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If you notice the grass around campus is cut a little more often and the fall leaves are cleared a little faster and a little better, you can thank a unique partnership that’s helping UT Knoxville become more efficient and save money in the process. By working with UT Knoxville efficiency expert Rupy Sawhney, UT Facilities Services has started a system that is saving the university $250,000 each year by bringing mowing and leaf removal back within the department after a number of years being contracted out.

With the help of Sawhney and his team, director of grounds Ted Murphy developed a zone system that ensures teams of mowers move across campus in a way that gets the most area mowed in the least amount of time, and with the least amount of fuel used by the equipment. While many people assume that contracting services outside the university is a cheaper alternative, Murphy and Sawhney both point to the fact that even accounting for the short-term need to buy new mowing equipment, the new in-house system is saving tens of thousands of dollars in this first year alone.

“This allowed the university to not only save money, but to add jobs as well,” said Sawhney.

Murphy also points to the pride UT workers take in maintaining grass and leaf removal on campus, citing a more than 90 percent drop in the number of complaints received by the department about mowing – such as clippings blown onto cars or areas missed — since the services were brought in-house.

“No one cares about this university like people who are part of it,” said Murphy. “We’ve already seen that, in addition to getting the job done more efficiently and at substantially less expense, the work of mowing across campus is being done at a higher quality.”