University of Exeter – Finalising migration to RFID

Introduction

In May 2014, and following a competitive tender process, 2CQR was awarded a contract to supply and install equipment to migrate the University of Exeter’s Forum library to a full RFID self-service operation.

The following case study showcases the project throughout including the impact on staff and students.

Background:

The University of Exeter combines world class research with excellent student satisfaction at its campuses in Exeter and Cornwall. It is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive universities. Formed in 1955, the University has 18,000 students from 130 different countries. Its success is built on a strong partnership with its students and a clear focus on high performance. Recent breakthroughs to come out of Exeter’s research include the identification and treatment of new forms of diabetes and the creation of the world’s most transparent, lightweight and flexible conductor of electricity. Our research focuses on some of the most fundamental issues facing humankind today and, in order to continue our reputation, we are furthering investment in research infrastructure. Development of our new £50 million Living Systems research centre has begun. It will focus on disease prevention through predictive biology and will house 200 scientists when it opens in 2016. It follows a major refurbishment project, which saw the creation of world-class research and teaching facilities for Biosciences.

Exeter was voted the Sunday Times University of the Year 2012/13. It is ranked amongst the UK’s top 10 universities in the Higher Education league tables produced by the Times, the Guardian and the Sunday Times. It is also ranked amongst the world’s top 200 universities in the QS and Times Higher Education rankings.

Exeter has always been among the leaders for student satisfaction, never having been outside the top 10 in the National Student Survey. The senior management team has sought to build on this strength by putting student service at the centre of its strategy. The Students’ Guild is involved at the earliest stages of strategic planning and given a major role in making spending decisions through a specially created Budget Scrutiny Group. This has led to a remarkable degree of joint thinking and team work.

The most visible expression of this partnership is the Forum, a £50m student services building which provides a centrepiece for the Streatham Campus and which opens onto an attractive piazza. It houses a purpose-built student services centre, 400-seat lecture theatre, a shop, bank and café.

Scope

In Spring 2014 the University produced a tender document for the purchase of self- issue equipment specifying the following:

… to complete the migration of the stock and equipment used in its Forum Library to RFID, in order to take full advantage of the improved self-service and stock management facilities this technology provides.

… the installation and implementation of new floor-standing RFID Self Issue machines.

… this equipment is robust, reliable, intuitive to operate, and offers as consistent an experience as possible particularly in terms of self-service book issue.

… to recommend how many machines will be required to service requirements in both the Forum and St Lukes Campus Libraries, based on current and anticipated future circulation rates, building geography etc.

Required Services

·       Self-issue of book and non-book material;

·       Staff-managed option for Self-return of book & non-book material, providing a visible option to support service demands;

·       Default email transaction receipt delivery, and optional printed receipt facility;

·       Patron account management via self-service terminals (e.g. renewals, reservation management);

·       Facility for remote staff access to software to allow screen customisation, gathering of statistics and to conduct minor software maintenance

 The Tender Process

Following initial written responses to the detailed Invitation to Quote document, 2CQR, along withother library self-service suppliers, were invited to present face to face with the University panel. The University has a great deal of experience with self-service and uses equipment from most of the leading service providers in its various site libraries. Leading the project for the University was Martin Myhill (Self-service project manager and EU Tender consultant) assisted by the Head of Library Customer Services and the Library Support Manager.

2CQR were well aware that the presentation would be extremely demanding but prepared in their usual way, with considerable investigation of the brief and a desire to provide the best solution to meet the customer’s demands. With a long and successful history, a rich vein of similar customers, products, service and software 2CQR felt more than equal to the task. However they knew the competition would be similarly prepared and eager to win the opportunity to deliver this prestigious project.

The Proposal

Following their normal response to client’s briefings 2CQR investigated the core proposition and tested the proposed solution.

The key problem appeared to be the number of self-service units needed to manage the three floors in the Forum Library. At the time of the tender there were twelve EM units active.

The University had indicated that with existing security and access across three floors, a configuration of eight or nine self-service units might replace the original twelve. 2CQR were able to propose a reduction in the number of Forum Library self-service units to four by moving the security gates and enabling one main access point. This would not only contribute to considerable savings but would also enhance the student flow and create a focal area that could be monitored efficiently by the library staff. At the St Luke’s campus – with its focus on graduates in Schools of Education, Sport and Health Sciences and Medicine and Medical Sciences and many training off-site – only one self-issue unit was deemed necessary.

This proposal convinced the University that 2CQR had thought deeper and taken the time to understand the customer’s objectives, environment and culture. 2CQR were the only company who had devised and offered such an option.

Whilst competitors had machines that worked “out of the box” it was the ability of 2CQR’s products to be configured, adapted and reconfigured to meet future demands that also impressed.

The Winning Solution

Following the presentations and intense interrogation of all the solutions, personnel, service and hardware 2CQR were awarded the contract.

As part of the debriefing 2CQR were informed that their representatives were seen to be highly professional, had presented in context, understood the requirements across all sites and had devised and proposed acost-effective solution that exceeded original expectations. Their project management proposal was also seen to be both practical and well-considered with software upgrades, training and physical movement of existing gates included.

In order to demonstrate that the self-service units (Totems) would fulfill the University’s high standards and functions, a test and demonstration unit was delivered which was fully working within three minutes of installation – a very convincing demonstration!

As the units are available in a huge range of colours the University chose a finish to suit the different sites with flexible edge lighting which could be changed easily to refresh their presentation.

Planning and installation

The 2CQR team handling the installation and commissioning of the project consisted of Mike Chambers, Project manager, Ajay Chauhan, On-site manager, Mark Musson, Customer Services, Malcolm Brunton, Training and Colin Walker, Logistics.

The physical installation was arranged following the detailed project plan submitted with the tender. Tag programming units were loaned by 2CQR. The staff and students undertook the tagging process, which was accelerated to ensure completion for the August 2014 deadline.

Logistics, staffing and equipment were organized over a two-week period. Despite some difficulties including temporary site access problems, staff holidays and the need to remove ten very heavy, redundant, barcode self-service units, 2CQR’s on-site manager Ajay Chauhan organized engineers and logistics specialists to work alongside on-site contractors, the Campus Services Division and the library team to overcome the challenges and achieve all objectives by the planned dates. Concurrent with the removal of the University’s old units and the installation of 2CQR RFID self-service at the Forum and St. Luke’s a program of equipment upgrades and security system changes (which required considerable work in various areas of the Forum building) was also completed.

 Launch and outcomes

 Working closely with library staff, 2CQR’s software developers and customer services team ensured that the equipment was ready for the twin challenges of Freshers’ week and returning students.

Staff were trained in time to meet the challenges and all issues raised were turned round very quickly. Having met all deadlines and provided a finished, complete solution on time the self-service library passed it’s real test as it launched to over 19,000 staff and students with ‘flying colours’. The strategy for the reduction of self-service units has been totally vindicated.

Staff and student comments and developing service requirements will feed into software upgrades during the service and maintenance period. 2CQR look forward to working with our customers to meet the challenges of a dynamic and developing service while the contract includes a ‘peace of mind’ maintenance package covering the next 5 years.

“On behalf of academic staff, the new self-check-out machines are brilliant, much better than the old ones. Thank you” (A member of the academic staff).

 The tender submission and presentation exemplified the core culture of 2CQR as a company who think seriously about libraries. The unique response to the brief helped win the tender, while their high level of attention to detail, ease of software and hardware personalisation combined with solid project management and responsive attitude made this a very successful installation with over 100,000 loans made already and achieving in excess of 93% of all lending transactions.