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Reno firm sees growth from e-waste rules

John Seelmeyer

An initiative by the European Union to restrict the use of hazardous substances in electronic equipment could have big implications for a tiny company in Reno.

Or maybe not.

Much depends on whether executives of electronics companies embrace the spirit of the regulations as the rules spread to other jurisdictions around the world or instead take a narrow, legalistic approach, say executives of The Salot Bradley Group International.

Principals in the company are in a strong position to sell their knowledge. They wrote the specifications upon which the electronics industry developed processes that certify that manufacturing restricts the generation of e-waste.

Now The Salot Bradley Group International runs classroom sessions around the world, most of them to train the people who will certify that makers of electronics are meeting green-manufacturing standards.

Dennis Bradley, a Salot Bradley Group vice president who leads much of the training, says about 900 people worldwide have earned certification.

That’s kept the company busy since the European Union regulations took effect in mid-2006, but the next phase of the company’s development causes sleepless nights for its owners from excitement as well as worry.

Most of the early training efforts, Bradley explains, focused on the organizations that will certify that green processes are in place at individual manufacturers.

Now Salot Bradley looks to deliver its training to individual companies, showing them how to develop processes that meet the new standards.

That’s tricky, Bradley says, because many manufacturing executives want to push the responsibility to their suppliers and subcontractors, demanding that they provide documentation that they’ve used green processes.

If big manufacturers collect that documentation from all their suppliers, they figure they won’t need to install green manufacturing processes on their own especially if they put a staff of inspectors in place.

Salot Bradley Group contends they’d be better off incorporating the green standards into their existing quality-improvement programs. That, Bradley says, would be more cost-efficient and effective than collecting mountains of documentation and hiring more inspectors.

And the Reno company is poised to train electronics companies how to fold green manufacturing into their quality programs. That’s a potentially huge training market, and Salot Bradley Group executives initially worried about their ability to staff up quickly enough.

The electronics industry, however, has been slow to bite.

“The institutional lethargy has been so great,” says Bradley.

But Chip Evans, the president and chief executive officer of Salot Bradley Group, says the company has stayed profitable because it hasn’t counted any chickens before they’ve hatched.

“We’ve been very careful not to build any expensive infrastructure,” he says.

The company’s executives work, for instance, in modest quarters in a small house on Watt Street at the south edge of Reno’s downtown.

They put much of their effort in evangelism work such as a monthly column provided by Salot Bradley for a magazine that targets some 50,000 process-improvement executives.

At the same time, the company’s staff most of them refugees from Silicon Valley keep a steady stream of revenue flowing from other consulting jobs on quality and process improvement.