The case for outsourcing the disposal process

A college administrator evaluates do-it-yourself disposal and decides the costs are too high

When Pat Ray, asset management supervisor at Montgomery College in Rockville, Md., sat down to look at her equipment disposal costs two years ago, she was amazed by what she found. Her staff of five had been handling asset disposal and charitable donations themselves for almost a decade. But when she really looked at the numbers for ongoing disposal of the college’s 18,000 assets, she found it was exacting a huge hidden cost.

“It was just taking too much of our time,” Ray recalls. That time included what it took her staff to rent trucks, pick up PCs from around campus, wipe their hard drives clean of data, find charities willing to take the equipment, and work with the college’s environmental safety department to ensure proper disposal. “It really does take a lot of people a lot of time if you do it right,” she says, not to mention the cost of the premium campus real estate needed to process PCs for disposal.

Ray took the numbers to her CIO, who immediately “became the champion” for outsourcing the disposal process. After an RFP (request for proposal) process, Montgomery College selected RetroBox to manage its entire disposal process, including donations to charities.

“It’s the best thing we ever did,” Ray explains. “We call them, they come pick it up and shrink-wrap it, put it on the truck and take it away. I don’t have to worry about it — I know that if it can’t be resold, it will be disposed of properly.” She says the college gets a certificate of environmental compliance from RetroBox, plus 70 percent of the proceeds of all equipment sales, which she views as “the cherry on top of the ice cream.” Last year RetroBox processed 4,000 pieces for the college, Ray says, and she includes the cost of disposal (which she estimates at $45 per CPU and $45 per monitor) as part of her overall equipment TCO.

The big win, according to Ray, has been process streamlining and the cutting of staff costs. Her team can now check status of any given PC via a password-protected Web site, and the college’s 40 approved charities can make requests via the Web for donated equipment, which is delivered to them cleaned and refurbished, with an optional warrantee and operating system. “It’s the least stressful contract that I manage,” she says. “I’m making much better use of my staff and facilities, and giving better customer service to the charities we use in the county.”

Ray’s final advice to those doing disposal themselves is to “just really look at your costs, consider the human time it takes."