MANAGER: Steve Harmon

TITLE: Managing director

FLEET: Spartan Logistics, Columbus, OH

OPERATION: Warehousing and distribution provider

PROBLEM:

For warehousing providers, trucks are an ancillary business at best — yet an extremely critical piece of the overall operation nonetheless. And no one knows this better than Steve Harmon, who recently took over leadership of his family's business, Spartan Logistics, from his father Ed, who founded the company in 1988.

Spartan operates 1.5 million sq. ft. of warehouse space in six cities in Ohio, Indiana and South Carolina. The company handles food-grade materials, glass, paper, and fragile/high value products.

“We continuously improve supply chain flow for our customers by providing quality service and value-added contributions such as packing, quality control, co-packing, EDI [electronic data interchange] integration, and inventory management,” Harmon says.

The truck fleet includes 24 tractors and three yard tractors. Though Harmon says 99% of his fleet's routes are local or regional, fleet uptime is critical. “Primarily, we're a warehouse company that provides trucking services, but that full-service transportation allows us to provide seamless pick-up, storage and delivery to our customers,” he stresses.

SOLUTION:

Since joining the company full time 15 years ago, Steve Harmon has seen a change in the fleet's maintenance strategy. The key to maintaining Spartan's fleet availability hinges on greater control of maintenance, he explains.

“The biggest change has been to bring more of the maintenance in-house,” Harmon says. “We have three excellent technicians who really care about their work. We watch the driver repair orders much closer and make sure that we make the needed repairs. We also have drivers and managers who take ownership of the equipment.”

He notes that about 90% of Spartan's maintenance work is done in-house and only gets outsourced if the company's technicians cannot do the repair or if there's a breakdown on the road. “We currently have two maintenance facilities and two mobile repair trucks operated by three technicians that service the Columbus, Marion, and Toledo, OH, locations,” Harmon adds. “All service at our South Carolina facility is outsourced since there are only two units on site and it is geographically removed from the mechanics.”

The key to Spartan's fleet uptime, Harmon stresses, is maintaining a rigorous preventive maintenance (PM) schedule for all of the company's equipment. “Our drivers perform detailed pre- and post-trip inspections each day, and we do PMs every 15,000 to 20,000 mi. on the tractors and every three months on the trailers,” he explains. “Service of our trucks keeps our units on the road so we can service our customers. We strive to never have a service failure, which means the equipment must always be ready to go.”

Much of Harmon's fleet philosophy derives from his background in accounting. He began his career as a certified public accountant and manager for a major accounting firm while also helping his father start Spartan Logistics.

Going forward, Harmon plans to keep an eye on three critical items related to maintenance. “For starters, managers need to watch what they haul and be closely involved with dispatch,” he says. “We also need to have technicians who care about and love their job. Finally, we need to make continued investments in equipment on a cycle basis. All of that helps us continue to provide quality service and value-added contributions to our customers.”