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Evans Tool and Die believes in giving back

Special photo by Aimee Jones An employee at Evans Metal Stamping inspects a piece of stamped metal as it comes out of one of the large presses.

Special photo by Aimee Jones An employee at Evans Metal Stamping inspects a piece of stamped metal as it comes out of one of the large presses.

Editor's note: In Our Backyard is an ongoing series of articles that will take a look at manufacturing in the East Metro area and inform readers about what types of products are made here.

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Special photo by Aimee Jones Evans Companies CEO and President Dee Barnes, who is the granddaughter of founder Leonard Evans, stands in front of a display of several of the products created at Evans Tool & Die and Evans Metal Stamping Inc., including metal brackets, rollerskate bases and clips for Ace Bandages.

At A Glance

• Evans Companies Inc. is made up of Evans Tool & Die Inc. and Evans Metal Stamping Inc.

• Founded in 1948 by Leonard Evans

• Deanne “Dee” Barnes, Evans’ granddaughter, represents the company’s third generation of family leadership

• Provides following services: design, CAD/CAM design, tool and die, stamping, finishing, warehousing, distribution

• Operates more than 63 presses with the capability to stamp 20 to 1,000 tons

• ISO 9001:2000 Certified

Source: Evans Companies Inc.

CONYERS — Commitment to a cause beyond the bottom line defines Evans Companies Inc. in Conyers.

“It’s not just about profits — that’s obviously important — but it’s more about creating jobs, providing a good place to work and giving back to our community, the state and our country,” said Evans Companies CEO and President Deanne “Dee” Barnes.

Barnes’ grandfather, Leonard Evans, founded Evans Tool & Die in 1948. At the time, he operated the company out of a small building in Decatur that served the dual purpose of being his daughter’s playhouse.

Evans Tool & Die/Evans Metal Stamping moved to its current location on North Salem Road near Interstate 20 in Conyers in 1978. As business grew, so did the plant, offices and warehouse. Today the manufacturing company operates in a facility that exceeds 160,000 square feet and utilizes more than 63 punch presses ranging in size from 25 tons to 1,000 tons, Barnes said.

The company has remained in the family with Leonard Evans’ sons, Len and Craig, and later his son-in-law Ray Duensing serving different roles in management.

Barnes, who has worked in the family business for more than 25 years, first in accounting and then in estate planning, was named president and CEO of Evans Companies in July.

Evans Companies specializes in developing metal pieces used in common products, such as lock plates installed in glove compartments in vehicles; metal hair barrettes; metal pieces on smokers or grills; clips to hold fire extinguishers; brackets for shelving and warehousing; shelving for refrigeration units; parts for golf carts; and metal components for air conditioning units.

“Just about anything metal, we can stamp,” Barnes said. “Everywhere you go, you see metal we can create a die for and stamp.”

Evans Companies’ serves hundreds of customers throughout the U.S., many of whom have used Evan’s products for more than 20 years.

The flow of production at Evans Companies begins with engineers who work with customers to design the pieces they need, which are then drawn to precision using Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Machining (CAD/CAM).

The design then is handed to the die makers, who make the heavy metal “patterns” from which the metal piece will be created. The die is then installed in one of the multi-ton presses where the piece is stamped out.

The metal pieces, which are inspected at each step through the process, are then placed in a finishing vat with tiny stones where the metal pieces are heavily vibrated and washed to smooth the rough edges.

Evans can also paint and engrave the finished product with the customers’ name, if needed. The inventory is warehoused at Evans and distributed for “just-in-time” delivery so it arrives the day the customer needs it, Barnes said.

“Our business is focused on providing quality products, operating debt-free, continuous improvement and honesty in business,” she said.

This family-based, value-based approach has helped Evans weather the financial storm that has hit the domestic manufacturing industry particularly hard, Barnes said.

“My grandfather started this business 63 years ago and he operated it debt-free,” she said. “This philosophy has helped us get through this economy. We are now on the upswing because manufacturing is starting to come back to the U.S. We are poised to do very well.”

Barnes said that the tool and die industry has been strongly affected by the Asian market. She said there has been no way for American companies to compete with the lower wages and tangible tax benefits afforded companies who move their manufacturing overseas.

Even so, Evans Companies has never considered making a similar move.

“We are so committed to ‘Made in the USA’ and we pride ourselves in being able to provide jobs for people in our community,” Barnes said.

And now, Barnes said, she believes the tide may be turning. She said that the wage differential is starting to narrow, which takes away one incentive for businesses to use overseas workers. Furthermore, she said, companies are beginning to realize some unintended negative consequences to these moves, such as an inability to respond quickly to delivery problems.

Evans has responded to the recession by developing other areas of its business, such as low-speed stamping (most high-speed stamping has been moved overseas, Barnes said), assembly and engineering design.

Part of their success has hinged on their diversity, Barnes said.

“We have spent more time creating solutions to problems, whereas before we could just respond to what customers told us they needed,” she said. “We are so much more diversified, we are coming out of this much stronger.”

Part of that diversity includes developing and retaining highly skilled die makers and craftsmen who have expertise in a number of areas so the company is not reliant on just one or two industries.

Permeating Evans’ corporate culture is a spirit of family, generosity and responsibility. Barnes said that about three-quarters of the company’s 87 employees have been with Evans for 15 to 20 years, and many have been with them for more than 30 years.

Barnes said the company has also donated financially to the local community, although she was hesitant to be specific.

“We do this because we want to be responsible with what God has given us,” she said. “The people who have received from us know it.”

“We realize that God has given the ability to create wealth, but it’s what you do with that wealth that matters,” Barnes continued. “It’s more important how we affect people’s lives. … We’re like family here. We love making things here and we love being proud of what is made.”