Leveraging Automation to Create Job Opportunities
By Jeff Harris, Vice President, Operations
When I began my career at Benchmark nearly 15 years ago our industrial organization operated out of three Indiana locations with three main lines of business. Since then, in support of our mission to provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, our team now has operations in seven locations within four states with five different lines of business. Benchmark’s non-profit arm, AWRC, employs over 450 people with more than 80% of our team having diverse abilities. The goal and direction of our organization is to develop new opportunities to match each individual’s talent and ability to engage in meaningful work.
What has led to our recent success at Benchmark you might ask – a never-yielding focus on our customers and the desire to modernize our operations through automation to compete against fortune 500 companies and win. Today we have agreements with medium to large size commercial entities as well as key contracts within City, State, and Federal government. As we look to continue to grow and expand our mission, we understand that we need to continue to surpass the expectation of our customers, become partners in solving their business challenges, and continue to push ourselves to offer solutions that meet their needs. Our mission, though a significant part of who we are, is secondary to defining market demand, outlining key areas for growth, acquiring intellectual expertise needed in order to foster the right industrial environment for success. Our approach is to outline where our strengths lie, then build upon and own those strengths. Some in our industry perceive automation as a threat; however, we see it as a key optimizer and component to growth. We continually ask ourselves how we can be relevant in meeting the demands of our existing and future customers. For us, this means finding new ways to leverage technology, innovation, and automation to increase quality and throughput while reducing costs to satisfy ever-tightening budgets in difficult economic times.
The opportunity to modernize our operation meant we had to reassess existing individuals’ skill sets while opening up new positions to challenge and grow internal employees and at the same time position ourselves to hire new talent. To compete we needed to hire subject matter experts and vet strategic business partners as well as build our resume with the focus on our customer. We also had to define what areas will make us successful, cost-competitive, quality-driven, and results-oriented. This began with our statement print and mail operation, then carried on to high-quality digital commercial print and then document conversion. The concept was to strategically expand our business into industries building on our experience and what we learned owning the life cycle of a process from data creation, to print, then conversion back to an image. Our latest initiative has been to focus on modernizing our Work Centers. Our vision is to leverage automated and semi-automated equipment to package goods from prepackaged food to copper granules.
In short leveraging automation and technology has been a game-changer. It has allowed us to modernize our operation and streamline our processes, and as a result, we have opened up over 100 technical positions offering advancement opportunities and choice. By harnessing technology, we are able to continue empowering people and providing more opportunities for individuals with disabilities to build a lasting and meaningful career.