Mission: Imprintable

An Investigation of a Distribution System for a Student Newspaper

Special Agents: Kelly Gerus, Heather Grainger, Michelle Lo, Andrew Lukas, Jaime Miller


Mission Imprintable is an on-line document that presents an investigation and analysis of the student newspaper distribution system at the University of Waterloo. "The Imprint" has existed for sixteen years as amedium for students to voice their opinions. It is an integral component of student life at UW . A previous team studied the sustainability of the Imprint system and suggested that further study be done on the distribution component. The following document determines the problems that exist, and theways to remedy them. This document also identifies the people who are involved in the distribution system. The University of Waterloo is an environmentally conscious universitythat encourages students to improve the sustainability of the campus. This project outlines the specific areas where the supply of Imprints arenot being met by the demand from students andwhere improvements can be made. This document is also useful toImprint staff to help them maximize the Imprint readership and provides a useful guide for other students who wish to conduct their own audit of a distribution system.

Table of Contents

1.0 Introduction

2.0 Sustainability on Campus

3.0 Imprint Distribution System

4.0 People Involved in the Distribution System

5.0 Goal and Objective

6.0 Research Questions

7.0 Data Collection Procedure

8.0 Data Collection, Summary and Analysis

9.0 Conclusions

1.0 Introduction

ERS 285-Greening the Campus, is a project course that allows students to perform a sustainability study on a topic of their choice that directly relates to the University of Waterloo. Our group, Mission Imprintable, completed a distribution audit on the student newspaper, the Imprint. The newspaper is available to students, staff, and the general public free of charge. However, it is a service that constantly requires natural resources. Our goal was to study the Imprint drop-off points within Ring Road to determine if unacceptable quantities of unread Imprints remained at the end of each week.

This is a follow-up project to determine the approximate number of newspapers required in each building and it is based on one of the recommendations suggested in a previous ERS 285 study. We felt that counting the number of Imprints that are distributed to the 41 drop-off points would enable us to determine whether the supply of newspapers was meeting the demand. These points receive 141.5 of the 220 bundles of newspapers delivered each week. The earlier audit was completed during the winter 1995 term and was entitled: Where Does the Imprint Go? The 1995 audit of the Imprint revealed some surprising facts. The most significant issue they uncovered was that only 8200 of 12,000 copies were actually distributed. The remaining 3800 copies were sent directly to the recycling depot without ever being opened. We contacted the recycling depot to find out if this still occurred and the depot manager informed us that this was no longer the case.

The previous group did a mini-audit on the following four buildings: the Student Life Centre, Engineering Lecture Hall, Student Village 1, and the Graduate House. They found that many Imprints were not being used and suggested that there was a distribution problem. This information led us to the idea to study the actual distribution system. We decided to broaden the scope and encompass all the drop-off points in all the buildings within Ring Road.

2.0 Sustainability on Campus

We envision an Imprint distribution system that will accurately supply the correct amount of Imprints needed to meet the demand. We believe that it would be ideal if every Imprint distributed was read at least once and then recycled. By meeting the demand more accurately, fewer unread Imprints will be thrown away which will improve the sustainability of this part of the UW campus.

3.0 The Imprint Distribution System

3.1 Components

The components of the system are the drop-off points which are the places where the Imprints are delivered each Friday morning. Each drop-off point has two parts to its name. The first part is the building in which it is found and the second part is the point number in that building. For example, "AL3", means that this is the third drop-off point in Arts Lecture.

We examined individual drop-off points rather than each building as a whole for the following reasons:

We focused on 41 drop-off points within Ring Road because they were concentrated and the data could be collected more efficiently with the limited human resources available to us.

Along with the drop-off points, the Imprint Distribution System includes the imaginary boundaries of the buildings to aid in locating the points. Ring Road serves as an appropriate physical boundary since it encompasses the area of study.

What is a week? In addition to the physical boundary, it is important to know the temporal boundary that we are working in. A "week" starts on Friday and ends on Thursday:

Friday: Imprints are dropped off in bundles between*** 9:30 and 11:30 am. Students begin to pick them up immediately.

