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“A little bit of social warmth in every box of clamps or sleeves - not only for Christmas"

Pipelife Austria and the sheltered workshop of the non-profit organization Lebenshilfe in Berndorf, Lower Austria, have been writing a very special success story for 30 years now, because this is how long this great cooperation has existed. Its purpose is to help intellectually disabled people claim their rights to a meaningful life through meaningful work and activities. Thus, for three decades, the workshop has been handling the secondary packaging of small electrical parts such as sleeves and clamps for Pipelife. "Solidarity is very strong on both sides", comments Horst Schraml, internal sales employee for Pipelife Elektro and coordinator of the cooperation, on the long-standing partnership.

A conscious decision for social commitment

Although the production of small parts has been relocated from Austria to the Netherlands, cooperation with Lebenshilfe continued. It may be cheaper to pack the items in small boxes directly during production, but the long-standing partnership with the Lebenshilfe sheltered workshop in Berndorf outweighs economical aspects by far. With its long-term order, Pipelife Austria contributes to the basic capacity utilization of the workshop and the sheltered employees are pleased with the meaningful and valuable work – this cannot be offset financially.

It was a conscious decision in favor of social responsibility behind which Franz Grabner, Managing Director of Pipelife Austria, stands. "When you see what this work means for the sheltered employees of Lebenshilfe, you realize that you are doing the right thing. We will continue placing orders for secondary packaging with the Berndorf workshop even if automatic packaging would be cheaper. This is part of our sense of responsibility for disadvantaged people in our region. We hope that this is also appreciated by our customers. There is a little bit of social warmth in every box of clamps or sleeves, and not only at Christmas time" explains Franz Grabner.

A typcial "Pipelife" day: teamwork and maximum commitment

It all starts on Wednesday at 9 o'clock in the morning: the truck loaded with sleeves and clamps drives into the yard of the workshop in Berndorf, Lower Austria, and parks in front of the big gate. The excitement and joy of the sheltered employees is not only visible but can be felt throughout. The process is highly professional and well organized: Sabine Landl, affectionately referred to by a sheltered employee as "Mrs. Pipelife", maintains a close eye on everything, while the truck is unloaded by pallet in teamwork between Lebenshilfe caregivers and employees. She checks which items are delivered and in what quantities. All pallets are taken to the warehouse and stored on the shelves with the forklift. Everybody helps - as much as they can and like to. "I always take part in the Pipelife job," says Fritz, an employee. From holding the warehouse door open to transporting the pallet on the pallet truck – everyone is productive and makes an important contribution.

Some items are needed quite urgently, so they have priority. The items are transported from the warehouse to the open, light-flooded workshop together with white outer boxes. There is a separate "Pipelife" desk here with label printer and computer to handle the orders, as well as large work tables and sufficient space for pallets. Sabine prints the labels while everything is being prepared for the next work steps in teamwork. A sheltered employee adjusts the counting scale which is used to determine the correct quantity of sleeves and clamps. Others assemble the outer boxes themselves and affix labels to them, supporting each other in doing so.

Everyone performs the work step that gives them pleasure and to which they are best suited. The small parts are then counted, weighed and repacked into the white, handy boxes. After sealing, they are placed in a larger outer box for transport.

Sheltered employees undertake this work absolutely voluntarily – and yet more and more of them come along to help. This is once again proof of the enormous commitment and joy meaningful work can bring. Franz Grabner comments: "For us, this joy is the best testimony to how important cooperation with the Lebenshilfe workshop is".

Everybody helps and is motivated. All work steps are performed conscientiously. It is a flowing process, everything goes very swiftly and every step fits. The employees are a well-integrated team and are proud of their performance and valuable contribution. "Every company can only wish for such motivated and friendly staff" says Karl Traun, the workshop manager.

The new workshop in Berndorf: space for meaningful work

The new workshop in Berndorf was opened in January 2018 and is equipped for 60 sheltered employees. The open, bright and barrier-free building offers employees many opportunities for activity: whether crafts or services, anyone can do the work that pleases and interests them. The fact that a warehouse for Pipelife orders was incorporated into the new concept demonstrates once again the durability of the cooperation and the strong solidarity.

The cooperation between Pipelife Austria and Lebenshilfe is a story that has seen unshaken success for 30 years.

About Lebenshilfe Lower Austria

Lebenshilfe Lower Austria was founded in 1967. What started off as parents' initiative turned into a structured organization. Lebenshilfe Lower Austria is a human rights organization with the aim to fully prevail the UN Convention's rights for people with disabilities. The organization offers help and support for people with intellectual disabilities of all ages and in whichever situation they may be. Everybody at Lebenshilfe Lower Austria works within the framework of an inclusive society and stands for the interests of people with intellectual disabilities.

More information about Lebenshilfe Lower Austria.

The original German article can be found on Pipelife Austria's website.

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Proud: Horst Schraml (middle) with sheltered employees
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Each work step is carried out in teamwork