By Dan O'Brien
AYER -- Wally Dwyer is aiming for North Middlesex Savings Bank to become a champion of efficiency. And he's getting help from two sources -- the state's Workforce Training Fund and Mount Wachusett Community College.
The Ayer-based bank, which has seven branch offices, was among 66 companies throughout the state to be awarded funding in the latest round of workforce training grants.
North Middlesex Savings Bank received $72,570. It will use the funding to train 80 workers in a lean-management technique referred to as "kaizen," a Japanese business practice of continuous improvement in performance and productivity.
The bank is also projected to add about seven jobs.
"We'll be partnering with Mount Wachusett Community College to help us with a lean transformation project, called kaizen," said Dwyer. "It's a systematic approach to weed out inefficiencies in the bank. We're looking to teach our employees how to look at the way we do business."
"My priorities are to save time, save money and enhance the customer experience -- and hopefully we'll achieve all three," Dwyer said.
Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel Aquino said the Gardner-based college helped write the grant that enabled North Middlesex to win the funding, in addition to recommending the consultants the bank eventually hired.
"We've written about about $3.5 million in grants with various companies over the past two years," Aquino said.
Dwyer said all employees will get at least some level of training, with a small group targeted to be "lean champs," or to become proficient enough to pass on what they learn in the future.
As for the seven additional jobs, Dwyer wasn't sure when and where they would occur.
"That's partly because we need to identify where the needs are," he said. "That will determine where we hire. But hopefully, we are going to be building a better bank, where we attract more customers. And if so, we will be hiring customer-relations employees."
The Workforce Training Fund provides grants of up to $250,000 for Massachusetts companies to use over two years. Funds are administered through Commonwealth Corp. which administers the funds for the Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
Dwyer said North Middlesex Savings Bank has received at least one prior training grant, which was used to improve internal communications.
Founded in 1885, the mutually-owned savings bank boasts nearly $360 million in assets. It has branch offices in Ayer, Devens, Groton, Littleton, Lunenburg, Pepperell and Shirley.
North Middlesex posted 2013 net income of more than $1.9 million, up 10 percent from the year before, according to its Annual Report. The bank also changed its logo, which is now modeled after the "steady beacon" that is the North Star.
"Things are better," Dwyer said in reference to economic conditions. "We are not all the way out of the woods, but it is better."
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