Why Capacity Planning Is Important to an Educational Institution

Learning and education has become an imperative cause which facilitates individuals to gain knowledge and to enhance the prospects of employability.

Educational institutions play a significant role and are the perennial source of knowledge and quality education. Having said that, it is also to be noted that maintaining the standard of these institutions is of paramount importance which lay a platform for a good institution. The corner stone of this essay is to determine the role of capacity planning in educational institutions which forms a very important part of strategic plan.Capacity planning is the known as the process of determining the production capacity needed by an organization to meet changing demands of its products. Stevenson ((1999) p. 208) defines capacity as “The upper limit or ceiling of the load that an operating unit can handle, with the operating unit defined as plant, department, machine, store, or worker” (Johnson, D.

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M. , 2001). The factors that determine the effectiveness of capacity panning in an educational institution includes, Operational cost, Cost of expansion, availability of lab, Computers etc. Need for capacity Planning:It is proved that universities form one of the oldest established institutions and despite frequent changes in the way they function, they retain policies of their medieval period. These legendary universities are similar to today’s organizations in management perspective. Both universities and business organizations face common problems of coordinating resources, controlling cost, and facilitating enterprise among staff, etc.

There is a common solution to build a standard structure and use the Information Technology (IT) tools like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) (Chan, T. C. , 2002).Most of the Educational institutions are government sponsored or funded by private sources; Due to this, there is not much external pressure. But in cases where finance is an issue, the management has to focus more on capacity planning and resource allocation.

The senior administrators have to integrate capacity planning in terms of capital assets, operating expenses and human resources into their strategy for their institution. More specifically, the focus should be on the overall operational capability and shortfalls in operating budgets for new ideas and sustaining existing facilities (Johnson, D.M. , 2001). Capacity planning, as shown in figure 1, is primarily a part of the operational plan; it aides in the optimal performance of other quarters of the intended strategy.

Figure 1 shows a framework of overall strategy planning and related execution cues. The framework does not give the order or specific relations between various divisions, in an actual scenario, all the parts are closely inter-related and have to be dealt in conjunction with other departments of planning.The operational leg of the plan shown in the above diagram has few similarities and difference that should be noticed. Mostly all educational institution have their own research and development lab facilities but there is always a gap between the capabilities of the equipment and the intentions and needs of the research which results primarily from the time gap between the research proposal and delivery of equipments, and constant change in the direction of research (Johnson, D. M. , 2001).

Capacity Plan ComponentsCapacity planning of an institution can be divided into (a) Building (b) Technology/Equipment (c) Classroom Utilization (d) Program Subscription (e) Course Offering and (f) Scheduling. Based on the horizon of implementation, these spheres of planning can be broadly classified into: the short-term and long-term (Chan, T. C. , 2002). Short-term issues include availability of classrooms, teaching and non-teaching staff to support the ongoing courses and adapting the existing technology / equipments to suite the new requirements and additional apacity.

Long-term issues include raising new buildings to accommodate new departments or expanding old ones, scouting for sponsors for new projects, increasing the corpus of the institution and inviting reputed professors with a long-term aim of providing better quality education (attracting high profile professors has more to do than just offering higher salaries). It can be noted that many universities have become famous for the sheer capabilities of its faculties and specific teaching staffs.The constant shift in trends of methodology of education and demand for certain courses also determines the requirements and future direction of an institution. In case of institutions, the mere availability of teaching staff and supporting equipments can change the perspective of its potential students. For example, the New York University’s Stern school of Management is perceived to have the best Finance department; this perception comes from the Nobel laureates who teach there and the advanced research labs there (Johnson, D. M.

, 2001). Figure 1 (Source: Johnson, D. M. , 2001) Capacity Planning in Educational institutions:Capacity is calculated based on the formula: Capacity = number of machines or workers ? number of shifts ? utilization ? efficiency. The Impact of maximum capacity depends on how effectively the institution defines the capacity. Few institutions which usually offer higher education classes in week days and in evening are now expanding their classes to weekends.

