As Chemistry’s longest-serving staff member, Kelly Kellerman has dug her hands into almost every aspect of administration. She’s worked in academics, finance, facility issues, stockroom, and construction. In her current role, she oversees the department’s finances and stockroom.
When most of the university went remote during the pandemic, stockroom staff reported to the Chemical Safety Building, providing vital support to keep research and labs active.
We recently caught up with Kelly to learn how her inclination for efficiency has saved the department money and kept it thriving during a global crisis.
You’ve done a bit of everything in your 31 years at Chemistry. What are your current responsibilities as operations manager for finance and university service providers?
I am responsible for finances, procurement, three USPs (University Service Providers), ensuring all policies are followed on financial transactions. I submit the annual budget, second-quarter reporting of budget to actuals, and final year-end reporting. I supervise four employees who are responsible for financial transactions and the stockroom operation. I also answer all auditing questions and serve on a few committees on campus.
Tell us more about what goes on in the stockroom.
In the stockroom, we order and receive inventory and orders placed through Workday. There are anywhere between 30 and 50 requisitions a day that have to get approved. And there are tons of phone calls and emails to help people, from answering vendors’ questions to buying equipment.
We look into vendor pricing lists to get the best price on inventory, update our inventory management system, and issue those items.
We also receive cases of inventory, mostly chemicals. And there are rules about the volume of chemicals and where they’re stored. So the push for the chemistry stockroom is really safety.
What are you buying the most of to keep labs running and experiments going?
I think it’s our solvents. In the beginning of the pandemic, we couldn’t get enough gloves. Now, we’re starting to see issues with the glass-coated containers that hold solvents. So we are switching things around. There was also an issue with our liquid bulk nitrogen supply.
It’s all those things that we work out to make sure that we have backup plans and that the items keep coming in.
How did things change during the pandemic?
After the initial two weeks, two of my employees and I returned to work to keep the stockroom shipping and receiving functional.
We pivoted how we interacted with researchers for shipping and visiting the stockroom. I put into operation a remote ordering system for inventory and assigned lab managers for each PI to be the point of contact and retrieve inventory and orders. We also got additional help to perform the extra duties placed upon staff.
What aspect of your job are you quite proud of?
Over the years, I’ve saved the department hundreds of thousands of dollars in just the things I uncovered, like inefficiencies in dry ice deliveries and lab coat rentals.
After I took my position, I sent out the entire stockroom inventory for a bid amongst all the vendors to see where we could save money, and I developed processes and policies for purchasing.
In my job, I look at where we spend money and evaluate the program to find out if we are doing what’s best, but you know, it’s always safety first.