A firm believer that facility managers can assist in making the future fairer, CHRIS DIXON from Thorn Lighting reveals the benefits, both social and monetary, of using Australian Disability Enterprises.
Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) are commercial businesses that provide real work opportunities for more than 20,000 people with a disability across Australia. They operate across a wide range of industries covering everything from graphic design, printing and metal fabrication through to packaging, recycling and landscaping.
ADEs are a wonderful resource that offers significant benefits to many ‘in the know’ local businesses, as well as the thousands of Australians employed by them. Any facility manager with a social conscience should consider the huge breadth of services offered by this hidden, but vital, sector.
At Thorn Lighting, we have had a long-standing relationship with one of these ADEs, Greenacres Disability Services. Twelve years ago, we were reconsidering the manufacture of our core lighting products and, in our search, we found Greenacres Disability Services, which is one of the leading ADEs in Illawarra and New South Wales.
Through an extensive series of discussions, consultations and intense product testing and retesting, we chose to partner with Greenacres Industries, a division of Greenacres Disability Services, in the production of a number of our important light fittings. Many facility managers can find these fittings hidden in their ceilings today.
QUALITY SERVICE ENSURED
Greenacres Industries employs over 220 people with a disability, along with a number of dedicated trainers and supervisors. The company’s training managers take all manufacturing tasks and break them down into a step-by-step process. This approach to each and every job task enables Greenacres Industries to handle a range of highly complex manufacturing tasks, confident in the knowledge that their quality management systems (ISO 9001) will ensure that the job is done right every time.
Employees receive constant training updates and supervision to ensure quality levels are maintained. In addition, all units are tested prior to packing to ensure quality is maintained.
We are confident in the quality of the lights being manufactured by Greenacres Industries, as the company is confident in the training and supervisory controls in place, as well as the abilities of the staff involved.
Tom O’Loughlin, Greenacres Industries operations manager, says it plainly: “We focus on our employees’ abilities, not their disability. As in any workplace, employees are suited to a range of different tasks, and our trainers and supervisors are skilled at fitting the right person to the right task. Quite frankly, it delights me to be working for an organisation that demonstrates such commitment to the quality of its output, as well as the welfare and support of all its staff.”
He adds, “The long-term relationships we build with customers such as Thorn Lighting help us to maintain our top level of service. In many cases, we know their products as well as, if not better, than they do themselves. Add to this the flexibility of being able to drive to the manufacturing plant (rather than flying to China). This means that product variation, changes and special orders can be handled in a controlled and timely manner.”
A COST-EFFECTIVE ALTERNATIVE
A number of factors were at play in the decision to work with Greenacres Industries. Cost played a major part in our decision to move the work. Greenacres Industries certainly provides us with a cost-effective alternative to sending production offshore.
The volumes we produce for the Australian market are, in world terms, quite low. As a result, offshore production for the Australian market often takes second place to the larger markets like the US and Europe. By keeping production local, we can drastically reduce lead times and, therefore, our inventory size.
Greenacres Industries readily revises its production schedules to satisfy our requirements and can easily switch its production line between different products to help us where necessary.
In addition to the financial and inventory benefits, we are firm supporters of the social enterprise model. The fact that Greenacres Industries is an ADE and that our work keeps a large number of employees with a disability in meaningful work was another major factor in our decision.
ADE-MADE PRODUCTS ALLOW FOR INDIRECT SUPPORT
Facility managers can take advantage of the wide number of services offered directly by many large and small ADEs throughout Australia. Facility managers can also support ADEs indirectly by procuring the products manufactured by these businesses.
There are many ADEs manufacturing products in the name of some of Australia’s biggest brands. Ask a few questions when you’re in the market for light fittings, cleaning rags, pens, roof racks, flat-packed cupboards, specialised pallets and many other products. Choosing your supplier on the basis of its use of an ADE needn’t affect your bottom line, but it can have a dramatic impact on the lives of many of Australia’s disadvantaged people.
And, let’s face it, you may just sleep better knowing that you’re making a genuine and worthwhile contribution to the social normalisation of these employees with a disability by providing them with valued work and a meaningful job.
Chris Dixon started his career with Thorn Lighting 10 years ago. He spent six of those years in multiple roles in Europe and he joined the Australian team in 2008. He is responsible for all of the company’s supply chain activities across Australia. These activities include stock control, procurement and the management of all import and national logistics needs. He is married with two children aged 11 and 7 and is an avid Newcastle United soccer supporter.