Parsable Podcast

Diversity & Inclusion: Manufacturing Opportunities For Persons With Disabilities

Recruiting and retention come up a lot on this show, and for good reason. They are top of mind for leaders across the manufacturing industry.

But Tony Lopez, Vice President of Operations, Manufacturing and Logistics Services at PRIDE Industries, explains that there is one often overlooked group that could help solve manufacturing’s workforce issues—workers with disabilities.

Tony breaks down the many ways that manufacturing organizations benefit from employing this untapped labor market.

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Check out the full episode below:

[00:00:00] Tony Lopez: Today, there are approximately 30 million people of working age in the US that have a disability, and of that number, 75% of them are unemployed.

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[00:00:18] Josh Santo: Welcome to Conquering Chaos, the show for manufacturing leaders. In each episode, we are connecting you to the manufacturing leaders of today who are driving the innovations needed to futureproof the operations of tomorrow. If you feel like your time is spent fighting fires and trying to control the everyday chaos, this show is the show for you. My name is Josh Santo, I’ll be your host.

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Hey, y’all. It’s Josh. Before we get into this episode, I wanted to put this into your ear. If you like the types of conversations we’re having, you’ll enjoy the content that we share through our mailing list. Go to parsable.com/podcast. Scroll to the bottom of the page and sign up to get more insightful content delivered directly to your inbox. Okay, onto the show. Welcome one, welcome all to the latest episode of Conquering Chaos in which we help you conquer the everyday chaos through new ideas and perspectives from fellow manufacturing leaders. Now, I’m pretty excited about this episode and our next guest.

It touches on a few critical areas of interest to manufacturers. If these topics aren’t top of mind for you, they should be. But first, our next guest. He’s committed to serving his community, or actually, I should probably say communities. Which communities? Well, he served both the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce as a board member, the Wheatland Union High School Board of Trustees as president, and as a senior fellow with the American Leadership Forum.

But there’s another community he’s serving, and it’s having a huge impact on manufacturing—persons with disabilities.

He’s the vice president of manufacturing and logistics services for PRIDE Industries, where he oversees multiple lines of business, including electronics and medical device manufacturing, supply chain logistics, and contract packaging and fulfillment. In his role, he proactively identifies areas where PRIDE Industries can provide value to manufacturers and others, as well as create more employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Please welcome to the show, Tony Lopez. Tony, thanks so much for being here today.

[00:02:38] Tony: Hi, Josh. Thank you for having me.

[00:02:39] Josh: Well, it’s great to have you. Well, look, we start each episode with the same question. What’s your day-to-day look like in your role?

[00:02:48] Tony: [chuckles] I’m a father of five, four that still live in the house. Both the front end of my day and the end of my day are about the kiddos. Getting them up, getting them ready for school, and the back end whatever sports events they’re into picking them up. When I do get to work, I think the first thing I’m doing is take a look at my to-do list, taking a look at our financials from the day before. If I have any questions, follow up with our lines of business leaders, help them, supporting them on certain initiatives that we have, whether they be monthly or quarterly things. A lot of communication is what I do on a regular basis.

[00:03:28] Josh: Communication makes everything work, and a lack of communication makes everything fall apart. I certainly applaud the efforts to keep that communication up. Father of five, I would imagine your days start pretty early and maybe go a little long.

[00:03:44] Tony: They do, yes. Up early, like I said, all under the age of 14, so it’s quite chaotic in the morning times, getting them ready, getting them out the door. Mom does a great job, though, of helping, supporting that. In fact, most of the heavy lifting is done on her end, but then we become the taxi service at the end, right? Going from sporting practice to sporting practice, somebody gets dropped off, the other person’s picking up, so yes, very, very intense.

[00:04:10] Josh: Parents are the original Uber. That is for sure. Well, in today’s episode, we are talking about something that comes up pretty frequently on this show. We’re talking about recruiting and retention to a degree, and I feel like a bit of a broken record at this point with how frequently we end up discussing it, but it’s top of mind for manufacturing leaders and for Parsable customers that I get to speak with. In previous episodes, we’ve been able to chat about strategies to appeal to millennial and Gen-Z workers.

