How a Peoria not-for-profit landed a small but critical role in manufacturing Rivian's electric delivery vans
Electric automaker Rivian has a big order to fill for Amazon — to the tune of 125,000 delivery vans. So when the assembly of one component began to create a chokepoint in the entire production process, the electric vehicle manufacturer with a plant in Normal outsourced the job to a Peoria not-for-profit.
Peoria Production Solutions (formerly known as Peoria Production Shop) was founded in 1941 to provide jobs for people recovering from tuberculosis. Since incorporating in 1951, the mission shifted to providing job opportunities for people with disabilities.
"We have about 309 employees. 60% of those have some form of disability," said Dan LaTurno, president of Peoria Production Solutions. He said that includes people with vision impairments, mobility challenges, and people with autism.
More than half of the organization's business is with earthmoving giant Caterpillar. That pipeline of projects is steady, but LaTurno said he also wants to build out other business relationships.
The Rivian partnership started with a search engine. LaTurno said the automaker was looking for a contractor near their Normal plant who could take on cargo cooling assembly.
"Rivian found out that their line was not optimized because they were stopping to assemble these units, which took about 12 or 13 minutes apiece. So they looked on the outside," LaTurno said.
Peoria Production Solutions makes directed buys of the components Rivian wants for the cargo assemblies. LaTurno said it now takes about 45 seconds for auto workers to install the assemblies in the cargo vans. He said PPS is now in talks with Rivian to produce degas bottles, a component of a vehicle's cooling system.
"I suspect that over time, it's gonna grow to be a very significant customer of ours," he said.
LaTurno said his company usually operates for single-digit profit margins or breaks even on projects, because their primary goal is to create jobs, not make money. He said his larger vision is to open new facilities in communities like Bloomington-Normal, Galesburg, and Springfield to create jobs for people with disabilities in those communities.