B5 Systems

The Lost Arrow Project by Patagonia – Military Alpine Recce System : Production Partnership with Peckham Vocational Industries

Yesterday, I introduced readers to the Military Alpine Recce System design. Now, I’ll focus on manufacturing this innovative system. This is no small feat. The design relies on world-class materials and manufacturing.

Finding The Right Production Partner


Like most clothing companies in the 21st century, Patagonia relies on a global supply and manufacturing chain to produce their wares. To support the US military, Patagonia been directed by DOD to work with with several domestic manufacturers over the course of their involvement in USSOCOM’s clothing programs. Some relationships have been better than others. In the case of Peckham Vocational Industries, Patagonia was able to make their own decision, and has found a true partner. Patagonia takes quality and social responsibility seriously and in Peckham, those values align.

What Peckham Is All About


Founded in 1976, Peckham Vocational Industries is named after former State of Michigan Rehabilitation Services Director, Ralf A. Peckham. Some SSD readers will recognize the name from the labels in your government issue clothing. In industry, it’s well known as a non-profit clothing manufacturer which supports US military contracts.

Although Peckham boasts five business units, there are 650 clients/team members in their manufacturing line, spread across sewing, spread, cut and bundle operations. But there’s more going on than just making clothing. Peckham doesn’t look at its workforce as employees. Instead, they are clients or team members. Their mission is to help those with barriers to employment succeed as individuals and as contributors to the larger community. The clothing manufacturing facility contributes to this mission by providing paid job training opportunities to people with disabilities.

There is an additional 80 member administrative staff which includes human services specialists (made up of vocational counselors, rehab services, intake specialists, and others).

The Facility


The modern and spacious Lansing facility is situated right next to the airport. It boasts 115,000 sq ft of manufacturing space and another 100,000 sq ft of warehouse space.

There is an additional 35,000 sq ft at a nearby facility where 50 team members work.

Everything is clean and well maintained. Although well organized, the design integrates curves over straight lines whenever possible, to be more soothing to team members with special needs. An entire corner of the production floor features windows to let in natural light. Next to this, a major portion of the wall showcases artwork.


Due to the restrictions of some of its team members, Peckham has also invested in automation when possible, or developed innovative tooling to assist those with physical limitations.

A Holistic Approach to Employment


While most companies want their employees to focus on their current job, Peckham takes pride in preparing team members to move on to other jobs, even if that means with other companies. To help make this a reality, vocational counselors work with team members, coordinating training.

Team members are allocated training hours during the week. In addition to vocational training, these can be used for life skills seminars, where they learn how to file taxes, avoid predatory lending and interview for jobs. There is an studio on site where team members can participate in art therapy. Their artwork is featured in annual show with team members splitting the proceeds of their work with the Peckham Community Partnership Foundation which provides grants to enhance services for team members.

Vice President Of Manufacturing, Ed Terris explained, “Peckham Vocational Industries stands for the principal that every human being has great worth, can contribute to society, and should be given the opportunity to do so.  The people that our mission serves, the ones who make up our workforce, deliver amazing results in support of our war fighters every single day.  They are among the most dedicated and hardworking individuals I have ever worked with.”

Terris should know. No matter where we were, all throughout the day, I heard team member after team member call out, “Hi Ed!” He answered each and every one, by name. More than any other thing I saw at Peckham that struck me at how dedicated that organization is to its goal.

Patagonia Gives Back


Patagonia has recreated their advanced R&D center “the Forge” at Peckham. It includes lamination, sonic line bonding, laser cutting, and soon 3D clothing design to rapidly conceptualize and replicate to production scale. Additionally, Subject Matter Experts travel to Peckham regularly to provide mentoring to those in the production floor. They also learn from Peckham, a company which prides itself on innovative solutions to allow physically challenged team members to participate in the manufacturing process.

What Peckham brings is their openness to new ideas, as well as automation knowledge that supports their mission and workforce. Together this creates a perfect partnership of shared values and creative problem solving.

George Alonso, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development, spoke to me about the relationship, “Peckham is very proud of our partnership with Patagonia.  Our mission has benefited tremendously from the effort they have put into the relationship.  They have continually challenged us to grow our innovation capabilities and manufacturing techniques.”

Training Team Peckham


Peckham’s team has jumped in with both feet. During my visit, Patagonia’s Cyndi Davis and Casey Shaw were on hand to provide instruction to lead sewers on various construction techniques, including sonic line bonding. The Peckham team worked right along side, discussing ways to improve their process.

Peckham’s George Alonso expanded upon what I had seen, relating, “They have always approached this partnership with a spirit of cooperation and genuine support for the community that Peckham’s mission serves.  It isn’t every day that you find a company or partner with that kind of ethos, matched by the fortitude to see it through.  I think it has paid off with the creation of a revolutionary new system that delivers truly elite levels of performance for our soldiers.”

Teach a Man to Fish

When I look at what is happening here, I think about the old proverb, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

This partnership is going to pay off in bigger ways than just MARS. The same processes used to manufacture this system will be available as Berry compliant options for other military programs.

In addition to clothing members of the US military, Peckham serves society in another way. Rather than being dependent on others, the team members at Peckham Vocational Industries earn a wage and benefits, including savings towards retirement. They are contributing members of a larger community and I saw pride on the faces of those that I met.

While Peckham’s measure of success is training and employing its team members, they have to remain viable in the marketplace, providing a good value to their customers. Customer satisfaction is a priority and they’re serious about it. In fact, they’re ISO 9001:2015 certified.

Patagonia benefits from this relationship by having a reliable production partner they can rely on.

The end user gets a great product, made right here in the USA.

This is the third of a four-part series on the Military Alpine Recce System developed by Patagonia’s The Lost Arrow Project. Earlier installments include the history of Patagonia’s SOF support and a system overview. The final story will focus on some of the individuals components. The full system will be on exhibit at SOF Select during SOFIC.

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One Response to “The Lost Arrow Project by Patagonia – Military Alpine Recce System : Production Partnership with Peckham Vocational Industries”

  1. Pete says:

    Vocational mission highlighted here is a high return opportunity for all involved- dedicated employees, stable contracts and win-win relationships. Nice feature on the behind the scenes of the business and the sustainable way to drive the mission forward.

    That best pieceof of gear I own is a beat to Hell MARS Dimension cut soft shell from around 2003-04. Been back to the factory for mending and should be retired, but nothing has ever been so comfortable.