We’ve touched on strategies for changes that can be made today within factories to help improve retention. That was an individual named Jim Parker from Inline Plastics who shared some insights with us. We’ve discussed branching out to local communities to develop a talent supply chain. We’re actually building on these conversations with Tony today. We’re focusing on a community of people who are underserved and underemployed, people that could help you meet your workforce needs today. Tony, talk to us about PRIDE, the communities that you serve, and the solutions you bring to manufacturers.

[00:05:23] Tony: Absolutely. Yes, thanks, Josh. PRIDE Industries was founded in the basement of a church in 1966 in Auburn, California, which is about 40 minutes north of Sacramento, California, by a group of parents with adult-aged children with disabilities who want what a lot of take for granted, and that’s a paycheck. From the mid-’60s to the maybe the mid-’80s operated like a true nonprofit, everything was hand to mouth. It was at that point understood that that was not a sustainable model. The organization shifted to operate more like a for-profit, and that’s where we’ve jumped into the term social enterprise.

If you’ve not heard that term before, it basically means we are an organization that employs the same type of commercial strategies that our competition does. Just at the end of the day, any profits or surplus go back into reinvesting into the organization, which is to create employment for people with disabilities. We do that through several different lines of business that we operate. We have manufacturing and logistics services. Under that division, we do electronics manufacturing, we do supply chain and logistics for companies like Hewlett Packard, and we do contract packaging and fulfillment.

Shifting to the next tower of ours, our facilities maintenance, both in the commercial and federal space. The federal is what’s really allowed us to move outside of California and into 15 other states in Washington, DC. Very proud to say that right now, we have about 6,100 total employees, and just over 50% of that population have some form of disability. As I said, I’ve been with this organization for 24 years. I like to tell everybody I started when I was 6.

All facets of the operation I’ve touched on, it does give me a unique view into what my teammates are performing, where I might be able to add value, maybe some clarity, maybe some ways to do things better, and ultimately, it’s about serving our customers. We like to say we deliver manufacturing or business excellence with a positive social impact.

[00:07:43] Josh: That’s clear. It’s such an important topic that often gets overlooked. In fact, in our pre-interview conversation, you brought up a data point that was pretty wowing to me. It kind of stopped me dead in my track. Do you know what stated point I’m talking about?

[00:08:01] Tony: I do, everybody does the same thing. They step on that too and go, “Oh my gosh, really?” Today, there are approximately 30 million people of working age in the US that have a disability, and of that number, 75% of them are unemployed. This is one of the largest disenfranchised populations in the US. For this conversation about recruiting, I’d flip it through, and say it’s probably the largest untapped labor pool that we can get out there and offer.

[00:08:32] Josh: That’s exactly what we want to dig into. We want to break down some potential misperceptions that people may have and really shine the light on the fact that, “Look. We know people are struggling to recruit and retain workers, and now more than ever, it’s important to be targeted,” right? Manufacturers have a bit of a marketing problem, and part of their problem is, “How do we reach the people that can help us make the products that we take to market?” Before we get too far into that, I’d love to understand a little bit more, Tony, about your story. How did you get involved with this purpose?

[00:09:11] Tony: Yes. Josh, early on in my life, I actually was married and had a kid before the age of 20 and needed a second income while I was supporting the family and going to school and having both a full-time and a part-time job. I just needed to do what I needed to do to advance my family’s efforts. So, my part-time job while I was going to school to become a pediatric cardiologist was PRIDE Industries, took it as nothing more than earning a second paycheck, but then I got the opportunity to meet our then CEO Mike Ziegler.

That pretty much changed my life. He came out to talk to the team, kind of an all-hands meeting, talked about what PRIDE was all about, who we serve, how we change lives, and the customers we support. I was that guy in the crowd that kept raising his hand and asking question after question. He finally just said, “Let’s take this offline so I can talk to the troops here.” He said, “Let’s set up a meeting,” and I thought, “Hey, here’s the CEO. I’m going to take advantage of it.” Wasn’t sure if he was serious, but got a phone call from his executive assistant and spent a good three and a half hours with the man, went home, decided to change my major to business, and that’s all she wrote.

The reason I made this change is all those questions I was asking were that I have a family member with a hearing disability, and he’s been challenged to find gainful long-term competitive employment. I wasn’t quite sure at that time what his life and future would look like, not knowing anything about organizations like PRIDE, just didn’t know what the outcome would be. Then, to see all the services that PRIDE offers from employment to life skills training to job coaching, on-the-job training development, and then direct placement of partnering with communities, our customers within the communities, I was floored.

