When Pelco Products Inc. initially contracted Oklahoma City-based Dale Rogers Training Center for help with assembly work, the manufacturer constantly would shuttle loose and packaged parts to and from its Edmond facility and the vocational center in northwest Oklahoma City.
It wasn't long before Pelco co-founder Phil Parduhn decided to dedicate a work space for Dale Rogers' clients to work on-site, alongside his other employees.
Pelco — North America's largest traffic signal hardware manufacturer — and Dale Rogers recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its partnership.
During the past decade, a team of about six disabled workers have assembled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every weekday, together providing more than 108,000 man-hours and helping put together 4.5 million hardware kits that have been shipped to some 730 customers in all 50 states and 14 countries.
It was an easy decision for Parduhn, whose late mother was physically disabled. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and raised him and his sister from a wheelchair. “We'd take knitting and other things to her and she'd get things done,” he said. “There was no complaining.”
“We're kind of like a big ol' family,” Parduhn said. “They enjoy being here, and we enjoy having them here.”
Low error rates
Along with giving the disabled workers a sense of productivity and self-esteem, the arrangement is good for business, said Mark Nash, Pelco operations manager.
Pelco pays Dale Rogers' clients on a per piece, versus hourly, basis. And Dale Rogers buses employees to and from work, and provides their supervisor, as well as workers' compensation and liability insurance.
If Pelco used a vendor that could assemble the parts automatically, there'd be a 3 percent to 5 percent error rate, Nash said.
Conversely, the Dale Rogers' workers have less than a one-tenth of 1 percent error rate, he said.
“And if there's ever a problem, we can talk to employees who can fix it in a hurry,” Nash said. “Our customers know what they're getting is perfect almost every time, and you can't put a price on customer service,” he said.
Jerry Weddington, assistant director for Dale Rogers, said it's a good match because Pelco and Dale Rogers both are very process-driven. “Dale Rogers,” he said, “understands each person's ability and promotes that ability in natural and purposeful workplaces.”
Other companies, such as Bodycote thermal processing provider, Digital Designs speaker systems and Beam's Seatbelts have similar partnerships with Dale Rogers, Weddington said.
For his part, Dale Rogers' client Chris Howell said he loves working at Pelco. “I feel happy and blessed,” Howell, 34, said. “I can make friends, and make my mind focus on work.”
Howell said he likes to spend the money he makes on others.
“I enjoy taking my friends out to eat at Golden Corral or buying coffee for my mother,” he said.
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