Creating Efficiencies and New Opportunities

By Adina Young 01/25/2022
Creating Efficiencies and New Opportunities

Since 1982, Skills, Inc., located in Elizabeth City, NC., has been the area’s largest employer of people with disabilities. The organization provides this highly-skilled population with the training they need to find jobs within their own communities – whether it’s in custodial services, commercial cleaning or developing wood products.

Their customers rely heavily on Skills Inc. to provide them with wood products like shipping crates, stakes, and shelving. However, it became difficult for employees to keep up with production rates. The nonprofit agency needed to find a cost-efficient way increase its productivity on the wood stake line.

“We simply couldn’t afford it,” said Kirk DeVine, Executive Director of Skills, Inc. “I was literally going to have to close the woodshop.”

DeVine had many sleepless nights trying to find new ways to keep the business open and keep people employed. He exhausted all his resources, even having contacted manufacturers he found on YouTube, only to find out the machine they had would cost them upwards of $200,000 to install. He knew that was impossible.

Then he heard about the grants available through SourceAmerica, which could help Skills Inc. afford new equipment to increase efficiency. Once he secured a grant, he reached out to the SourceAmerica productivity engineers. In a little over a year, the engineers helped Skills, Inc. develop an automated production line that includes a dust collection system. This machine increased productivity on the wood production line by 274% in just the first two weeks.

“This is a very impressive increase in productivity, said Mike Ryan, productivity engineer with SourceAmerica. “Thirty percent alone can be game changing, so this is nine times that!”

DeVine said he learned a lot through the process of implementing this new equipment and appreciated the expertise that SourceAmerica offered. He stated that the project saved his woodshop.

“The employees and clients seem happier operating this machine,” said DeVine. “They are much more engaged. It’s a lot easier physically and mentally on them.”

The people working on the production line are also pleased with the results and their ability to collaborate with others on the team.

“The process is better,” said Constantinos Loizou, an employee at Skills, Inc. “We have an opportunity to learn a new machine. Now we have to communicate because before you’d work by yourself.”

Skills, Inc. prides itself on providing a competitive integrated working environment for people of all abilities. Now, they can continue to do this great work – affordably and efficiently.

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