It really hit me in the heart, and that’s all she wrote. My tenure here, 2024, almost 25 years, I’m not the only one. When you get here, there’s a reason you come to this organization. We are truly on, as our new president and CEO, Jeff Dern will say, a mission from God. People do not come to this organization by accident, and when you stay, the culture is such that you don’t want to leave. There’s such a big impact you’re making to supporting those customers that pay the bills but also transforming somebody’s life that may have not been given an opportunity otherwise.

[00:11:56] Josh: Well, I love that story, and here’s why. It speaks to the power of leadership because you had a leader who took the time to invest in you, you saw someone who was curious and shared some information. But not only that, a greater purpose than oneself is totally related to your own personal experience watching a loved one struggle with this very mission that PRIDE is seeking to overcome. I think there’s a lot of power there in what you said, and I think you really encapsulated it with this idea of culture. You get here, and people don’t want to leave because there is a greater purpose.

That is so critical. Sometimes, aside from PRIDE Industries, when we think about other companies as a whole, there’s a struggle to find what that purpose is. It comes down to who are those leaders that are providing that vision because that’s important, and that takes a lot of investment. I think we’re going to touch on these themes a little bit, but I need to level set. I’m going to be completely honest. I am still learning about this topic.

I would go so far as to say that I’m pretty ignorant, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. I just mean that in, “Here’s the honest truth,” and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I want to start with a really basic, maybe even stupid question, but can you help us understand a bit better what constitutes a disability?

[00:13:21] Tony: Absolutely. You are not the only one, so everybody– I think, for the most part, there’s a tendency to think of a disability as the only visible thing. The truth of the matter is that having a disability is a broad concept and can be both visible and invisible forms that word. People with disabilities can have developmental and intellectual disabilities, can have physical disabilities, and even mental health and learning disorders. The other part of what people don’t think about is you’re not just born with a disability. Some people actually develop them over the course of their lifetime.

We tend to overlook the fact that somebody might have a traumatic life experience and become disabled. They still need to earn a paycheck, they still need to support themselves and their family, and they’ve got value to offer. It might be a little bit harder to do some of the things that they’re used to, but again, there’s value there. We have to recognize that. There are also several other subgroups that have some form of disability, and I would say, other barriers to employment. PRIDE has done such a great job over the last 50+ years.

We’ve taken that expertise and started to focus over the last couple of years looking at service-disabled veterans, former human trafficking survivors, and even aged-out foster youth. This term disability is very wide-reaching. The numbers out there are 30 million people of working age, but the total number of people that are disabled in the US is probably over 61 million. That equates to almost one in five people having some form of a disability, so you and I probably know either a coworker, a friend, or a family member that has some type of disability.

[00:15:17] Josh: Certainly. I can think of a few off the top of my head, especially when you brought up the idea of veterans returning from service who did have an unfortunate incident and now have a disability as a result of it. I think it’s important to really break down and bring really some education on this idea of what does constitute a disability. As like you mentioned before, I think a lot of times people may think of from birth or developmental or intellectual disabilities, and there’s such a wider range. You spoke to your sibling who had a hearing disability, and the fact still remains that having a disability doesn’t make someone incapable of working, right?

[00:16:06] Tony: Absolutely. I think a lot of times, people who aren’t knowledgeable in this space will see or hear the term disability and will automatically go to what are your limitations versus what truly are you able to accomplish, and what is your true potential? That’s not inherent discrimination. That’s just not being knowledgeable on how to appropriately match a particular job to a particular person’s skillset. You’re right. We have individuals in our organization that have a disability that has PhDs. My brother, that example I gave you, this young man has two different bachelor’s degrees, so people are capable, just need the opportunity to show what they’re capable of.

[00:16:59] Josh: I think that leads very nicely into the next point that I wanted to bring up. You must encounter a significant number of misperceptions about employing workers with disabilities. What are some of these common beliefs that you encounter that you just want to shout from rooftops, “That’s wrong? You’re not thinking about it correctly, you don’t know?”

[00:17:23] Tony: I think the easiest is to call out, “Well, this is the job expectation. Because you have a disability, that must mean you can only do a certain number of simple tasks.” I made reference to custodial work. Individuals might be given maybe 15, 20% of what a normal person might be able to do because they don’t want to “overwhelm them.” We’re not quite sure if they’ll be able to understand the full scope of job responsibilities, so why overwhelm them? Why create a moment where there is confusion, frustration, and possible quality defects at the outset?