And other institution with their normal students offers class on week day and occasionally in weekends (Chan, T. C. , 2002). Capacity calculation is based on the current and available resourse with out extension of any other additional resources like lease or new location for hort term . Even the web bases courses has impact on the capacity calculation . This could result in the excess capacity in the organization which leads to the modification of Existing class rooms and future buildings .

While doing the above calculation, the present and future demand of the course and its real world implications have to be considered. During the IT boom, there was a huge demand for IT realted courses, the institutions who foresaw this were able to better capitalize on the sudden increase in demand. Components of capacity plan : Building: Buildings are usually considered to be a long term issues in educational institutions.In the short-term, it is possible for the institution to convert extra office spaces or squeeze classrooms to accommodate the excess capacity . This has been supported by Gisolfi(1996) “Within the walls of many school buildings hidden usable space waits to be found. When identified , this unused or under-used space can be reprogrammed , redesigned and reconfigured to help meet the changing educational need ( p: 26 )”.

But the permanent solution would be to raise new buildings and always acquire extra land to build classrooms for sudden increase in demand.Thus it can be seen that solving space requirements is a continuous and on-going process (Gisolfi, P. , 1996). Temporary class rooms are built using prefabricated building to fix the space problem as short term issue. “The majority of capacity planning issues associated with a building need to be included within the long-term capacity planning” Blackstone (1989).

But this way of space problem solving in Educational institution is different from other industries like manufacturing and retail. As a special case with leased buildings, after the xpiry of contract the institution has to either extend the contract or search for another building. This means that there is always a pressing demand for buildings and the planning process has to be dynamic. In such cases the Administrator will try to acquire that building instead of spending money on renovating an existing one. Usually when a new building is built it is named after the highest donor.

But renovating an existing building requires the primary sponsor to sponsor again which is in most cases is unlikely because the donor may have simply lost interest or may not be able to do so.In some cases, the donors might have had special interest in research area because of its current popularity but in course of time their focus may change and hence may be unwilling to sponsor (Gisolfi, P. , 1996). Technology: Every department in the educational industry needs some sort of technology or equipment to use in their Lab, office or in their Research and development centre. Technology related issues are of two types. 1) With the Existing equipment 2) desire for new equipments.

In the manufacturing areas, equipments are used until they break or no longer used.In Educational institutions, Old equipments are used because of funding unavailability. In industries, the replacement of equipments is pre-determined, linked to seniority and ability to locate funding. This also applies to educational institutions in a big way, because funding for replacing equipments comes from either the institution’s corpus or external source. When the amount of fund needed is huge, educational institutions significantly differ in funding the project because good will is the primary sponsor here as opposed to industries which are profit-minded (Stetenfeld, B.

1996). “A limited number of projection units used in conjunction with laptop computers are in limited supply, posing a finite scheduling problem “(Roy (1998) p. 151; Stevenson (1999)). Usually in manufacturing industries, when an equipment is no longer used it is sold to a scrap dealer or to warehouse. But here, it is generally be retained in room occupying space and wasting area. New equipment should have flexibility, adaptability, and efficiency (Bordoloi, Cooper, and Matsuo (1999), p.

133).Many Educational institutions often regret to refuse the donation since it could affect their future where the donor may limit his donation or not donate at all and hence, institutions accept their donations in spite of it not being useful to them. New equipment which is need by institution is often donated by government or donor who imposes lots of limitations and restrictions. If the Institution going to request for new equipment then it should follow the same as manufacturer requirement like flexibility and adaptability (Roy, R. , 1998).Classroom Utilization Class size has direct impact on the school capacity.

( Haas,1987;chambers,1993;castaldi,1994;scott valley Unified School District,1995;chan,1998). Many Class rooms still have the traditional class room seating which makes it impossible for group discussions or round table meetings. Even though the required room space is available it still looks inadequate. With electronic equipments becoming very cheap, availability of power plugs in classrooms has become important which is not available in old age classrooms.Similar to the technology that we discussed above the class room should be adaptable and flexible to meet the demand. It should be equipped with Projector or multimedia equipments and appropriate seating to accommodate.

