Job: Shirley Panepinto is an inventory specialist in the Redistribution Warehouse operated by the UI's Accounting Division. Before coming to the university 2 1/2 years ago, Panepinto ran her own cleaning business and worked as a buyer/planner at another local company. In her spare time, Panepinto said she enjoys reading and taking motorcycle trips around the state.
What kinds of things do you get here?
Office supplies. Tons of three-ring binders. Filing supplies. We get a lot of computers and a lot of big-screen monitors. We have a variety of things. We serve a really big need for the campus. There are a lot of departments that donÕt have the funding to buy the office supplies and equipment. WeÕre a very valuable resource for that.
How do things end up here?
It's stuff that other departments no longer need. Either they're closing the department out, renovating or maybe a person has left and they're not going to replace them so they send the surplus here.
So other departments can come and "shop"?
Yes. Other university departments come in here and shop and utilize our services quite a bit. And there are a lot of people who aren't even aware that we're here. [A man approaches carrying a computer monitor he has selected to take back to his office.] Like this guy here. He probably hopes people don't know we're here Õcause he loves coming here. I have a lot of return customers. And I tell them if they're really looking for something in particular [they should] come every day because [inventory] turns around here very quickly. I would say, on average, computers like GS2s and above, I can check those in that morning and within two hours they're out the door. Same thing with the newer type monitors.
Is the cost of the equipment then charged to their department?
Actually, there is no cost; it's just a transfer of inventory to the department.
If a computer or other equipment here needs repairs, is the department who gets it responsible for fixing it?
No. Actually, what we do is if it's not working, we will probably scrap it. What we don't scrap, we send to Springfield to the state surplus to be auctioned off. What we send to Springfield is typically things that nobody is going to want here. Sometimes we have to put some desks and bookcases on [the auction] because we're just so overloaded we just don't have the space to store them.
How do you keep track of all this stuff?
We have a bar-coding software system, and every item has a surplus I.D. tag with a bar code on it. We just implemented that last November. It's a wonderful, wonderful system. I can't say enough good about it. We're actually trying to develop a Web page so that at some point we can implement this on it, and people can actually do a search for a specific item.
Do you have statistics on how much business you do?
Last month alone, we did over 3,200 transactions. And, on an average, I would say we do anywhere from 2,200 to 2,700 transactions. Already this year, we have surpassed what we did last year, and we still have 3 1/2 months left. You want to stop and remember when everybody else is taking the summer off that's our busiest time because they're closing down departments, renovating and that's when all the stuff comes in here. Then come August and September Ð that's when people are coming back and they need things out of here.
Why are you busier this year? Is it just because more people know youÕre here?
Since I was hired to manage the facility and its daily activities, it allowed Dick Elliott [who used to manage the warehouse before Panepinto] to travel around on campus and interact with departments with regards to the disposition of their inventory. [Elliott retired last month.] But there still are a lot of people who have no clue we're here, and when they find out, they're just ecstatic. I kind of keep a "want list" for folks wanting something specific furniture-wise but not for computers and peripherals, things along that line. It would just get too massive. But people have to realize that during our busy times, things can come and go so fast that something they may have wanted will walk out the door before I can call them.
Note: The Redistribution Warehouse is located in the Horticulture Field Lab Annex, 1707 S. Orchard St., Urbana (south of Florida Avenue, east of the presidentÕs house). Hours: weekdays, 10 a.m. - noon and 1 - 4 p.m. Phone: 333-6011. Visitors to the warehouse may be greeted by Matilda, a portly, striped cat, who lives at the warehouse and is its rodent-control manager.