Nevada Industry Excellence helping foster startups in greater Reno area
RENO, Nev. — In 2016, when Northern Nevada startup Fulcrum BioEnergy was preparing to launch its 65,000-square-foot feedstock processing facility in Storey County, the renewable fuels company was in need of consulting.
Fulcrum knew exactly where to turn: Nevada Industry Excellence (NVIE), a nonprofit connected through a national network of manufacturers.
Through staffing, training, manuals and more, NVIE helped the renewable fuels company rev up phase one of its first project, planted 20 miles east of Reno.
“They were the first people that we reached out to,” Karen Bunton, manager of administration at Fulcrum BioEnergy, said in a phone interview with the NNBV. “We found them very easy to work with. They were very eager to help and excited about our project. And they continue to be a resource for us.”
For 23 years, NVIE has been helping Nevada’s industrial companies do everything from achieve their goals of enhanced productivity to increase their profitability.
All told, between 2012-2016, NVIE’s clients have reported $29.5 million cost savings; $181 million investment made to operations; $260 million sales increased or retained; and 3,958 jobs created or retained, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“We like to look at ourselves as the ‘easy button’ for Nevada industry,” said Mark Anderson, director of NVIE’s Northern Nevada branch.
With Northern Nevada in the midst of an economic boom, leading to a wave of startups — from tech to manufacturing — rolling into the greater Reno area, NVIE sees its work as more important than ever.
“We have a lot of manufacturing companies, we have a lot of tech companies, and both of those are growing really fast,” Anderson said. “And in both accounts, one of the issues they’re running into is being able to find a qualified workforce to be able to fill these jobs.”
In response, Anderson said, NVIE, for example, is working with a number of partners within the state to put together an “Internet of Things” program to help a lot of the new startups — many of which are IoT-based — develop a curriculum.
In other words, NVIE wants to develop talent in the Silver State to fill the needs of startups in Northern Nevada and beyond.
“Because the growth has been so explosive here in the state, we believe our talent, as much as possible, should be coming within the state of Nevada,” Anderson said. “But we have to develop that talent. I think we have the right type of people here in the state but they need to have the right type of training for these opportunities that are coming down the road.
“It’s serving the people that want to get into the workforce, but also a lot of these companies are constrained in their growth by the people that they can find and hire.”
LEAN INTO IT
NVIE also specializes in lean manufacturing, a systematic method for waste minimization within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity. In other words, “operational excellence,” Andersons said.
Rhea Gustafson, NVIE project manager, pointed to a specific success story in which NVIE helped Sparks-based MicroMetl, a manufacturer of heating and air conditioning equipment. NVIE’s analysis of the plant’s production process showed that a single heating and air conditioning part would travel 1.5 miles during assembly.
NVIE cut the distance the product traveled down to 100 feet.
“They set up a whole bunch of different assembly lines based upon the lean concepts that we taught them and help them through,” Gustafson said. “They keep coming back to us — one day it’s lean, another time it’s leadership development, another time its retention. We give them the tools and then they run with them.”
Indeed, NVIE likes to think of itself as a one-stop shop for industrial companies, whether they’re setting up forklift instructions or developing succession planning with the owner, and everything in-between.
“We end up just being one vendor to the manufacturer, and a lot of them value that,” Gustafson said. “So they don’t have all these kinds of different consultants — somebody coming in for safety, somebody coming in for lien, somebody coming in for leadership development — they just come to us.”
PBS Reno, formerly known as KNPB Public Television, has served Northern/Central Nevada and Northeastern California since 1983.