Innovative Solutions for a dynamic logistics industry

Road Ahead meets Arnoux Maré, founder of the Innovative Solutions Group


Arnoux Maré founded the Innovative Solutions Group with the intention of employing thousands of people while transforming the logistics industry: these goals are not only being met, but surpassed. In 2017 the Innovative Group hired one person for every working hour of the year, which equates to 2 079 people who are now gainfully and permanently employed. Based on year-on-year comparisons this figure is set to increase in 2018. His professional background, which includes labour relations and marketing, has him poised to continue on this trajectory of growth, while fulfilling his mission of providing gainful employment to the South African (SA) nation.

One of the reasons for this success is Maré’s view on how the declining economic climate need not affect businesses. “People are always complaining about how the economy affects business. In my opinion it doesn’t, companies will always need suppliers, no company can survive without them. So you need to position yourself as that preferred supplier and an economic downturn need not affect you.”

The Innovative Solutions Group, through the subsidiary Innovative Staffing Solutions, is leading the way in transforming how staff is outsourced and how unions are involved in decisions. Maré is not someone to sit back and wait for answers to materialise, he is ardently driving the change in his industry through innovation, planning, relationships, and of course his own personal tenacity.

The secret to success

The Innovative Solutions Group recently announced that, in partnership with one of the leading medical aid schemes, their drivers now have fully comprehensive medical aid. They pay only R300 per month and have unlimited doctor’s visits, basic dental and unlimited medication, to name a few of the benefits.

Maré is a firm believer in effective training and support for the drivers. The employment criteria for the Groups’ drivers is intense and that is why he is able to improve the safety ratings for his clients. Incumbent drivers need to not only pass the actual driving course, but full background checks are performed, which include criminal record checks. Soon Maré will initiate psychological testing of all his drivers, which will provide another level of insight into the driver’s capability to focus on the task at hand. All of these checks and balances are done at the cost of the group and not of their customers.

The fundamental mantra of Innovative Staffing Solutions is: “it’s all about job security”. In the seven years of operation, Maré says, they have made no retrenchments, and have never lost a site. Avoiding retrenchments has always been something Maré has been eager to eradicate. He has, over the course of the years, developed a network and strategy that should a client require a reduction in drivers, those drivers are allocated to another site. This provides a level of quality across all sites, and ensures the clients’ needs are met, and that the drivers are kept in employment.

When, two years ago, the Innovative Solutions Group took over the Izuza Carriers site, the process took a month and a half. The reason was because of union concerns, yet more recently when Premium Trucking’s site was on the cards, the process took a day. “The unions know that we look after our staff members, and just by picking up the phone and letting them know that we are looking at a site, helps the process immensely.”

Outsourcing trends

Maré believes that outsourcing remains popular because of the specialist requirements of running a business today. ‘It’s not just about earning a living anymore; business management has become a science. Effectively managing drivers in a logistics company can be a nightmare, but if you have the right partner, the headaches associated with it are negated.” Maré and his team are fully qualified and experienced to handle driver fatigue issues, routes and loads, to name a few of the issues. Training drivers is another constant in the group, Maré says that on average they train 2 000 drivers per annum.

In the agricultural sector, outsourcing is popular because of the specialist skills required. Managing staff can take up to 60% of a business owners time, says Maré; removing that hassle for the owner frees them up to work on the business instead of in it.

Outsourcing as a tool to stop wage strikes

Strikes cost SA immense amounts of money and time every year, and SA is one of a few countries that consider the right to strike a basic human right. The problem, according to Maré, is that strikes have become the norm as opposed to the exception, and workers are able to cripple businesses by keeping them hostage. Maré is philopshical about this issue saying that as a growing economy, mistakes will be made, and in order to continue growing everyone needs to take a step back, learn from the mistakes of the past, and implement the lessons. A military style of management is not going to work, avoiding strikes or at least managing them effectively can only be done through constant communication between employers, employees, and the unions.

“Wages are governed by the Minimum Wage Act, and we therefore make sure we are transparent at all times with the unions,” says Maré. “Open communication is the key to avoiding debilitating strikes.” Maré includes his employees during wage discussions and allows for discourse on any concerns they may have. Pre-empting any issues has, without a doubt, aided in avoiding strikes. If, for whatever reason, a business is unable to pay increases, Maré adamantly promotes talking to the employees, as he believes ignoring the problem could result in strikes.

