Can sustainability help mitigate supply chain risk?
It took ten years for Aaron LeMieux, founder and CEO of Tremont Electric, to turn his product idea into reality. LeMieux’s product—the nPower PEG (Personal Energy Generator)—is a universal charger powered by kinetic energy. The device fits into a backpack or clips onto a belt and uses the energy generated by a person’s movement to charge handheld mobile electronics.
Not surprisingly, once the prototype launched things began moving at an accelerated pace. And as Tremont Electric began to grow, LeMieux decided to make sustainability a central part of the nPower PEG manufacturing process.
While it makes a lot of sense that a manufacturer of sustainable energy would embrace sustainability as a company value, green manufacturing is seen by some as expensive and difficult to implement. However, LeMieux found that incorporating sustainability into Tremont Electric’s strategy was ultimately an important contributor to the organization’s success.
Local sourcing + a sustainable process = a winning combination
Roughly 90% of Tremont Electric components are sourced from local companies, a decision that was made to help maintain a small carbon footprint. Even non-local suppliers were chosen with a required distance in mind to ensure the supply chain was small and manageable.
Additionally, LeMieux’s strategy is made to scale. “From day one, I always viewed nPower as an industry-making technology rather than a company-making technology,” says LeMieux. “By being able to rely on vendors and suppliers that are close to us, we’re helping to build an ecosystem that’s going to be able to allow us to develop new products in the future from our technology.”
LeMieux’s commitment to a local supply chain quickly paid off. Soon after launching the nPower PEG, a glitch with a component on the circuit board forced the company to temporarily halt sales. Although this could have been a disaster, the company’s decision to work with local vendors allowed it to resolve the issue and get back to manufacturing as quickly as possible. “It’s a lot easier to be able to jump in the car, drive over there, and point to where the problem is and what needs to be fixed,” LeMieux says.
As Tremont Electric grows, so will its commitment to local vendors, and its focus on sustainability—future projects for nPower include a wave energy converter, which will upsize the current technology to the size of a car and encapsulate it in a buoy on the water to harvest wave energy, and other applications for the military, consumer and biomedical fields.
Don’t wait to consider sustainability
For startups looking to launch a first product, there is a lot to learn from Tremont Electric—namely, don’t wait until demand is through the roof to consider sustainability.
Although it can be tempting to focus solely on costs in the beginning, working out a sustainable manufacturing strategy upfront can save money and mitigate risk in the long run. By using suppliers across town you can more easily communicate concepts with manufacturers throughout the rapid product development process, and by taking the time to think strategically, you can be better prepared to mitigate problems when they inevitably arise.