AIS Honored for Workforce Development and Productivity at Annual Manufacturing Excellence Event

AIS getting WBJ Award
Mfg Excellence Award 2024

On April 23 AIS was recognized for achievements and leadership in workforce development by the region’s business publication, the Worcester Business Journalat their annual manufacturing excellence event. Access to story. Plant manager, Keith LeBlanc accepted the honor and delivered remarks about the company’s training and inclusion efforts.

Central Massachusetts has long been a center for manufacturing with roots in the American Industrial Revolution where it played a large role. Today, the region boasts $6.3 billion in annual economic output, with manufacturing being the largest industry according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“As one of the largest employers in the region, AIS strives to be a beacon of belonging, a place where people know they are welcome – and more, know they are valued and can thrive. Developing a strong, diverse workforce where opinions and talents are nurtured has been a focus for the organization,” stated Deanna Zarrella, vice president of human resources.

Staffers are roughly 40 percent women, hail from more than 30 different countries, and more than 125 are part of AIS’ neurodiversity program, Radiance. The company also made a commitment to hiring all ages through the AARP Employer Pledge Program, a nationwide group of employers affirming the value of older, experienced workers.

Above and beyond the work by the company’s human resource professionals, several roles at AIS are specifically dedicated to workforce development and cultivating professional growth, team building, and creating community. Some of the company’s efforts are outlined below.

AIS University: Cultivating Leaders

This program provides onboarding, training and development, career advancement, and retention programs for production and office workers who come from varied industries and backgrounds. The long-term goal of AIS University is to cultivate people for leadership roles within the company. Programs are offered in English and Spanish with a special focus on lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. A tuition reimbursement program supports educational opportunities outside of the company’s in-house offerings.

Factory Team Getting Training Certificates

Radiance Program: Embracing and Supporting the Advancement of Neurodiverse People

The Radiance program, entering its third year and with more than 125 participants, helps neurodiverse individuals to shine. The program is a major part of AIS’ inclusion and development efforts. Radiance has not only transformed the lives of neurodiverse individuals but also has become a testament to the power of collaboration, compassion, and community support.

The Radiance program tagline “Empowering Diverse Minds to Shine” underscores AIS’ commitment to cultivating a strong, diverse workforce that recognizes and celebrates the unique experiences and talents of each person. Radiance provides a platform for internships and employment tailored to the individual, ensuring tasks are not just assigned but are aligned with the strengths and abilities of each participant.

Radiance Team Building Drawers

Apprenticeships and Internships: Cultivating the Future

AIS provides mentorship and other opportunities for high-school and college-level individuals to learn about manufacturing and pursue employment opportunities with AIS. As part of their workforce pipeline efforts, an apprenticeship program is underway. A dozen participants will benefit from 3,000 hours of training, mentorship, and on-the-job experience through this program. The company’s factory leadership team collaborates with Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s engineering program to provide opportunities for learning and supporting graduation requirements which include a major qualifying project.

Boost Program: Building Stronger Bonds through Community, Collaboration, and Celebration

AIS offers an employee-run, company-sponsored initiative called Boosts whose goal is to engage staff with social and philanthropic activities during and after work hours. Boost is a way for people to get to know each other better, stay connected, feel valued, and know they’re part of the AIS family. Volunteer events have included Toys for Tots, the Boys and Girls Club, and preparing meals for a shelter while employee-centric activities have been cultural festivals and soccer and softball games.

In addition to Boost program activities, AIS embraces such morale-boosting activities as new employee and member appreciation events, holiday celebrations, and an employee newsletter that helps to keep members connected to happenings at the company and in the industry. Additional recognition programs include an appreciation day with an awards luncheon, rising stars wall, perfect attendance recognition, quality-control awards recognition, and best idea award.


AIS, headquartered in Leominster, Massachusetts, is a leading North American manufacturer of commercial office furniture and boasts one of the most impressive stories of growth and success in the furniture industry. Founded in 1989, the company whose sales exceed $250 million annually is known for offering market-relevant, feature-rich product lines that entice designers and support the diverse needs of end-users while offering exceptional value. AIS is an innovator that leads the industry in sustainable lean manufacturing, lead-time performance and manufacturing flexibility. AIS’s BIFMA-compliant products meet or exceed industry standards for safety and durability. Products also are SCS Indoor Advantage™ Gold certified.

The company’s Leominster headquarters and manufacturing facility boasts a rooftop of more than 10,000 solar panels, returning 50 percent or more of energy used to the power grid. AIS has permanent showrooms at its Leominster headquarters and in Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C. With these and other locations across the U.S., the company has over 1 million square feet of office, showroom and factory space. AIS’ more than 900 employees represent over 32 countries around the world and make AIS one of the largest and most diverse employers in central Massachusetts. Over the past five years, AIS has created more jobs in the region than any other company. AIS and its employees also lead in giving back to their communities; the Boston Business Journal has recognized AIS with its Corporate Citizenship Award annually since 2019. For more information, visit