The Gold Standard in Manufacturing

This 80-year-old, not-for-profit business may be Peoria’s best-kept secret.

by Michael Vadis
PPS sewing department
Merrilynn Elmore, Bernardo Villarreal and Tana Speener in the PPS sewing department

Peoria Production Solutions (up until recently known as Peoria Production Shop) is a not-for-profit manufacturing business on West Townline Road in north Peoria. Founded in 1941 and originally located on SW Adams Street, PPS is considered the “gold standard” for manufacturing accuracy, reliability and on-time delivery. In addition to its impressive record of accomplishment in manufacturing, there is another aspect that makes the organization unique in our community: its dedication to hiring and training individuals with disabilities, who comprise over 50 percent of their workforce. 

During this time of COVID, many companies have seen their business eroded by the inability to retain an experienced workforce. Peoria Production Solutions has had no such problem. They attribute that loyalty to their employees’ dedication—with individuals with disabilities comprising its foundation. 

A Successful Workplace Culture
As a new director on the PPS board, I have witnessed firsthand the impact made by these exceptional individuals. On a tour of the assembly line, I spotted a woman in her forties wearing sunglasses and working diligently. When I asked Dan LaTurno, PPS president and CEO, why she was wearing sunglasses, he told me that she is blind. I was blown away as I imagined the dedication and initiative it took for her to take the bus to and from work every day while working a full-time, physically demanding schedule. 

This points to the “secret sauce” that makes PPS so special: their associates and how they are treated. As a 40-year veteran manager of retail businesses such as LensCrafters, London Fog, The Gap and Blain’s Farm and Fleet, I can tell you that what impacts retention, dependability and loyalty is not money or other perks so much as how the people are treated (and trained). 

To that end, Peoria Production Solutions has intentionally cultivated a familial atmosphere in which their associates feel needed and valued—a support system that nurtures them and appreciates their work. This is especially critical for individuals with disabilities, who may not have had the same opportunities for work in the past. I have seen other companies hire and utilize individuals with disabilities, but all too often it is a token effort. With PPS, however, it is an intrinsic part of their successful workplace culture. 

Amanda Moberg wears a PPS Covid shirt as she packages spark plugs.
Amanda Moberg wears a PPS Covid shirt as she packages spark plugs.

While the integration of disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged associates can at times be challenging, PPS makes it work smoothly through the conscientious efforts of LaTurno; Pamela Creager, Director of Human Resources; and senior board member Linn Perkins, among many others. There is zero tolerance for harassment or bullying, and the rare offender is dismissed immediately. In sending their loved ones to work each day, the parents of these employees can be confident they work in a safe and respectful work environment. That is how PPS has operated for eight decades and a large reason why they have such low employee turnover and high morale. Unfortunately, not all companies can make that claim.

Related to employees’ high morale are the events organized by PPS, such as their quarterly pizza parties for employees with exemplary attendance. That milestone is regularly achieved by more than 70 percent of the PPS workforce—proof that their unique population of workers are loyal, dedicated and productive, and can be counted on coming to work every day. 

Growth on the Horizon
Peoria Production Solutions continues to enjoy tremendous success, with major clients such as Caterpillar driving unprecedented results. They are currently in the process of expanding their facilities and hiring additional workers to support the increased business. Interestingly, they have dismissed the idea of adding second or third shifts, as they feel it could damage the familial culture they have worked so hard to develop. 

Any business that has a special manufacturing need, from assembly to packaging, and wants it done on time and accurately with gold-standard quality should reach out to Peoria Production Solutions. Visit peoriapros.com or call (866) 669-6912. PM

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