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Founded in 1982, NRG Systems of Hinesburg, Vermont is a world leader in wind power assessment and turbine control technology. In 1997, when NRG Systems was only a 12-person company, the company began its working relationship with VMEC by adopting Lean methods in its manufacturing areas. NRG Systems developed innovative visual and pull systems to move material through their manufacturing and shipping process. Since then NRG Systems has become a showcase in Vermont demonstrating that Lean systems work well in even very small companies.
Today, NRG Systems employs 115 people. Its growth has been fueled partially by the expanding role of wind energy, and partially by NRG Systems’ increasing and innovative product lines. NRG Systems is committed to waste free manufacturing and to a business model of Lean and Green. In business practices, factory construction, and production methods, NRG Systems ‘walks the walk’.
Lean methods have never been restricted to the shop floor at NRG Systems. Over the past ten years, their application of lean methods has extended to the sales, engineering and administrative functions.
In 2007, Louis Prue, Logistics Manager at NRG Systems, requested VMEC’s assistance in developing a Value Stream Map of the order fulfillment process. Because their business is expanding rapidly, NRG Systems must grow its business capacity through process improvement.
Working with the NRG Systems’ team, VMEC helped developed a future state plan for order fulfillment. This plan reduced order lead time from 7.5 hours to 2 hours. They also improved their first pass yield quality of orders from 47.8% to 98%. The future state plan was implemented quickly and has been sustained. The plan included reducing batch processing between administrative operations, questioning and eliminating unnecessary handoffs. Some additional training was required, but increased the number of orders (throughput) by more than 40%, using the same staff and the same capital equipment.
Lean process improvement process did not stop there. After a successful experience with the value stream mapping process, Louis Prue and the teams at NRG Systems have led further improvement efforts in the areas of purchase order receipts and incoming inspections. These efforts are yielding similar results.
At this point in the process, key insights for NRG Systems include:
- one piece flow of documents
- handoff elimination
- the need for cross functional teams when developing business process changes.