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The Opgrade Story


Hello everyone, thanks for watching this video, and thanks for celebrating with us.


Today, October 9th is Opgrade's 10th Anniversary. That's right, ten years ago today, on October 9th, 2012, Opgrade filed its Certificate of Filing with the Texas Secretary of State, certifying us as a Limited Liability Company.


It's hard to believe ten years have passed since that day, but as the author, Gretchen Rubin once said, "The days are long but the years are short." That's truly been the case for us at Opgrade. We really do enjoy putting in long hours with our clients, helping them see and solve their problems, but man, have the years flown by!


If you've been a part of our journey, let me first thank you for your role in making Opgrade a success. We literally could not do this without you. We know our success comes through the relationships we build, so thank you for maintaining your relationship with us.


If you're discovering us for the first time through this video, we look forward to meeting you and hopefully finding a way to work with you in your journey.


Speaking of journeys, this is the first of ten short celebratory videos, and we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give you a brief history of how Opgrade came to be, and how we got here. Subsequent videos will cover informative topics, including:

  • What is Lean? and

  • What is Kaizen?

Those, in particular, will help us set the stage to address important questions in later videos, like:

  • Am I valuable if my work isn't "Value added"? and

  • Is 5S anything more than just moving things around and painting lines on the floor? and how about,

  • Why does everyone seem to get Takt time wrong?

To see the full list of videos and the dates they'll drop, please visit us at opgrade.com.


But back to today's topic, the history of Opgrade and how we got here.


After graduating with two engineering degrees from the University of Michigan in 2001 (Go Blue!), I began my career at Fluor, a large engineering, and construction firm headquartered in Southern California. I was a process engineer, helping design things like refineries and chemical plants, but primarily doing specialty engineering studies, including RAM analyses. RAM, or "Reliability, availability, and maintainability" studies, help clients understand how the reliability, or really the unreliability, of the equipment items in their facilities are likely to affect their production. Banks want to know such things.


I spent nearly four years at Fluor, and while I enjoyed my time there, in 2005 I took a big step and moved to San Antonio, TX, to join my parents' business, Barber and Barber Associates. To start, I assisted them as an engineer for their line of business, which was mostly compliance work for the solid waste industry. We did quite a bit of work with landfills and other facilities to ensure they were compliant with the regulatory language in their permits.


After a year of working at Barber and Barber, Fluor contacted me and asked if I would continue work on a RAM study I started for them for a client of theirs in Canada.

In the consulting world, you never turn down work, so we subcontracted with Fluor to continue my work on this project. And although I had originally decided to join my parents’ company to help them in their line of work, I was brought back into the world of process improvement.


In 2007, my parents and I decided if we wanted a successful business, it would probably be a good idea for at least one of us to actually know what we were doing, so I went back to school and get my Masters of Business Administration through the Executive MBA program at the University of Texas San Antonio (Birds Up! Go Roadrunners!)

During my studies there, I met a man named Joe Costello who was a Lean Six Sigma consultant for SBTI in San Marcos, TX. Joe said to me, "Nate, you're gonna love this stuff." And, darn it, Joe, you were right.


By 2009, I had graduated with my MBA and was also trained as a Transactional Lean Six Sigma black belt. Both these certifications have helped me significantly in helping companies create processes that suck less, primarily through facilitating Kaizens and training some gifted people to become Lean Leaders in their organizations.


Fast forward now to 2012. My parents were ready to retire, so I purchased my line of business from them and created Opgrade. At the time, much of our work was still for the oil and gas industry, but in 2014, the oil and gas industry took a downturn. God sometimes does some interesting things to direct our steps, and for us, that meant less process engineering work and more process improvement work. And though I probably wouldn’t have made that choice willingly then, because it’s hard to turn away stable, interesting work, I am really glad it worked out this way. Thank you, Lord.


I have literally had the opportunity to travel the world and help some amazing people see and solve their problems and make their lives better. Lean is the framework for all this, because with Lean if we're not making people's lives better, we're doing it wrong.


If you’ve “Done Lean” before and it didn’t make someone’s life better, let us know if you would like to see what that looks like. We’d be glad to help.


If you’ve “Done Lean” with Opgrade, and it did make someone’s life better, please share that with us. Your testimonials are one of the best ways you can celebrate with us.


And again, to the extent you have been part of the journey, thank you. This is an exciting time for us to celebrate ten years. Every milestone should be celebrated, we invite you to celebrate with us.


We look forward to all that will come. Stay tuned to the next part of the series, which is coming out soon.


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