Ready, Willing, and Able
I'm disabled, and I've been searching for programs that offer job-training and placement services so I can move to better full-time employment. What's available to disabled people?
Syracuse, N.Y.* * *
Pursuing effective job training puts you on the right track, says John Cannata, CEO of SBM Maintenance Contractors, in Villa Park, Ill. About 20% of Cannata's work force is made up of disabled workers; he works closely with Illinois's Jobs Now Program (phone: 800-562-7669) to find carefully trained employees. Those who take advantage of the program's pretraining service (which grooms workers for specific jobs) are better able to make the transition to full-time work, says Cannata.
For information on a variety of private and nonprofit training and placement agencies nationwide, contact Direct Link for the Disabled (805-688-1603), which lists more than 12,000 resources that readily address medical, social, financial, and work-related issues for the disabled. At no charge, a specialist will search the database for job-training and placement programs by geographic region or by type of training desired. You'll receive a report on each agency that matches your search criteria. For local resource listings, contact your state department of vocational rehabilitation. It will help you -- and companies hoping to hire disabled people -- to track current training options and gauge how accessible each one is. (The Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] mandates that all job-training sites be accessible to the physically challenged.)
Before you interview with promising agencies, have a good idea of what you're interested in doing after the training, or you may not acquire the skills needed for that dream job. Barbara Judy, director of the Job Accommodation Network (JAN; 800-526-7234), a rich source of ADA information, advises you to check agencies' references and ask for their records of successful placement. And be up-front about any special needs you may have, so agencies can customize material or equipment to support your training.
Employers looking to hire disabled workers can get on-line advice from JAN consultants, who also track the availability of adaptive equipment. "Sources of ADA Information" (see Managing People, January 1992, [Article link]) lists more specialists, and "Tapping Workers with Disabilities" (see Managing People, November 1992, [Article link]) tells how to ease a disabled person into a workplace.* * *
We purchased a building much too large for our current needs. To help offset expenses, we want to set up a warehouse distribution center. What are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves before we convert the space to a full-fledged warehouse? Any ideas on how we should position ourselves and price our service?
United Screw & Bolt
Bridgeport, Conn.* * *
First, check the designated warehouse space for structural flaws and logistical strengths. Clearly, the overall height of the space and the area between interior columns should accommodate trucks and forklifts. You'll need enough roll-up doors to load and unload simultaneously. Otherwise, warns Greg Owens, a partner at Andersen Consulting in Atlanta, "you're bound to experience flow-through problems." As a rule, square footage is less important than how secure the area is and how close it is to highways. And well-paved driveways and access roads are a must. For the basic how-tos of warehousing and a complete glossary, study Ken Ackerman's Practical Handbook of Warehous ing (V&R, 800-842-3636, 1990, $63).
Since you've ruled out the less lucrative option of leasing your building's space to local businesses, why not forge strategic alliances with distant, yet familiar, companies within your industry? If you make bolts, for example, you might offer other bolt makers (noncompetitors whose products complement yours) low-cost stocking facilities to increase their presence in your regional market in return for their help with boosting your product's penetration in their regions.
Once you become comfortable with such reciprocal joint ventures, try similar direct pitches to reputable companies in other industries, advises Roy Harmon, author of Reinventing the Warehouse (Free Press, 1993, $39.95), a bird's-eye view of warehousing. Here's one approach: since every producer has low-volume goods, partners in different industries could pledge to buy half of the other's low-volume product at cost to sell in their own markets. "It would make for smoother production runs all around," reasons Harmon.
The best way to stay competitive is to identify and then market your own value-added storage services, such as bonded inventory or component labeling. Chip Perfect, president of Midwest Service Warehouse, in Lawrenceburg, Ind., advises that you base those decisions on production factors and the collective capabilities of your workers.
To price your service, find out what the market supports, then adjust the price, depending on your operating costs. Although rates are generally customized, you'll find members of the American Warehouse Association (708-292-1891; membership starts at $500) who are willing to share price schedules. For a readable cost analysis, Perfect likes Tom Speh's Model for Determining Total Warehousing Costs (Warehousing Education and Research Council [WERC], 708-990-0001, 1991, $50). Also, WERC's How Public Warehouses Price Their Services (1991, $15) defines the variables that go into warehouse price quotes.* * *
My small business-to-business consultancy specializes in alternative dispute resolution (ADR). I want to focus on the health-care market, but I'm not sure who my target client is. Where can I find hard data on cost savings and benefits to show possible clients, since the mediation field is so new?
