G, who works in the lab of Associate Professor of Chemistry Moungi G. Bawendi.

"In all respects Ithink it's okay. I find no inconvenience at all," said Lin.

Stacey E. Blau contributed to the reporting of this story.