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Abilities-First: Steps to create a human-centric, inclusive supply chain

An approach and framework to pursue the inclusion of employees with disabilities at the organizational level are necessary given that executing inclusion efforts are challenging.

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This is an excerpt of the original article. It was written for the November 2019 edition of Supply Chain Management Review. The full article is available to current subscribers.

November 2019

We hear a lot about emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics. We hear less about one of the enabling technologies that makes the others possible:
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Ken is an expert at sewing. He is also blind. He can do this with the help of a set of guides designed to allow him to undertake a complex stitching process without the fear of injury or under performance. Ken can also remove extraneous thread in garments with the help of specially designed machinery containing a poka-yoke—a Japanese term referring to a mechanism that helps an equipment operator avoid mistakes and prevent injury that can happen because of missteps resulting from his lack of vision. While rare in the present-day corporate workplace, Ken’s story is relatively common in the community rehabilitation programs run by Peckham Inc., a Lansing, Michigan-based nonprofit community vocational rehabilitation organization that actively seeks to employ individuals with disabilities (see sidebar). It may also be an example for companies in search of a source of reliable talent for their supply chains.

It’s important to note that Ken’s opportunity is facilitated by inexpensive technology and automation tools developed inhouse at Peckham. If you’re wondering how such examples might become commonplace, or how organizations can set up supply chain environments that can include individuals with a diversity of disabilities, you’re not alone. These are questions that are on the minds of senior leadership in several firms we have spoken to during the course of our research. Based on the experience of Peckham, and other organizations that have employed individuals with disabilites, it’s clear that addressing inclusion in work environments requires a systematic approach to understand the processes for working with individuals with disabilities. In this article, we discuss such a framework.

With the tightening labor market, the need for inclusion in managing supply chain talent has never been more critical, particularly since individuals with disabilities are an underemployed pool. To be inclusive, organizations need to carefully evaluate and delineate approaches they take to maximize the potential of individuals with disabilities. While methods and processes have evolved significantly over time, firms need to consider their approach to employing individuals with disabilities and set up organizational strategies to put abilities first. Figure 1 above presents a five-step framework that puts abilities first.

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From the November 2019 edition of Supply Chain Management Review.

November 2019

We hear a lot about emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics. We hear less about one of the enabling technologies that makes the others possible:
Browse this issue archive.
Access your online digital edition.
Download a PDF file of the November 2019 issue.

Ken is an expert at sewing. He is also blind. He can do this with the help of a set of guides designed to allow him to undertake a complex stitching process without the fear of injury or under performance. Ken can also remove extraneous thread in garments with the help of specially designed machinery containing a poka-yoke—a Japanese term referring to a mechanism that helps an equipment operator avoid mistakes and prevent injury that can happen because of missteps resulting from his lack of vision. While rare in the present-day corporate workplace, Ken's story is relatively common in the community rehabilitation programs run by Peckham Inc., a Lansing, Michigan-based nonprofit community vocational rehabilitation organization that actively seeks to employ individuals with disabilities (see sidebar). It may also be an example for companies in search of a source of reliable talent for their supply chains.

It's important to note that Ken's opportunity is facilitated by inexpensive technology and automation tools developed inhouse at Peckham. If you're wondering how such examples might become commonplace, or how organizations can set up supply chain environments that can include individuals with a diversity of disabilities, you're not alone. These are questions that are on the minds of senior leadership in several firms we have spoken to during the course of our research. Based on the experience of Peckham, and other organizations that have employed individuals with disabilites, it's clear that addressing inclusion in work environments requires a systematic approach to understand the processes for working with individuals with disabilities. In this article, we discuss such a framework.

With the tightening labor market, the need for inclusion in managing supply chain talent has never been more critical, particularly since individuals with disabilities are an underemployed pool. To be inclusive, organizations need to carefully evaluate and delineate approaches they take to maximize the potential of individuals with disabilities. While methods and processes have evolved significantly over time, firms need to consider their approach to employing individuals with disabilities and set up organizational strategies to put abilities first. Figure 1 above presents a five-step framework that puts abilities first.

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