How Inventory Management Helps nuCamp Get Lean
November 8, 2021
By Blue Print Editorial Team
By Blue Print Editorial Team
nuCamp | Sugarcreek, Ohio
CREATING SOMETHING SPECIAL
Kevin North had a really nice problem. It was such a nice problem, he didn’t have to look hard to find the silver lining. You see, North and his team at nuCamp were facing a large amount of unexpected demand. Yes, this was a great problem.
Prior to the pandemic, nuCamp was on pace for good growth in 2020. Then COVID-19 drove demand up. Way up. Growth climbed above 20%, because people wanted to get away, get outdoors, and get off the grid. For many, “Let’s buy a camper!” became a way to reclaim some normalcy in their lives. And many found that the high-quality trailers nuCamp creates were just what they were looking for.
“Here at nuCamp our four core values of Caring Genuinely, Service Over Self, Always Doing the Right Thing, and Work Hard, drive us to build the exceptional,” North said. “Our European designs infused with Amish craftsmanship enable us build remarkable RVs.”
GOOD PROBLEMS STILL NEED SOLUTIONS
So as the pandemic fueled demand, nuCamp was able to take advantage and create more trailers. But inventory started to get tight. Supply chain issues hit vendors, and it became harder to find the bigger items like refrigerators, stoves, and ovens needed for new builds.
As the person in charge of vendor relations for nuCamp, North was looking for ways to level out inventory. He also wanted to boost productivity and speed up his supply chain. Perhaps most of all, he wanted to offer painless inventory management for the team assembling campers.
“Our sales manager worked at Fastenal during college and recommended we research their VMI (Vendor Managed Inventory) systems,” North said. “With a national footprint and a product portfolio of nearly 2 million items, we felt Fastenal would benefit nuCamp’s supply chain.”
And that’s where Fastenal’s Duane Shock, a Lean trained professional specializing in supply chain efficiency solutions, came into the picture.
Fastenal set out to eliminate wasted walk, wait, and travel time by managing OEM fasteners and assembly hardware for nuCamp. To do this the implementation team took three main steps.
North knew he needed to spend more time securing those bigger components, so he looked to Fastenal to take over the inventory management of many of the smaller items.
“We were able to take that off their plate at the right time,” said Shock. “I think that’s where the efficiencies really started to come into play for them. We took over stocking that inventory at their facility. Our bins saved them $14,000 in fasteners alone in one year. Plus, we dedicated inventory at our local servicing site for them as well. So we were able to reduce their on-hand quantities.”
The Lean Team from Fastenal analyzed the nuCamp facilities to find ways to offer improvements. They brought North a plan that saw the facility go from having a single stocking site to five point-of-use locations.
“We put some upstairs in the mezzanine for them, and it wasn’t just a convenience factor,” said Shock. “We actually save them on potential injuries. Why have employees carrying 30 and 40 pound boxes of fasteners up and down steps? So, we looked at the ergonomics for the whole setup. It was more than just a process improvement; it was an all-around improvement on what was going on for them.”
“They are located right in the heart of Amish country in Ohio,” said Duane Shock, part of Fastenal’s Lean Team. “So their workforce, or a majority of it, is Mennonite and Amish. It’s a unique situation, and that’s what lends to the quality of their trailers. They are building Amish cabinetry to go inside of these RVs. That’s just the type of craftsmanship and quality that they pride themselves on.”
IMPLEMENTING THE PLAN
When nuCamp first decided to switch over to Fastenal’s technology-based inventory management, North and Shock worked to make the installation as painless as possible. Fastenal’s investment in the solution included the racking, bins, and vending machines, along with the physical work of taking down the existing racking and setting up the new system.
“Implementation worked well with our schedule,” North said. “We planned to have Fastenal’s team set up the FASTBin system during our mid-year shut down. It allowed them to have a minimal number of forklift operators to contend with and to seamlessly add the RFID systems.”
As Fastenal’s Lean Team was planning the switchover to Fastenal’s inventory management technology, he kept looking for ways to pare down the time it would take. He knew that nuCamp would want every possible day to get campers built during the heat of increased demand.
ABOUT THE PARTNERSHIP
“With a company of our size, our product portfolio of over 3,000 parts was stretching our team members’ bandwidth. With Fastenal’s VMI system, our team could focus on their work without worrying about fasteners because Fastenal handles the management of our inventory.”
- Kevin North | Vendor Relations for nuCamp
“They are a great company. They have a really cool product, they are eager, and they have great management there coming into a new era of wanting to get Lean.”
- Duane Shock | Lean Solutions Coordinator for Fastenal
WHAT IS FASTBIN?
Using RFID technology, the local Fastenal branch monitors nuCamp’s inventory remotely. Then, before it’s needed, they can replenish.