Educating the unions, as well as the workers on the impact strikes have on their finances, helps to reduce the risk of strikes. For example, the workers strike for a 9% increase, but if they strike for three months their increase has in effect been eaten up by the amount of time and pay missed. Avoiding strikes, therefore, not only aids the economy in growth but reaches the goal of improving the lives of employees.

The time up until wage negotiations can be very trying on the unions. Dealing with a host of members as well as the companies with whom they are employed leads to many hours around the negotiation table. Maré says: “In order to facilitate a smoother wage negotiation period, we are, due to our relationships with the unions, able to step in and assist. Innovative Staffing Solutions is able to act as a sort of middle man, talking to the unions as well as the members and thereby reaching an amicable and mutually beneficial outcome, with a greatly reduced chance of a strike.”

This is not purely lip service by Innovative Staffing Solutions. At the sites operated by them, Maré says there is a staggering 98% decrease in the risk of strikes. Maré attributes this enormous risk mitigation to open communications and the mutual respectful relationship with the unions and members.

Maré is well versed in all things labour, and as such is able to explain that under the new legislations, there is no such thing as a short-term contract. After a three month period, all contract workers are deemed to be employed full time at the client. In order to avoid confusion and possibly backlash, Maré insists on full time, permanent employment for his staff. It takes more planning to effectively roll this out, but as their record clearly indicates, this is a winning strategy.

The future and technology

Maré’s view on robotics and technology is very simple: human capital can never be replaced, and the idea of robots being placed in positions where people are able to do the work is counterintuitive to growth.

Technology hasn’t affected Maré’s business too much, as it is ultimately about the people. What has improved though is the ability to, through the use of fingerprints, perform criminal checks quickly and more efficiently.

Innovative Staffing Solutions and success

Effectively identifying and managing concerns held by staff is what makes Innovative Staffing Solutions different. Maré is constantly striving to improve the lives and livelihood of his employees. In fact, one way Maré has successfully reduced the risk of accidents among his drivers is by not only providing them with medical aid but by actively changing the way the industry operates. Truck drivers do not have an easy job, they are away from their families for long periods of time, they deal with constant stress, and need to maintain high levels of performance. In line with the ethos of Innovative Staffing Soltuions and indeed the Innoviative Solutions Group, any additional financial stress is dealt with in a proactive manner. As any employee will relate, the time coming up to the festive season can be fraught with worries about finances, with many internalising questions about bonuses, increases and the like. Maré says: “In our employment contracts, we state that the driver will receive a 13th cheque, this creates a sense of calm with the driver and that leads to safer driving on our roads.” Eradicating the potential for financial burden on the drivers ensures that the clients’ loads are transported on time and in the safest way possible. This reduces the stress levels of truck drivers and maintains the training at a constant level, which results in an improved state of mind and level of comfort behind the wheel.

Another manner in which Innovative Staffing Solutions has greatly improved the metrics of each driver is by initiating another bonus programme. In addition to the 13th cheque, the top driver at each site will receive a bonus of R50 000. The measurement of this accolade is based on data from fuel spend to attainment of load targets.

The Group shows no sign of slowing down, Maré is eager to continue changing the industry, uplifting the people of SA and providing a stellar service to it’s client base. Maré and his team are well poised to handle labour relations issues in a pre-emptive and positive manner, which is why many of the largest logistics companies across SA use Innovative Staffing Solutions to handle the outsourcing of employees.

comments powered by Disqus


This edition

Issue 70


RoadAhead_Mag Automation with the help of advanced technology and a growing demand for lower costs typically associated with proc… 4 months - reply - retweet - favorite

RoadAhead_Mag In this edition of The Road Ahead Magazine, the editor speaks about effective #Leadership and the #Springboks. Rea… 5 months - reply - retweet - favorite

RoadAhead_Mag #UDTrucksSA has introduced its high-level technology All-New Quon extra heavy range. This includes four 6x4 rigid m… 5 months - reply - retweet - favorite