Companies I think don’t pause long enough to go, “All right. Maybe we need to look internally, break down this training a little bit differently to allow somebody to adapt better.” The learning curve might be a little bit longer, but I will share with you statistically and what I’ve experienced in this industry is the sustainable output for a person with a disability is great. They’re really good, and the defect rates are lower. People sometimes are concerned about, “Well, there’s safety concerns on the job whether it be in a manufacturing capacity or a facility capacity that we’re worried about, so we don’t want them to get injured because they may not understand what they’re doing.”

I’ll share it with you. Our organization probably has a 30% lower than industry safety record. They’re great at it, and I think that’s the misperceptions that are out there. I equate the way we onboard a person with a disability as reverse engineering, so you’ve got the job expectations, you break them down into the simplest basic blocks, and then you build those blocks back up. It’ll be an amazing experience. Most of the time, you’ve got a job coach that’s right there to help them reinforce the message, reinforce the training, and get them acclimated as fast as they possibly can.

You don’t need to look at somebody’s disability and define them. I think that’s probably something that I see happen quite a bit. You can only do this much where somebody else that’s non-disabled can do the full thing. That’s not the case if you look at people that are non-disabled, when I joined the labor market, I didn’t have a full set of skills just yet. I had to learn on the job. I probably learned differently, faster, and slower than my coworkers. We all have the same evolution with skill development. It might be longer for some than others, but really, is there any difference?

[00:20:06] Josh: I think one of the key messages I’m getting from you is assumptions need to be challenged.

[00:20:13] Tony: A hundred percent.

[00:20:15] Josh: If you find yourself drawing a conclusion without sufficient evidence, [chuckles] it’s something that needs to be challenged because you’re presenting– when we talk about these misperceptions, you are presenting the contrary, not just argument, but the data points, the proof points to say, “Look, challenge these assumptions, break it down. There may be a need to really look at onboarding training and coaching, but when is there not a need to do that on a consistent basis?” To your point, we are all people who learn differently at different rates. One thing that came to mind for me, I used to do martial arts. I was a big martial artist.

Actually, it was Brazilian jujitsu. We found a lot of members of the deaf community really enjoyed it and a couple of members of the blind community locally. I got to know some of these different individuals who just wiped the floor with me, and sometimes, I would get a little frustrated because I was like, “Why am I not picking this up as quickly?” But it comes back to that point of, at the end of the day, we’re all human. We’re apt to learn some things quicker than other things. That’s just being people, and that’s no different here. I love that you’re bringing that perspective up.

[00:21:38] Tony: I appreciate you acknowledging that. In some cases, there has been a need to maybe provide some level of accommodations when you’re doing that acclimation or onboarding process. I will share with you that the average cost of something like that is probably less than $1000 per person. An example of that is a person that may be hearing-impaired that’s an engineer and needs to use a special tablet that has a sign language translation service on it.

That’s an example. We’ve built production fixtures that allow somebody that might have some dexterity problems to do their job faster and easier. It’s just those little moments where “We’re going to do something to make you better successful at your job. You’re going to be able to learn what we’re doing and then advance along the way.” In that production fixture example, we actually have a gentleman that was passed over and over again for promotion because he had an intellectual disability in another company.

He came to PRIDE and was able to show what he was able to do through coaching and development, and training. This gentleman is now overseeing our kitting operation as a production lead supporting a large cybersecurity company. All it took was a little bit of time, patience, and energy. I think also there’s been a huge focus over the last couple of years on alternative workforce strategies to your earlier point of how do we tap into the labor market differently than we have before? There’s a big desire to do so but not a lot of knowledge about how to go about accomplishing that.

That’s where organizations like PRIDE come into play. Not only do we bring individuals into our four walls or our customer’s four walls, but we also place people out into the community in different capacities. Those military installations that we operate on are a great example. One of the largest military installations in the US is Fort Bliss in El Paso Texas. We’ve got over 400 individuals out there doing everything from roads and grounds to HVAC maintenance. Whatever a soldier will not do his or herself, we’re contracted to provide. It’s an amazing thing once given an opportunity, and more people are starting to look at this and say, “How do we go about doing it? We want to, we just don’t know where to start.”