It shouldn’t be a room with Black board and chairs (Chan, T. C. , 1996). Course offering: The course offered by the university for the year depends on various factors like current demand for the course, faculty availability, Labs, size of the class room, support staff for assistance and class size limitation. There are couple of issues which are linked to course offerings.

First, the course gets dropped due to low enrolment in the particular course which is referred to as under-subscription problem. In the Later case there may be inadequate sections to meet the student demands ,which is refered as oversubcribed program . When there is not much interest among the students in particular course then the educational institution has to drop that particular course from its course list . Even though the university has very good reputation on particular course when the is very little interest among students then universities should discountinue that course (Castaldi, B. 1994). Scheduling, which is setting an order and time for planned events can be classified into three categories .

They are >> Student scheduling >> Availabilty of space >> Faculty Assignment Student scheduling: Because of the space limitation, the finite capacity scheduling guideline which is used traditionally, still apply to scheduling, which means maximizing resource utilization. Scheduling rules which is often referred to as dispatching rules by (Blackstone (1989); Stevenson(1999); Chase, et. al (1998)), are used by educational institutions.FIFO ( First in ,first out ) is the most frequently used method of student allocation and scheduling in institutions i. e. , when pre-determined enrolment limitations are met no more students are accepted into the course.

For example, a class which can accommodate 200 students for that particular subject stops its enrolment process when the limit is reached and the other students are put in the waiting queue and advised on the course of alternative action . Another type of scheduling that is being applied widely is “Highest value job first (Vollman, Berry, Whybark (1992); Blackstone (1989)). In this type of scheduling, universities assign a high priority to the senior students who are about to graduate and honour their requests before honouring junior student’s requests. Space Availability: Another aspect of scheduling is space availability. This has been well supported by Conrad (1954) , New Jersey Deapartment of Education ( 1969 ) , Day (1984) , Chambers(1993),Castaldi(1994) and Glass (1994) .

This helps in determining how effective the school facilities were used .This issue is more associated with the amount of resources available with the institution, the amount required and the efficient use of them. Office space may be obtained through auctions (Boyes and Happell (1989) p. 38) or seniority. Proprietary Rules are generally applied to judge and maximize utilization of space based on a complex set of factors like importance, size, the degree program (value), location of department offering course, level of program (graduate versus undergraduate), or need for specific instructional technology permanently located in a room.In certain places lottery system is used where unallocated places left where given to the departments with low priority (Glass, T.

E. , 1994). The introduction of online courses and distance study programs is expected to reduce the space availability problem to a certain extent in certain areas of study where self study is perceived to be easy. This translates into increased availability of space and resources (funding, labs, etc. ) to classes that are more contact teaching and research oriented.So Space availability and utilization is an important factor that need to be closely examined while capacity planning (Glass, T.

E. , 1994) . Faculty Assignment: This is the final issue in the scheduling. Faculty recruitment has to be considered in conjunction with student enrolment and the demand for the area of study. Faculty available to teach cannot be less then course offered by institution assuming a finite number. As dicussed earlier in the Capacity Planning components, the availability of teaching staff and strength of the faculty in a particular area in many cases determine the success of the institution.

This shows the importance of the faculty assignment problem. Various algorithms similar to the ones used in Student scheduling and Space allocation are used in Faculty assignment as well but the vraibles and rules are mostly defined by the faculty or the course provider itself (Gunn, B. , 1991). Conclusion After analysing the significance of capacity planning, one can infer that capacity planning helps in addressing some of the key issues such as volume, anticipated demand, strategic objective, cost of expansion and operations, etc.By implementing capacity planning, educational institution will have clear idea on planning, examine the needs for space depending on the course changes or requirements, impact of particular course in an institution capacity, availability of resources which includes both faculty ; lab equipments and scheduling. The capacity planning for an educational institution is recommended to be performed annually, which involves tedious work on the part of the administrator.

However, proper capacity planning will provide such information which will make the life easier for any institution.Understanding that the institution’s capacity information is most reliable, an educational planner makes decisions with confidence. This may well justify the amount of work which is involved in doing capacity planning of an educational institution.