Saturday, Sunday: Most students are elsewhere on the weekend and few newspapers are, therefore we did not think that collecting on these days were essential. Also some of the buildings are locked on the weekend.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: Students continue to pick up Imprints.

Thursday: This is the last day that the current newspaper is still in effect and represents the end of the week.

***Above, we mentioned that the Imprints are dropped off in bundles on Friday. The fact that they are delivered in bundles is very important to note because that makes the smallest unit we can discuss one bundle that contains 50 individual newspapers. It is therefore not practical to view each newspaper individually. This distinction is necessary because it is unreasonable to recommend to the delivery people that they open every bundle and recount the newspapers. This would be more time-consuming, translating into higher costs for the Imprint staff. As a result, we will express the data collection in bundles unless otherwise stated.

4.0 People Involved in the Imprint Distribution System

The Distribution Staff distributes the newspapers to the drop-off points each Friday. If any changes need to be made with the number of bundles delivered, this is the most important group to contact.

The role of the students is to read the Imprints from the drop-off points. Also, a portion of their tuition is put toward funding the Imprint.

The role of the Imprint Staff and Printer is to produce 11,000 editions of the Imprint every week.

The role of the National Advertisers is to provide further funding for the production of the Imprint.

These people are all linked together by an Imprint Lifecycle Flowchart.

5.0 Goal and Objective

5.1 Goal:

5.2 Objective:

6.0 Research Questions

In order to achieve our goal of reducing the number of Imprints that are left unread, we had to determine what changes needed to be made to better accommodate the supply and demand. To collect the data we had to know where all the drop-off points were, and which day of the week they ran out. If they did not run out, we had to know how many newspapers were left unread. If there were between 1 and 49 individual newspapers we would not recommend any changes to the distribution to those points because it is the target range that should be left unread. This range is ideal because it means that the drop-off point did not run out and it did not have an excess of bundles either. If there was one bundle or more left unread, we could suggest that they be redistributed to a point that ran out. The process of developing our research questions is displayed with our Research Questions chart.

The following are the four research questions:

7.0 Data Collection Procedure

To Determine the Answers to the Research Questions, follow these steps...

1. Each data collector must go to his or her assigned buildings and locate all of the drop-off points before beginning the audit. The Imprint Staff must also be able to locate these points if changes have to be made.

2. On Monday, the data collector must count the number of Imprints left at each assigned drop-off point. This must be done at the same time each day and repeated on Tuesday and Wednesday.

3. On Thursday, the data collector must count the number of Imprints left at each assigned drop-off point as late as possible (the closer it is to Friday 12:00 AM, the better) since the weekly edition is only current until the end of Thursday. The old newspapers are not removed until 9:30 Friday morning when the new ones are delivered. However since they are outdated, the number of Imprints left unread at this time are not useful.

4. Step #2 and 3 should each be repeated twice to end up with three weeks of data.

8.0 Data Collection Summary and Analysis (is 3 weeks significant???)

The data collection phase of the study began on February 28, 1997 and continued through the week of March 7, 1997 and ended on March 20, 1997.

We decided that three weeks of data collection would provide an average that is resistant to weekly anomalies. We realize that a three week study is not completely adequate but due to time constraints, this is the best we could accomplish. Ideally, we would collect data for the entire semester. We focused on three weeks of data collection which was later amalgamated to create an average week.

What is the significance of three weeks of data?

Three weeks is not a representation of a sample size. Our data is not designed to be extrapolated to be significant for an entire year. The data was collected in the middle of the term to capture normal student readership. We did not include the beginning of the term because it would not represet normal student readership since people are not settled into their regular habits. We did not include the end of the term either because it is cluttered with classes ending and exam preparation. Also, if we collected at the beginning of the term, then first year students may not be aware that the Imprint existed, and fewer would be picked up. We collected data at a time that reflected the most routine patterns of the term.

The student pick up pattern in the winter is similar to the fall because 11,000 individual newspapers are printed each week for both those terms. The student enrollement is also consistent from the fall to winter term. The Imprint prints less newspapers in the spring (6000 newspapers bi-weekly), because there are less students enrolled during that term.