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[00:24:12] Josh: Hey, we’re going to take a real quick break to hear from our sponsors, stay tuned for more Conquering Chaos.

[00:24:19] Rob: Hey listeners, it’s Rob. I’m one of the producers of Conquering Chaos. I’m right here with you for every episode, working behind the scenes to make sure everything is just right for your listening experience. Whether you’re a new listener binging content to help you conquer the everyday chaos or a dedicated fan tuning in for each new episode, there’s one thing to always keep in mind. Information is useless unless you use it. Obvious, right? But it’s so easy to learn, forget, and then miss out on the opportunity to make real improvements to day-to-day activities.

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[00:26:25] Josh: I think that’s a great thing to talk about next. You called out there’s desires from manufacturers as well as other companies to tap into different communities to tackle the workforce issues that they’re experiencing at their different sites. Appealing to this community will require changes. Now, that change could be within the environment.

It could be– you mentioned breaking down a process into components, even the culture. Sometimes, change can be seen as costly, but as you said, it not always is. Sometimes accommodations will cost you less than $1,000, and you’ve got a worker who is bringing in value as opposed to that position not getting filled.

Then, those efforts either fall on someone else over time, burnout, or loss of that worker. I would argue that given the current workforce environment, change is the only way to get through today’s pains at this point. Let’s spend some time on culture. Because you talked a little bit about what’s needed to provide persons with disabilities viable employment opportunities, what culture is needed to recruit and retain workers with disabilities?

[00:27:44] Tony: Accepting accessible that that change dynamic is really big, a desire to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion. Those will have to be the pillars at the executive level pushed down within an organization. It can’t be just pretty words on a page, on a wall somewhere, or on a strategic plan. They have to embody it. That has to be something that is the starting point. One of the divisions that we recently spun up in the last year or so, we call our inclusive talent solutions division where we are actively looking for ways to partner with companies to do that assessment of their culture.

Can we bring training disability awareness to them so they understand what it means to work with an individual with a disability? The openness of that organization to have this group come in and say, “We’re going to assess your work environment. There might be some changes that are required.” They have to embrace that. Then, a desire to find ways to employ people with disabilities, not just the nominal task but anything that possibly could be done can be in fact done and performed by a person with disabilities. We also do direct placements as well.

[00:29:00] Josh: You mentioned this a couple of points ago. You talked about the focus on training and coaching. I’d love for you to talk us through that a little bit more because this is something I very much believe in. We all need a coach. Training is critical. We’ve talked with a lot of individuals, and this was something that stood out to me about the episode I mentioned before with Jim Parker where they would bring in workers, and within 90 days, a lot of times, they couldn’t retain them. When they really broke it down, it was because these workers didn’t feel successful in their roles.

They had a lot just dumped on them. They had a lot of tasks that they had to do. They weren’t doing any of them particularly well because they were never really trained appropriately to do so. They felt they were failures, and rather than saying, “Maybe there’s something wrong with this process.” They said, “Maybe there’s something wrong with me. Maybe this isn’t for me. Maybe manufacturing is not the gig for me,” and that’s certainly not what anyone wants.

I think it’s another example that highlights the importance of training and coaching. Can you talk to us a little bit about your experience of what kind of training and coaching culture really help people, not just persons with disabilities, but all of us need this? What helps them thrive?

[00:30:19] Tony: Well, I would submit to you that it probably starts actually on the onboarding process when you’re doing true recruiting for new talent. An individual really wants to understand three things. “Am I going to get paid competitively? Is the culture going to be a good fit? Is there going to be career progression for me?” We start with trying to meet those early indicators upfront to get them to come into the organization. If we do a good job in selling it, then we have to live it. Once they’re onboarded, it’s incumbent to not only that particular manager but the HR training department to partner, to make sure that the employee understands what it means to be a PRIDE employee.

We actually start with an overview of the organization, who we are, the services we offer, and what their role will be in accomplishing that. Yes, there’s a learning management system that has all the training and protocols for doing their day-to-day work, but it really is incumbent to educate them on who they are going to be working with as a company. Every single new employee at our organization gets a chance within their first week to spend time with the president and CEO of the company. They get to sit down, they get to the interface. That’s big deal.

