SourceAmerica Productivity Engineers Remove Workplace Barriers

By Jason Golden 09/02/2021
SourceAmerica Productivity Engineers Remove Workplace Barriers

“Productivity engineering is so important because it enhances the individual’s life that we work with. It enables some people who have never been able to work – to work. It’s an opportunity maker.” That’s the view of Chris Council, operations manager at Middle Georgia Diversified in Dublin, Georgia. The nonprofit is one of nearly 700 agencies in the SourceAmerica® network dedicated to creating job opportunities for people with disabilities. 

Council is talking about talented people like Patsy Tidwell and Brent Farmer, two dedicated employees who provide support to the U.S. Air Force through an AbilityOne® contract. Tidwell and Farmer are among several people with disabilities at Middle Georgia Diversified who are part of the AbilityOne Program, one of the nation’s largest sources of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. 

One of the employees’ responsibilities is to cut holes in explosion suppressant foam that fit into the fuel cells located in the wings of C-130 and F-15 aircraft. This foam prevents an explosion from occurring in the event of a penetration of the fuel tank. When they began supporting this contract, Tidwell and Farmer had to cut those holes in the dense foam manually with a hand-held device, which is extremely tiring and difficult. 

That’s when SourceAmerica’s Productivity Engineering team entered the scene. Cole Anderson, Sarah Owens, and Mike Ryan help network nonprofits innovate creative solutions and improvements to processes. The three were tasked with improving the Middle Georgia Diversified foam cutting operation.   

“Productivity engineering is important for the employment of people with disabilities because we make any job accessible for people with disabilities,” said Anderson. “What we can do as a team is come in and make sure anyone can do the job.” 

Middle Georgia Diversified President and CEO Joel Prawucki was confident that improvements could be made by the engineers. “We reached out to SourceAmerica with a goal of finding a better way to cut the holes in the foam. We needed to improve the health and safety of our employees but still deliver results to our Air Force customer,” he said. “The productivity engineers accomplished all of that with their ingenuity, creating the first-ever Void Hole Cutter.” 

The Void Hole Cutter replaced the hand-held device that caused difficulties for Tidwell and Farmer. The Productivity Engineering team developed a custom workstation for the nonprofit to help employees cut holes in the foam with an air-powered pneumatic hole saw attached to a mechanical arm that sits on a rotating platform. This system eliminates the need for reaching and makes the task of cutting holes accessible to a wider work force.  

“I like the new tool because it’s easy to handle,” Tidwell said. “I don’t have to do all the back strains of twisting.” 

“I know that I make a difference in keeping our airmen safe. The productivity engineers help me do that,” Farmer said. “I like using the Void Hole Cutter because it’s easier. It’s less strenuous and its efficient, too.” 

Agencies in the SourceAmerica nonprofit network have access to the organization’s Productivity Engineering team, which is devoted to positively changing the way people work. The team’s goal is to fix problems that create bottlenecks in the workplace which hamper the productivity of people with disabilities.