March 11, 2016

BlueCrew adds labor management features to warehouse staffing app

Platform picks temporary workers for jobs by rating their skills and performance.

By Ben Ames

BlueCrew Inc., a startup whose software enables warehouse managers to quickly ramp up warehouse staffing to meet surges in demand, said it has added labor management features to its platform.

The upgrade will help managers measure and track their workers' on-time records, number of shifts worked, and their location, thanks to a GPS timecard that automatically clocks employees in and out of the job using their own smartphones, the San Francisco-based company said.

BlueCrew's core model uses an algorithm that sorts through a database of registered workers to determine their experience, qualifications, and past performance reviews, BlueCrew CEO Gino Rooney said in a phone interview. When a customer needs temporary staffing, BlueCrew contacts the most qualified laborers through its mobile smartphone app and schedules them for work as forklift operators, warehouse staff, drivers, movers, data entry personnel, or customer service representatives.

BlueCrew currently operates only in the Bay area, but is planning to expand to southern California later in 2016. The company is funded by a number of venture capital firms. Its approach is comparable to that of New York-based Forrge, another web-based staffing platform designed to accelerate hiring in the "gig" economy. Forrge is focused on the retail-trade and food-and-beverage sectors. However, both companies use mobile apps to match part-time hourly workers with seasonal or temporary positions.

The on-demand model is particularly well suited to the light industrial sector that includes the material handling and transportation markets, as well as warehousing, production, and commercial moving, Rooney said. When demand fluctuates quickly in warehouse work, managers often struggle to find temporary employees with experience on complex equipment like standup forklifts, sit-down forklifts, or specific kinds of pallet jacks, he said.

Noticing that temporary agencies could take several days to screen, phone, and schedule workers for these slots, Rooney and a partner at Stanford University launched BlueCrew in April 2015.

"We saw inefficiencies in the way that recruiters and staffing agencies were filling jobs," Rooney said.

The speed of placement can be critical when companies like UPS Inc. and FedEx Corp. hire tens of thousands of extra workers to handle the holiday shipping rush every winter season.

"We work with Bay Area e-commerce facilities and logistics companies to handle the boom in the holiday season by supplying a curated workforce when they scale up in September and October," he said.

One client is Zephyr Express, a Benicia, Calif. overnight wine and spirits delivery firm that serves commercial customers such as restaurants, grocery stores, and distribution centers. The firm signed up with BlueCrew when it suddenly needed extra workers to make deliveries to clients in San Francisco during the busy Super Bowl week in February.

Facing blocked streets and restricted delivery hours, the company used BlueCrew to find temporary employees to ride with the truck drivers and assist with unloading freight, staging orders, and moving trucks out of loading zones, said Dan Lucht, general manager at Zephyr Express. The company also uses BlueCrew to find extra workers for the night-shift picking crew in its 125,000-square-foot warehouse, filling orders and loading trucks, Lucht said.

"Sometimes workers get sick or have a family emergency, but we're up against the clock; if the team is down, we need that backup to keep the second shift running," Lucht said.

"In the past, we've used staffing firms, but an agency can take a day or two to find job candidates, so the latency in the system makes it hard to respond," he said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the nature of the software upgrade and function.

About the Author

Ben Ames
Senior Editor
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

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