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A hospital’s model inspires tote maker

Staff Report
Northern Nevada Business Weekly

An ailing manufacturing process doesn’t usually find relief at a hospital, but that’s exactly where Too Cute for Totes discovered a cure for its laggard operations.

The seven-year-old Fallon maker of custom-designed purses was growing business steadily but struggling to deliver orders in fewer than a few months.

Now, thanks to an entrepreneurship class at the University of Nevada, Reno, the handbag maker has cut the time from order to delivery from 400 business hours to 160, and boosted its production from 200 purses a month to 360.

That’s where Karen Scott, Too Cute for Totes founder and president, met Will Sutherland, manager of business development at Reno’s Renown Health. Scott was presenting her business to the class in hopes of getting advice on marketing. Sutherland, an MBA candidate, instead had an idea for improving her business’ manufacturing procedure.

Sutherland, recently certified in Transformation Health Care, said the process improvement program, which actually originated in manufacturing, could be applied to her production line.

Scott was skeptical.

“I wondered if it was worth my time,” said Scott. “I wasn’t sure the process Renown uses in a hospital setting could be translated to a manufacturing facility.”

But she decided to try the idea, based on the Rapid Process Improvement Workshop model.

A team from Renown spent a week observing Too Cute for Totes manufacturing operations, including diagramming floor plans and mapping processes to detect and eliminate waste.

The result was an 80 percent increase in the number of purses produced monthly.

“I am thankful and excited that this opportunity fell into my lap,” said Scott. “Renown has been wonderful to allow their employees to help my small, rural business.”