You want to make sure that the executive team and the company that you’re going to be working for sharing the same values. I will tell you from our CEO, COO, CFO, and all of the C-suite executives, have that alignment. They’re very much those individuals that will walk around whether it be the production floor across the country to talk to employees. That’s a big deal. When teammates get to say, “Hey, I had a chance to run into the CEO grabbing coffee, and he just didn’t blow me off. He actually spent time, and we talked, and I shared my thoughts and ideas and personal life.” That doesn’t always happen in organizations.

I think that the onboarding process is big, embracing, and modeling the way for our value system from executives are really big. The training and coaching dynamic, are absolutely spot on. It’s not just a person with disabilities. Non-disabled, they come the same way. It’s you want to be respected, you want to be valued for your experiences, and you want to be heard. We’ll spend time onboarding them into the work environments learning their job whether it be a frontline on the production floor or at a military installation or whether it be in an office setting and really spend time with them.

The managers will sit there, coach them, and spend time in development with them. What happens with a good solid two to three months effort. We’re not an organization that will simply just point you to a computer and says, “You’re going to get all your training and coaching there.” It has to be ongoing. It has to be something that is back and forth where you can ask questions and feel comfortable enough to do so. I think that also demonstrates the culture and why people will stay so long.

As I said, I’m not the only one that’s been here for 20-plus years. Once you find that organization that speaks to you, it’s hard to walk away. I’ve seen people that have come to me and said, “I just got an offer, 15% more than I’m making. Yes, it’s maybe something I can do, maybe it’s something I can’t, but I love what I do here at the company. I love the impact I’m making. That’s hard to walk away from.”

[00:34:01] Josh: Culture is critical. To your point, it is one of the biggest make-or-break reasons for sticking around. I like how you started with exposure to leadership as the very first point because to me, my takeaway from the things that you’re saying is the culture that’s needed to facilitate is a culture that puts people first. So often, this idea of putting people first is a talking point, but it doesn’t manifest that way. Do you know how you can tell that we haven’t been putting people first? The worker shortage, right?

It’s not that there aren’t workers, it’s that they don’t want to work for you. That may ruffle some feathers, but prove me wrong. I would love to hear it. Culture is so critical. I actually talked with an individual who is a continuous improvement manager at a major manufacturer at a particular site. Some of the questions I like to probe around is, “How’s retention been at your site?” He says, “We’re not having a problem with that. People want to stick around,” and let me tell you why. The things he described– I’ll just sum it up. His shift is over. He doesn’t leave for another two hours because he’s checking in with the different people that he works with.

Not just, “How are you doing? How’s the family? What are you getting up to this weekend?” but the career development piece like, “Are you getting what you need?” These aren’t even his direct reports, but that comes from the culture that’s been set by the leadership at this particular site. As you said, you’ve got to have leaders that model the way, and so, I love that you started right with that. This has to come from the top. The culture has to be there. You can onboard people. You can train them, but if there’s not that sustaining piece, which is the culture, you’re going to lose people.

[00:35:53] Tony: A hundred percent. I like to share with my team the quote, “Profit is the applause you get by taking care of your employees and your customers.” That’s not Tonyism by any means. I think it’s a Blanchard quote, but I truly believe that. Your assets are your employees, and honestly, if you don’t take the time to train, coach, mentor, or invest in them, another organization will.

[00:36:21] Josh: That gets to this point that you rose in our pre-interview, the triple bottom line. Tell us what the triple bottom line is.

[00:36:30] Tony: [chuckles] Obviously, the focus has to be on financial performance. That’s typically what most people look at as the “bottom line,” but it’s also your customers, and it’s also your employees, so we are very customer-centric as an organization. We like to create customizable solutions to meet our customer’s unique business needs. We like to operate almost like an extension of our customers, and that really resonates and sometimes sets us apart.

It’s also about how you culturally hold and take care of your employee base. I would probably even use the word love your employee base. How do you develop them? How do you spend time with them, and how do you show that you’re authentically there and engaged with them during those moments? The triple bottom line concept that I threw out there is the financial aspects, the customer aspects, and then the employees. You got to look at all three of those to be successful.

[00:37:30] Josh: I love what you said about if you are not willing to invest in your employee base, someone else will. Period. That is so critical. Now, when we think about the elements that you described, and we talked about this, this really doesn’t differ too much from the efforts that should be undertaken to recruit and retain any worker whether it’s a worker with a disability or a worker without a disability.

