By Angela Rose | Apr 10, 2022
Contract manufacturing and logistics, facilities management, and inclusive talent solutions
"At present today, there are 30 million people of working age that have some form of disability," Lopez says. "And of that number, 75 percent are unemployed. They're one of the largest disenfranchised populations in the U.S. From a labor perspective, they're one of the largest untapped talent pools as well."
PRIDE Industries was founded in the basement of a California church back in 1966 to tap that talent pool. The company's founders were "a group of parents of young adults with developmental disabilities that were looking for what a lot of us take for granted," Lopez explains. "That's gainful employment and a paycheck."
Today, the social enterprise -- as PRIDE Industries has branded itself -- is the nation's leading employer of people with disabilities or other barriers to employment including veterans and former foster youth. Though its headquarters remain in California, the company operates across 15 states plus Washington, D.C., providing facilities management services as well as contract manufacturing and logistics for companies the likes of HP Inc., Amazon, Avanos, VSP Global, and the U.S. Army.
PRIDE Industries' 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility is contained within its headquarters building in Roseville. "We operate two workshops," Lopez continues. "We have approximately 150 individuals who operate across those two floors, both full and part time. Roughly 33 percent of that workforce has some form of disability, and they're operating surface-mount technology lines, doing electromechanical assembly, producing printed circuit boards, cables, cable harnesses, and even medical devices."
Lopez estimates that the manufacturing teams are producing 50,000 units every month. "From a revenue perspective, we're just south of $25 million projected by the end of the fiscal year," he adds. "And we're only part of the larger company that has just over $400 million [projected]. Right now, facility wise, I think PRIDE Industries manages about 13,000 buildings. That equates, at last count, to 120 million square feet."
PRIDE Industries is ISO 9000 certified, ISO 13485 certified, and employs SMTA certified SMT process engineers and CSMTPE certified engineers. This enables them to offer electronics and medical device manufacturing and testing services. The company recently earned an ITAR certification, which will allow it to pursue aerospace and defense manufacturing contracts as well.
"We are currently courting two of the largest federal contractors on the face of the globe," Lopez says. "Within the medical device segment, we currently manufacture two Class II medical devices. Those devices are manufactured here, distributed locally and internationally to nine different countries. One of those devices is a rapid-recovery therapeutic device that every major sports team in America uses."
How does the company meet the rigorous quality and throughput requirements of its customers utilizing a disabled workforce? Lopez says the answer is no different than it would be when employing non-disabled persons.
"Both come with a set of abilities, both need to understand the job expectations and job tasks within a manufacturing or production cell," he explains. "They just might learn at different rates. Their speeds might be a little different out the gate, but we've looked to create accessible work environments. A lot of times [our engineers] will partner with our customers to reverse engineer the process design. As a result, we're able to meet the requirements as defined by the statement of work or the contract agreement."
Lopez notes that it's not uncommon for disabled workers to require small accommodations to become successful in their job duties. He emphasizes, however, that these accommodations are often low-cost adjustments requiring less than $1,000 per individual.
"We have a cell that is responsible for building install kits for one of the largest cybersecurity companies," Lopez says by way of example. "So, any firewall network server that gets deployed globally, the technicians need maybe some literature, some hardware, some cables to connect these things together. And within that production cell, we've introduced people with disabilities. One of the first ones there was having some dexterity challenges and was not able to kit the hardware as fast as her coworkers. Our engineering team created a very simple fixture that allowed the nuts and bolts to be placed within a bin counted with the right quantity, and then a dumping function into a bag, and then sealed up from there."
Lopez says the accommodation was so successful that other non-disabled persons on the kitting team wanted their own fixtures so they could do the job better, faster, and easier as well. "It's just simple little tweaks here and there that make somebody successful," he adds.
Challenges: Lopez says COVID-19 pandemic-related port delays and other supply chain disruptions have been challenging for PRIDE Industries. However, "we have a very seasoned procurement group that has looked at ways to bring in materials sooner than they're actually needed so that we can secure that supply," he continues. "That team has been active almost 24/7. We went from a just-in-time type of inventory management to buffering it to make sure we have more than appropriate on hand."
Opportunities: Lopez notes three areas of opportunity for PRIDE Industries. First, further manufacturing penetration into aerospace and defense. The company already has significant connections within the federal government due to its facilities management services and plans to leverage those contacts to grow the manufacturing side of the business.
"In the next five years, we're looking at having three shifts in our [manufacturing] facility," Lopez continues. "Maybe breaking down a couple walls and expanding our surface-mount technology lines. Possibly even looking at other sites within the U.S. to spin up another manufacturing plant."
Aiding in the employment of even more individuals from the disabled population is the second area of opportunity. "We have what we've coined a big, hairy, audacious goal to serve 100,000 individuals with disabilities through some type of employment option," Lopez adds. "We're at 3,500 today, so we have a long way to go. But we're seeing a lot of traction with our Inclusive Talent Solutions group. They recently partnered with an organization that should yield jobs for 5,000 [disabled employees] within the next couple of years."
The third area of opportunity is in educating other businesses about the benefits of employing people with disabilities. Lopez notes that socially-conscious investors have become more focused on the criteria of ESG -- environmental, social, and governance -- when evaluating a company's overall investment worthiness. He says that organizations like PRIDE Industries help businesses with the social factor through the employment of disabled individuals while ultimately benefitting the bottom line.
"Companies with higher ESG scores have better profitability, retention rates, and culture overall," Lopez continues. "We help businesses employ people with disabilities who have lower absentee rates, better safety records, more sustainable output, and better-quality performance over time. There are also tax credits that companies can get by hiring individuals with disabilities. So, there are a multitude of reasons why it's so important to look at this population [of potential workers] that has been overlooked for decades."
Needs: "The biggest need, I think, is visibility," Lopez says. "In the last two years, we've brought on a very strong, dynamic marketing team and really want to push forward with brand awareness. We need to get people to know more about our organization, the benefits of what people with disabilities can accomplish, and then the rest will become easy."