Lighthouse Works, an organization that provides competitive job opportunities for blind and visually impaired adults, developed a proprietary and innovative tool that increases production volume and decreases the defect rate of a critical item used by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and active-duty American soldiers while creating inclusive job opportunities for its employees.

Employees at Lighthouse Works’ supply chain facility recently processed 5,000 decompression needles for the DLA using the new tool. Created with wood and a 3D printer, the tool helps all employees, regardless of their vision, participate in the production process.

Decompression needles are typically used in medical procedures to treat those suffering from the life-threatening condition tension pneumothorax. The needle is one of just 21 components found in the DLA’s “Combat Life Saver Kits” – filled with items so critical that at least one soldier in every squad carries it.

“The work is very precise – something that you might not typically expect to be completed by someone who is visually impaired,” said Kyle Johnson, president, and CEO of Lighthouse Works. “Our employees must apply medical markings on a specific location on the decompression needle while meeting strict shelf-life requirements for sterile products. This tool helps increase productivity, consistency and will make it an inclusive process so that all of our employees can contribute.”

Historically, the average production rate of decompression needles is approximately 50 units per hour with a defect rate of 10%. The Lighthouse Works-created tool helps improve production by 300% (to 200 units per hour) and decreases the defect rate to less than 1%.

Lighthouse Works has a federal contract with the DLA to provide supply chain services. Since 2014, the organization has processed more than 1.5 million units of medical supplies for the DLA with an award-winning track record of 100% for quality and on-time deliveries.

Lighthouse Works is the social enterprise of nonprofit Lighthouse Central Florida, which provides life-changing vision rehabilitation services in Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties.