Students Help Employees With Disabilities Increase Productivity, Pay

OGDEN, Utah – Employees at Pioneer Adult Rehabilitation Center (PARC) in Clearfield, Utah, now work more quickly, efficiently and accurately thanks to an advanced inventory system created by three Weber State University engineering technology students.

The students donated approximately 1,000 hours researching, designing, building and testing a system to count and track inventory that would be easy to implement and help employees earn additional pay by getting more work done in a day.

               Chris White, Clyde Conley, Zachary Lowder

PARC, which is administered by the Davis School District, employs adults with physical or mental disabilities. The 82 employees sort, kit and package various products, such as oil filters, hot cocoa and exercise equipment, onsite at PARC. They also have a contract to distribute paper products, such as toilet paper, paper towels and waste receptacle liners, to 600 locations at Hill Air Force Base.

For years, all that sorting, packing and counting had been done by hand – a process that was laborious, time consuming and subject to error. PARC wanted a better system, but the need became critical as Hill Air Force Base conducted a five-year audit and required stricter tracking on the $800,000 paper-goods contract.

That’s when PARC contacted WSU’s College of Applied Science & Technology and connected with three engineering technology students who were choosing a senior project.

“I wanted to pick a project that I would find fulfilling in my career as a college student, and this one sounded right up my alley because I would be able to use my technical and research abilities along with being able to help out the community,” said Chris White, a senior in electronics engineering technology from Clearfield, Utah.

The students researched how people function in a warehouse. Working alongside employees to fully understand the process, they tailored the inventory-control system to the abilities of the workers.

“The students accomplished what we needed,” said Jim Crosby, PARC’s, director of operations. “Our driver, who has a disability, can now electronically scan our inventory and load products on his truck. When he delivers to Hill Air Force Base, he now scans each building code as well as the items he’s delivering. The scan includes a date/time stamp, so the exact delivery time is also recorded.”

Inventory systems are often expensive, but the students donated their labor and researched the most cost-effective technology. They were able to complete the project for $3,000, an amount funded by the WSU Alan E. and Jeanne N. Hall Endowment for Community Outreach. The team even had enough left over to purchase industrial-grade electronic counters that now count the 2 million+ products PARC packages each year.

“Previously, employees were hand recording, and they would have to stop every 30 minutes to count the number of pieces and mark the number on a tally sheet,” Crosby said. “Now people can keep working throughout the day without stopping. They can make a lot more money because we pay a per-piece rate.”

Clyde Conley, electronics engineering major from South Ogden, Utah, said initially they were concerned the project might be too easy to meet scholastic requirements, but designing a simple-to-use system turned out to be surprisingly complicated. Conley said he documented 354 hours of labor – not counting sleepless nights visualizing possibilities.

“It was nice we were doing a senior project that would not just sit on the shelf afterward,” Conley said. “We actually created something that is going to be beneficial for years to come, and we have offered our continued technical support.” PARC has partnered with WSU on various projects, including modifying complicated handbooks to make them more accessible for the severely disabled and translating training manuals into Spanish.

“The thing I learned on the project was team work,” Conley said. “If any one of us had not been involved, we wouldn’t have accomplished the task. We all had our strengths and weaknesses, and we were glad to be able to integrate the knowledge we gained at school in order to give back to the community.”

Contact:

Clyde Conley, electronics engineering technology student
801-695-7185 • clydeconley@mail.weber.edu

Zachary Lowder, electronics engineering technology student
801-678-2445 • zack1551@hotmail.com

Chris White, electronics engineering technology student
435-724-3006 • cwhite7474@gmail.com

Jim Crosby, director of operations
801-402-0950 • jacrosby@dsdmail.net
Author:
Allison Hess, director of Public Relations
801-626-7948 • ahess@weber.edu