Moneyball Changed More Than Just Baseball

Many of you have seen the movie Moneyball; and many if you also know how the game has changed in the last 20 years after being largely the same for well-over 100 years. The metric of batting average, home runs and RBIs had given way to more detailed “sabermetrics” such as On-base percentage and batting average with runners in scoring position.

For better or worse, baseball has been changed. Without discounting the pioneering work of baseball statisticians. the changes in baseball are as much reflective of our move away from the intuitive towards an model of empirical, data-driven decisions. These types of decision have even crept into the work of academic equipment pools.

Inventories managers have a two-fold duty; they have a responsibility to their employer to make prudent purchasing decisions and they have a responsibility to they customers to best meet the needs of their patrons who require the inventory for their academic pursuits.  in today’s world, both require metrics.

To serve the needs of the institution, a manager of circulating equipment must make decisions on the near-term value of equipment–what technologies are on the rise or in decline; what are fads or passing fancies; what are the repair, training, maintenance costs for a particular technology, and how much of an investment should be made in high-priced cutting edge technologies relative to an annual budget must be taken into consideration.

For the customers, are the more critical pieces of inventory available when needed? And why not, are there too few to meet the demand or are there shortages due to repair or one-time events? Managers must quantify customer satisfaction both on a “per transaction” basis, but also in a retrospective, long-term satisfaction–were reserved items available at the time of pickup? Were the “mechanics” of circulation (reservation, checkout, return) acceptable? Were there long lines?

Metrics can be further cleaved into short-term, “at a glance”, and long-term. Short term metrics are most relevant to managers in service of customers–what is going out today? What times will be the busiest? What types of equipment will be running low today? Will staffing levels meet demand? What events will require advanced preparation?

Long-term metrics serve both the patrons and the institution. Do the hours of operation serve patron’s needs? Are the policies too restrictive? On the institution side, what equipment is at or beyond end-of-life? What should be repaired or replaced? What is the repair/maintenance track record for various makes and models. What can be repaired in-house and at what cost?