DBL Mediation Associates
Boston* * *
Yours is a healthy instinct; whatever national health plan is eventually chosen, the mediation-industry buzz is that malpractice disputes and related issues will be channeled through ADR. "Your client is anyone who spends money on litigation; it's a huge market," says Sam Margulies, mediator with the Dispute Resolution Group, in Montclair, N.J.
Focusing on pretrial work and out-of-court settlements, ADR mediators resolve disagreements before a suit is filed. Most are lawyers, though a growing number in your field are moonlighting health-care professionals.
Although more companies are using ADR, figuring it's faster and therefore cheaper than going to court, studies on its savings and benefits are inconclusive, says Wallace Warfield, president of the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (202-783-7277). "There are many different variables," he explains, "and you can't always attribute the resolution to the mediator alone." Still, any past successes can be fodder for your sales pitch. For example, Judicial Arbitration & Mediation Services (JAMS), based in Orange, Calif., assures potential clients that most of its cases are solved in one two-hour session at the same cost as the average deposition.
Mediator Barry Dorn, chief of surgery at Winchester Hospital, in Winchester, Mass., suggests pitching ADR's long-term benefits. "People in health care have to deal with one another every day, and litigation is for someone you'll never see again."
Mediators agree their profession's low profile is frustrating. "Here's this great service, but how do we get people to use it?" asks Len Marcus, director of the Center for Health Care Negotiation at Boston University. To boost his visibility, Marcus speaks at medical trade shows. JAMS advertises in local legal journals and attends national trade shows for industries that need ADR.* * *
Acing OSHA Audits
As chairman of our trade association, I'd like to organize a seminar for members on how to survive an Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection. I'd be interested in precautions others have taken and resources they have found useful.
Gary Craig Gentry
Lubbock Feed Lots
The current shortage of OSHA inspectors may mean fewer random checks, but it doesn't mean safety practices won't be scrutinized if OSHA receives worker complaints or if it learns of serious workplace injuries. Profits are at stake here: the basic violation fee has increased sevenfold, to $7,000, in a few years. But avoiding penalties is easy if managers understand the regulations, know what an inspection entails, and educate and involve employees.
Stan Fryzel, director of industrial services for the Illinois Department of Commerce in Chicago, says companies that pass inspection generally have a firm grasp on industry-specific OSHA safety codes, thanks, largely, to in-house safety specialists or trade-group ties. Smart companies endorse the logic behind the visits: to ensure that management protects employees by complying with standards and monitoring all work-related injuries and illnesses.
Fryzel explains that an inspector will spend a day doing the following: interviewing managers and employees; taking samples and photos; noting whether safety guidelines are posted; and, when warranted, doling out fines. Companies can prepare for such a visit by calling OSHA (202-219-4667) for its free booklets All About OSHA and OSHA Inspections . The OSHA Handbook for Small Businesses (202-783-3238, $4) has a self-inspection checklist and a directory of helpful agencies.
Companies that can't afford private counsel or a dedicated safety pro should take advantage of the OSHA-sponsored 7c-1 program. At the regional level, OSHA teams with state labor offices to dispatch consultants who conduct free, rigorous on-site tests confidentially be fore any whistles are blown. For an overview of the 7c-1 program, scan OSHA's booklet Consultation Services for the Employer , then check the details with your regional OSHA office and state department of labor (or commerce). The 7c-1 consultants -- often academics -- can't guarantee a company will pass a real inspection, but they can grant inspection exemptions and give long-term compliance advice.
Participants applaud the program. When Northwestern Tool and Die, in Chicago, invited a consultant to tour its plant, management was taken with his ability to flag potential hazards and offer low-cost remedies on the spot. He even interpreted new regulations for employees and critiqued the company's safety manual. Jason Noble, safety specialist at Sun Sportswear, in Kent, Wash., praises the 7c-1 offered by his state's occupational-safety agency, WISHA. "It's convenient, and it saved us money." Noble has since found new ways to learn about job safety. He's gotten useful tips from two organizations that WISHA deals with regularly: Washington's department of ecology and an agency that monitors water pollution.
You'll need to alert seminar attendees to the need for continuing education, and stress that their employees should be encouraged to learn more. If a company doesn't already have a safety committee in place, Noble suggests sending a staffer to a local college to study workplace safety and having that staffer teach coworkers what he or she learned. -- Reported by Karen E. Carney and Phaedra Hise. n* * *