The data showed us the points that usually run out of bundles, the points that have too many, and the points that receive an accurate amount. Even if these points vary slightly from week to week, the data gives us a general idea of which points are receiving too many or too few bundles. The quantitative recommendations later suggested to the Imprint do not have to be taken as concrete numbers. The Imprint distribution staff can observe these points from week to week and make similar generalizations. For example, if we recommend five bundles to be distributed to DC2, they can put more or less depending on their own observations.

8.1 Research Question Answers...

1. The 41 drop-off points and their locations were discovered within Ring Road.

2. The following 6 points ran out of Imprints on:

i) Monday:

Since these drop-off points ran out on the first data collection day, we can infer that there was high demand at these points and we recommend that more bundles be placed at each of them. These points should get priority over points that run out on later days.

ii) None of the drop-off points ran out of Imprints on Tuesday.

iii) None of the drop-off points ran out of Imprints on Wednesday.

iv) The following 5 drop-off points ran out of Imprints on Thursday:

Since these drop-off points ran out of Imprints on the last day, we can infer that there was a lower demand than the points that ran out on Monday. In addition, there should still be more newspapers distributed to these points because the Imprint is not outdated until Friday 12 AM.

3. The following 26 points had between 1 and 49 individual newspapers remaining:

We can conclude that the initial drop-off numbers were accurate and no changes should be made to these buildings.

4. The following 4 points had one or more unused bundles:

MC1, P1 and ES1 had one unused bundle each, and SLC2 had 4 unused bundles. We recommend that the 7 bundles be redistributed to the buildings that ran out.


Since we examined the newspapers in bundles of 50, only 350 individual newspapers could be redistributed. However, if the Imprint acted on our recommendation to package and deliver the newspapers in bundles of 25, then 600 could be redistributed each week.

8.2 Limitations:

8.3 Recommendations for the Imprint:

1. To facilitate a more appropriate distribution of the Imprint, which would better meet the demand, we propose that the 7 unused bundles be added to the drop-off points. These points are listed in priority sequence because there are not enough bundles to go around (the ones that ran out on Monday are listed first, then Thursday)

2. Perhaps the bundles can be packaged in 25 so that even more unread newspapers can be reduced.

3. If more unread bundles are found outside of Ring Road they can be re-distributed to the points within Ring Road that run out.

8.4 Recommendations for future data collectors:

1. Before the first day of data collection, the collector should be aware of all the drop-off zones because the more zones that are found, the more accurate the results will be. Further accuracy could be achieved by counting the unread Imprints left at the end of every day of the week including weekends.

2. It would be ideal if each person collected his or her data at the same time each day and Friday morning just as the new Imprints are delivered.

9.0 Conclusions

Before we began this audit we had the pre-conceived notion that we would find large numbers of unread Imprints each week. However, only 7 out of 141.5 bundles, distributed within Ring Road, were left unread at the end of the average week. As well, 26 out of 41 drop-off points had between 1 and 49 Imprints remaining and therefore required no redistributing. The distribution system of the Imprint has been accurate.

Because of the difficulties in attempting to follow the distribution truck, the initial numbers given to us by the Imprint could not be verified. The difficulties we encountered with the Imprint may be due to the negative exposure that the previous group created for the Imprint staff.

The Imprint did reduce its print run from 12,000 to 11,000 individual newspapers each week. The previous group recommended a reduction which shows that the Imprint is listening. However, since we were not allowed to ride in the delivery van, we cannot verify that all the bundles are distributed. The previous group revealed that 76 bundles were taken directly to the recycling depot and we cannot verify that all the ones printed now are actually distributed and read.

Our final and most important conclusion is that the redistributions we recommended can be implemented easily, with no loss in time or money for the Imprint staff! We feel that the Imprint can make these changes by simply adjusting the numbers on its distribution chart. Only the number of bundles that go to the various drop-off points need to be altered so the delivery van can still load the same number of bundles.

9.1 Recommendations for further study:


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