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Employ+Ability – Focused on the Ability, Not the Disability

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Employ+Ability – Focused on the Ability

Employ+Ability – Focused on the Ability, Not the Disability

February 03, 2002
When you walk into the Employ+Ability headquarters in Braintree, Massachusetts, it looks and sounds like any other manufacturing facility. Company President Brad Washburne greets you with a warm handshake and enthusiastically tells you about his work. He is always looking for new business ventures and promoting their product line of hot and cold therapy products for the medical, sports and first aid markets and medical device contract manufacturing/packaging.

Employ+Ability (formerly CP&S), though, is anything but your average company. Its workers set it apart. As the name applies, the company employs ability. Ninety-percent of the production workforce is comprised of employees with physical or mental disabilities. Through them, the company is achieving its founders' mission–to have a true business while offering work to individuals with disabilities. This non-profit company currently produces more than 10 million hot and cold packs a year and assembles medical devices with annual sales topping $13 million. About 65 employees work on the company's assembly line, filling orders for customers like Johnson & Johnson, Beiersdorf and Inverness Medical. But like any business, Employ+Ability faces some economic realities.

"On our hot and cold therapy line," says Washburne, "our mission is to employ, but we are competing with companies who are either not manufacturing in the US or are fully automated. So where we have 10 people on the line, they have an automated machine with half a person loading raw materials. From a costs standpoint … it makes it more and more difficult to compete."

Click here to see Employ+Ability at work.

Washburne and his management staff are rising to the challenges, developing new products that can be manufactured using the company's core capabilities: medical device manufacturing and assembly.

"We are not real hi-tech, but we are very accountable and flexible, and we can handle a lot of areas, but at the same time are looking for products that are not easily automatable. We don’t want to get into a business where … in some period of time our customers can buy a machine, and it can be produced automatically."

Employ+Ability receives support from the extensive medical manufacturing community in Massachusetts. Its volunteer Board of Directors is comprised of well-respected individuals from companies including Tyco Healthcare, Citizens Bank and Haemonetics Corporation. These businesses provide not only strategy and advice, but also the opportunity to tap into various resources such as HR and Quality Assurance. Employ+Ability's revenues help cover about 90% of its operating costs. The remaining 10% comes from donor investors and venture philanthropy, an area where the Board of Directors helps to open many doors.

"Our focus is on the ability of the employee, not the disability. It is really putting people in positions where they can succeed and improve their ability. To me, anybody who tours this place, the one thing they mention (is) smiling, dedicated workforce. I'd certainly match our workforce up against any with regards to quality, work ethic and dedication.

We have better control over products we manufacture. As we look for new opportunities in the contract manufacturing and assembly side of our business, we try to find work that is not easily automated."

If your organization is considering out-sourcing any portion of medical device manufacturing or assembly or you would like more information about Employ+Ability, please contact Brad Washburne via e-mail at [email protected] or telephone at (800) 548-8006. You can also read more on their Web site .

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