[00:37:58] Tony: Completely agree. As I said, we all come with some level of abilities, and it might just take a little bit more extra time with somebody that just needs a slight– just a helping hand to make them more successful. I would again say to you that there is no difference in how we should treat people, giving them the opportunity to learn, maybe some additional support along the way, and great things will happen.

[00:38:25] Josh: You brought up earlier in the conversation equity, diversity, and inclusion. I want to talk about how tapping into this community, won’t only solve some of the workforce problems, but can also help companies, manufacturers, in particular, achieve the environmental, social governance initiatives that are very popular at the executive level but haven’t always made their way down to the shop floor level. Could you talk to us a little bit about your experience at PRIDE helping companies in the pursuit of their ESG goals?

[00:38:59] Tony: Yes, absolutely. Those non-financial elements have become so critical in the last maybe two years that investors, company shareholders, and truly, even consumers are looking at how companies are performing in their ESG ratings. We like to say PRIDE is the S in ESG. Companies will recognize the fact that we bring these particular services and employment opportunities for people with disabilities and want to figure out how to meet some of their diversity and inclusion goals. They hear us say 50 plus percent of our population has some form of a disability, and they’re going, “Wow, our goal is 5%.”

If we could take your knowledge base and get us here, how amazing would that be? If you look at the ratings of the ESG ratings for companies that do really well, they have better cultures. They have lower turnover, they have lower absenteeism, and they’re more profitable. Companies are really looking at that. Consumers, gosh, they are so socially conscious today. Everything is about, “Is this US domestically made? Is there a social mission behind what I’m doing?” Their buying habits have changed.

I think there was a stat I actually saw earlier today that said the consumers are willing to actually pay 20% more knowing that this product is made domestically and has a social mission behind it. All these different pieces-parts have been helpful for PRIDE to get opportunities to create more employment for companies that really are looking at the diversity, inclusion side of the house, as well as trying to improve their ESG ratings for some of their investors and how financial institutions evaluate them.

[00:40:51] Josh: You’re not only seeing results but PRIDE Industries is being awarded and recognized. Right? You’ve got– I believe HP awarded you an award. Can you tell us about that?

[00:41:05] Tony: Yes. I think I just barely just skim past when I made reference to some of the services we offer and HP is one of our customers. Today, any Inkjet, Laserjet, 3D printer or graphic press that needs a replacement component in North or South America comes from PRIDE Industries. We also do a lot of work on inventory rebalancing with Europe and the Asia Pacific. We’ve had that contract for more than 20 years.

Foot in the door was kitting. We were able to demonstrate our performance there, and they saw value in it. We walked them through our presentation of who we are and the services that we offer. We got an appointment. We got invited to their RFQ process to support America’s team. I’m happy to share that we were also awarded. Their global service supplier of the year award had nothing to do with being a diversity partner with HP.

It had everything to do with business alignment on the quality, the technology, on the delivery of service. All those components are what got us that award. My predecessor, I wasn’t able to go accept it, but as he was making his way to the stage to get the award from the CEO of HP, he walks by companies like DHL and UPS logistics saying, “Who the heck is PRIDE Industries, and how did they beat us?” We like the fact that we’re a little bit of an industry disruptor.

That typically is what it takes to get a foot in the door. Once we can demonstrate that performance, that ability, and knock down some of those preconceived notions of what a company employing people with disabilities does and does not do, it’s amazing what the accomplishments can be for not only us but our customers as well.

[00:42:53] Josh: I think that’s so important that this is not just a feel-good story, right? This is not just, “We are doing something that we think is morally the right thing to do.” No, this is something that makes sound business sense. Not only does this open the opportunity to increase revenue. As you mentioned, consumers are totally open to paying more understanding of the impact that it has from that social side.

But it’s also the fact that companies are seeing real results with the services, like real, tangible, operationally focused improvements to metrics that are critical for sustaining a business. It’s not just a feel-good conversation. It’s an opportunity to really make an impact on your business as well as on your company’s overall ESG initiatives.

[00:43:46] Tony: Absolutely. [crosstalk] I think– Sorry if I could also add there. Yes, when we go to market, we are absolutely leading with the services, the performance, and past performance that we have. It’s never that, “Hey, we are a company that employs people with disabilities, please give us a shot.” We have to demonstrate who we are in our space, that competitiveness, and bring value to the customer. Sometimes, in the end, the differentiation could be the fact that we have this great social mission.

