Workforce: 911 Solution

Feb. 1, 2009
Companies are struggling to cut labor costs without losing key employees. One 3PL offers a flexible answer.

By Peter B. Alpern

Flexibility isn’t just a catchword these days. It’s a basic tenet of survival in a time of whipsaw turbulence and economic uncertainty.

At a time when a growing number of employers struggle to cut their labor costs, yet still manage to hang onto their labor, one company is offering a unique solution.

Evans Distribution Systems, a third-party warehousing, packaging and transportation provider, has officially launched Evans Resource Solutions, a staffing service specialized for temporary skilled logistics positions.

Evans Resource Solutions will prescreen, test and train for positions such as assembly, inventory control, shipping and receiving, packaging and repacking and truck driving, among other jobs, on the premise that customers want an experienced logistics company to find project-oriented labor.

“With this economy, there is so much uncertainty, and everyone’s nervous,” says Leslie Ajlouny, vice president of business development for Evans Distribution Systems. “We have seen more companies seek out temporary staffing to complete jobs. Companies are looking to incorporate more flexibility and scalability into their staffing. And, that’s something we can offer.”

The staffing venture is an offshoot from Evans Distribution Systems, which runs a disciplined hiring system for its own facilities. For example, several years ago, the human resources department found it could widen its range for skilled workers by hiring a bilingual recruiter that could speak Spanish.

One of the unique strengths of Evans Distribution Systems is the unusually low turnover rate among its employees. That continuity, suggests Ajlouny, is a reflection of placing the right candidate in a position where his or her talents can flourish.

Pretty soon, their customers took notice.

“They began by asking us to help them off site, providing them with the same staffing services we do within our own facilities,” says Ajlouny.

One such customer was Technicolor, a CD and DVD replication company based in Camarillo, Calif., that needed staff to unload containers and check for quality in its distribution center.

Pretty soon, a significant number of Evans Distribution Systems customers were asking for staffing help, and the company

realized it might have a compelling venture in its grasp. Any venture has to fill a need. And, from a staffing perspective, the downside of using temporary help for material handling positions is candidates might not possess the requisite skills demanded for the position or be unfamiliar with the industry.

What Evans Resource Solutions offers is a 911 solution.

Evans Resource Solutions prescreens, tests and trains temporary workers for material handling positions.

“We’ve received that call on a Saturday night that a plant is going to shut down unless we get them inspected parts,” says Ajlouny. “It’s a question of responsiveness and having a really strong core of individuals that we can provide at a moment’s notice. And, you want to know that these are people who know shipping and receiving and where you don’t have to go to a temp agency and go through a few people before you find the right talent.”

So far, no estimates have been released of staffing size or the anticipated revenue for the new division.

Headquartered in Melvindale, Mich., and founded in 1929, Evans Distribution Systems employs 350 people operating more than 2 million square feet of warehouse space in Suffolk, Va., and Devens, Mass.

In many ways, the staffing venture isn’t very different than what Evans Distribution Systems has been selling for 80 years: flexibility in warehousing, transportation, packaging and third-party services.

“Rather than hiring, I think a lot of people now are looking for a third-party solution to find the right talent and be able to scale it to cost,” says Ajlouny. “Things change so quickly and if you need a team of 10 today, you might only need a team of eight tomorrow. Those are just the times we’re living in. And, being flexible that way is very valuable to people today.”

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