SETTING THE STANDARD: Electro Standards Laboratories will receive $31,442 to train about 54 employees under the Incumbent Worker Training grant program. Above left, Raymond Sepe, vice president of research and development, and Raymond Sepe Sr., president.
Losing time running a printing press while searching for a misplaced screwdriver is a small but potentially costly inefficiency, says one business owner who will be using a state grant to implement a lean manufacturing program.
Barry Couto, co-owner of Barrington Printing in Cranston, sought and got a $15,600 grant – exactly half of what the Lean program costs to train 22 employees – in March from the Incumbent Worker Training grant program administered by the Governor’s Workforce Board Rhode Island.
Couto and 24 other businesses obtained grants for the first time. Another 43 businesses are repeat award winners. Matching the grant is a condition of the award.
Implementing lean manufacturing production techniques like having a place to keep tools organized is part of a larger goal to increase efficiencies as Barrington Printing, which in 2013 had its best year ever, considers investing in a sixth printing press, Couto said.
“We run two shifts here and I have a sense that, the way we grew last year, if we grow at that rate this year, we’ll come close to filling our capacity on the equipment side,” said Coutu. “We grew 11.5 percent in sales last year.
“So, before I go ahead and make a substantial investment in equipment,” he explained, “I want to make sure we are working as efficiently as possible. And if we learn how to do things more efficiently we can be more competitive with our pricing.”
Business growth is one reason some of the 102 business owners said they chose to apply and compete for more than $1.5 million in state training grants this year. All told, 68 received awards, and the state was able to add $800,000 from fiscal 2015 to the $700,000 available from fiscal 2014, said Rick Brooks, executive director of the Governor’s Workforce Board Rhode Island.
“The board had intended to issue another [request for proposals] in October, but given the large amount of qualified proposals and the interest in training now, there was every reason to award the additional funding,” Brooks said.
Grants range in size from $5,000 to $40,000 and are available to all for-profit and nonprofit businesses in the state that contribute to the Job Development Fund. The program has been running since at least 1993, Brooks said.
Pent-up demand occurred in fiscal 2013 because funding had been cut and no grants were awarded the previous year, Brooks said. In fiscal 2014, demand initially was lower than expected, but ended up exceeding expectations, he said.