[00:44:15] Josh: Let’s talk pretty specifically about how can PRIDE help manufacturers. Some of our listeners on the show, if they’re interested, what are some of the opportunities to partner with PRIDE?

[00:44:28] Tony: We are headquartered in Roseville, California, like I said, a little bit away from Sacramento. We have, I like to tell our sales team, infinite capacity. We operate currently on two shifts. We can add a third. We can even break down some walls and expand whether there is a need to do printed circuit board manufacturing, cable harnesses, medical devices, or sensors of any kind. Really, our value proposition has been in a manufacturing space anyway, low to mid-volume and high mix of products. We’re not going to compete with the larger tier-one EMS providers, like Flextronics which are building millions and millions of units, and maybe only dealing with one or two skews.

We’re looking for that middle-tier player that wants to have further penetration in their market, looking for an organization that’s a little bit more customizable, then that’s what their needs are, that’s where we can add value, or maybe there’s a desire to look at reducing expenses, whether it be materials or labor. We offer that design for manufacturability components. In fact, if I could share a quick story in that vein. With the pandemic and the supply chain disruption that we’ve seen, one of our customers has a product that the IC is very hard to come by.

In fact, it was almost completely scarce in the marketplace. The volumes were there, but we couldn’t produce anything. So, in partnership with them, we were able to redesign that particular board to use a readily available chip instead of the one we couldn’t find. Now, we’re actually able to do twice as much the output because of these changes. I think we can cater to customers that have low to mid-volume. I think there’s an opportunity for us to add further value beyond just a statement of work.

I like to say anybody can be a transactional partner, but we’re looking to be that strategic partner. We want to be able to add value, be an extension of you, peer around the corner on your behalf, and try to find ways to reduce expenses, and increase efficiencies. That’s what it’s all about.

[00:46:44] Josh: Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are also opportunities from a placement perspective, so even if they might not be going with your services from a manufacturing side, but just engaging with the community, bringing in different workforce solutions, and really embracing this as an opportunity to solve some recruiting and retention problems. Is that correct?

[00:47:07] Tony: Absolutely, yes. That division I think I threw out there in inclusive talent solutions, we’re placing people all across the US. We’ve got a large hospitality food provider that we’re hoping to fill close to 5,000 work orders for people that are going to be placed across the US. Those 15 other states in DC, that’s only a starting point. When you hear the number of 30 million people of working age that are 75% unemployed, we’ve got a long way to go. So, companies like PRIDE are positioned really well to expand our services in other states, help organizations meet their business objectives, and also create more employment for people with disabilities across the US.

[00:47:52] Josh: Well, great. Well, how can our listeners continue the conversation with you?

[00:47:57] Tony: I would first probably point them to our website, prideindustries.com. Within it, you’ll see the different linkages to whatever services that you are looking to have performed. I would also throw out my email address, tony.lopez@prideindustries.com. Whether it be within the manufacturing and logistic side or if there is a facility need, or if there’s a labor need, I think we might be able to partner with organizations and figure out a solution.

[00:48:30] Josh: Well, Tony, I really appreciate the conversation. Thank you for taking the time to educate me even just a little bit more and taking the time to help provide this perspective to our listeners.

[00:48:41] Tony: Thank you for the opportunity, Josh. Blessings to you and your audience.

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[00:48:51] Alice: Hey, Alice Walter. I’m another producer for Conquering Chaos. Before you go, if you’re not ready to try Parsable to help you get rid of paper, why not watch a quick video instead? Check the show notes for a link to a demonstration Josh put together to show frontline workers what it’s like to use a dynamic digital experience to get work done. In it, Josh shows you how using a modern-day app enables you to connect to people, information systems, and machines, just like the apps you’re using in your personal lives. Take a look, and let us know what you think.

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[00:49:26] Josh: That’s the show. Thank you so, so much for joining us today. Conquering Chaos is brought to you by Parsable. If you’re a fan of these conversations, subscribe to the show and leave us a rating on Apple podcast. Just tap the number of stars you think the show deserves. As always, feel free to share what’s top of mind for you and who you think we should talk to next. Until then, talk soon, take care, stay safe, and bye-bye.

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