The Resource Center

A worker at a sewing machine at The Resource Center.

The Resource Center (TRC) of Chautauqua County, NY, has served individuals with disabilities for more than 50 years, both as a service provider and employer. Those same individuals comprise the majority of TRC’s production workforce at the agency’s three manufacturing work centers. The employment of these individuals is largely made possible with U.S. military contracts awarded through the “AbilityOne” Program, which requires maintaining a certain percentage of workers with disabilities. When TRC discovered it was falling short, it reached out to the University at Buffalo to assure program compliance and avoid jeopardizing future contracts. In the effort to maintain an able workforce at the appropriate staffing level, a byproduct has resulted: the growth of TRC’s competitive assets as it pursues a wider customer base amid whittling government opportunities.

The Approach

  • Completed an engineering operational assessment that reviewed:
    • A range of physical and cognitive work demands of Jamestown and Dunkirk facility operations
    • Job descriptions and training practices
    • Manufacturing process design
  • Recommended re-engineering work design and training practices to better suit “consumer” employees
  • Developed standard operating procedures (SOPs) detailing step-by-step instructions for three products, as well as a template for TRC engineers to document practices, safety notes, and relevant SOP items for all future products

The Impact

  • Implemented voluntary training program, featuring technical and soft skills, to combat on-the-job training shortcomings and better prepare individuals for work opportunities
  • Finished and shipped a new product two months before projected completion
  • Increased consistency and productivity through an SOP development process that reduces the chance for errors
  • Optimized communication between rehabilitation, production and engineering departments, leading to improved support for workers with disabilities
  • Enabled greater accuracy for determining costs and pricing