RENO, Nev. — U.S. Ordnance, a Northern Nevada weapons manufacturing plant, recently overhauled its assembly line and energy systems with help from staff with Nevada Industry Excellence and USDA's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
Originally based out of California, U.S. Ordnance owner-operator Curtis Debord moved his company to Nevada in 1997 due to the state's supportive business climate.
The company first began manufacturing automatic weapons from a 1,700-square-foot shop. Since then, two expansions, one in 2008 and another in 2012, have allowed the company to grow into its 100,000-square-foot plant at 300 E. Sydney Drive in McCarran, just east of Reno; increase production five-fold; and employ 35 more full-time employees for a total of 115.
Two years ago, in response to increased demand for M2 machine guns, company leaders realized they needed to scale up production and efficiency.
The warehouse operations were conducted in a high-roofed building and lighting was not optimal. Each of the M2 machine gun barrels starts out as a 70-pound steel blank, and moving it required two employees placing it into various machining systems. Injuries were a concern.
Engineers reassessed the assembly line processes and asked the Nevada Industry Excellence (NVIE) team to conduct an energy audit.
NVIE is the grantee that provides business assistance for energy audits under USDA's Renewable Energy Development Assistance program in Nevada. The audit revealed options for multiple energy efficiency improvements.
With the audit recommendations in hand, the company contacted Laura Chavez with USDA's energy program, and U.S. Ordnance was approved for a $250,000 REAP grant to offset one-fourth of the costs of installing new LED lighting, high efficiency CNC Lathes and an automated robotic arm.
“Automation was essential for us,” said Debord. “The robotic arm has allowed us to streamline our machining operations, so we have consistent output and can plan for maintenance.”
The new high efficiency equipment and LED lights use half the energy of the old assembly line and are expected to result in cost savings of about $311,000 a year.
“With USDA grants the conversion to LED makes it cost effective – it's only a 5-year payback, and on the automation, that's a three-year payback,” Debord said, adding that management agrees that employee safety, reduced maintenance costs and even employee morale are big winners on the project.
Kelly Clark is Special Projects/Public Affairs/Native American Outreach Coordinator for the USDA's Rural Development Nevada. Visit www.rd.usda.gov/nv to learn more.