Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Monkey Business

Barney Pedraza
What's more fun than a barrel of monkeys?

How about 10,000 barrels and 100,000 monkeys!

That's the number of silly simians that are currently in residence at Livingston County Chamber of Commerce member Hilltop Industries’ work center in Mount Morris, thanks to a new contract with Hasbro Inc., one of the largest toymakers in the world.  And Hilltop is breaking out the bananas, because it's only the beginning.

Workers at Hilltop, which provides gainful employment to almost 300 individuals with disabilities, are expected to assemble about 40,000 units of Hasbro's classic "Barrel of Monkeys" game per month over the next year. 

Manufactured since 1965, the game consists of 10 toy monkeys packaged in a plastic barrel.  Each monkey's arms form an s-shaped hook.  Starting with one monkey, the player hooks the monkeys' arms together one at a time, to form a chain.  His turn is over when a monkey is dropped.

Under the new deal, Hilltop workers will assemble the popular toys, including wrangling the monkeys, housing them in their blue, purple, or orange barrel, labeling, and shrink wrapping the final product for display at toy and department stores across the country.

"Hasbro is the latest world class company to recognize the quality of work by our people," says Hilltop Director Kellie Kennedy.  "Our output stands up against any disabled or non-disabled workforce."

Hilltop Industries is the vocational rehabilitation division of The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming, a not-for-profit agency that is the county's largest primary service provider for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.  Hilltop provides community-based jobs for individuals with disabilities, in addition to employment at its integrated work centers, which offer assembly and packaging services on a contract basis.

"The Barrel of Monkeys job requires a lot of dexterity,” says Hilltop Sales and Marketing Manager Rebecca Crocker.  “A supported worker will need to be able to 'assemble' and carefully line up the shrink band to the location on the barrel. It also requires color layout skills, as the barrels will need to be put in the box in a particular pattern.”

The job is expected to provide work for 5-8 people on an ongoing basis, with hope of a long-term relationship between Hilltop and the toy giant.

"We are now a vendor in the Hasbro system," Crocker says.  "This means when the buyers have an RFQ (Request for Quote) and it fits our capabilities, they will send us the opportunity to quote on it. We have already quoted on two more projects."

And that, as they say, is no monkeying around.

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