Houston Equipment Company Adds Reefer Repair and Parts Business

THE DRIVE to fully serve customers has led Olivo companies in Houston, Texas, to grow business in several areas during the past 10 years.

Olivo companies expansion includes the addition of a mechanical and refrigeration repair service, Lone Star Diesel, and a parts business, Trailer Industries. The three businesses , including Sam and Sons, operate currently from a renovated ten-acre site with one building that houses the truck equipment and parts shops and another used for mechanical and refrigeration unit repairs.

Growth of the original business into three companies offering distinctly different services at one location individualizes the Olivo family business.

Sam and Sons offers a full range of traditional truck equipment services from its 41,000-sq-ft building. Custom fabrication, frame modifications, and repair work are among the services offered by Sam and Sons. The company added trailer sales to its list of services in 1997 when it began selling the full Stoughton line of trailers.

Lone Star Diesel specializes in engine and refrigeration unit repair work, but offers other services not usually found at a truck equipment house. Lone Star's services include computerized four-wheel alignment, diesel and gasoline engine diagnostics, transmission and axle rebuilds, as well as long- and short-block replacement. The company also handles Department of Transportation and state inspections, which are performed at Sam and Sons.

"We built our own company because it was easier to not worry about the trouble of subletting the work," says Roy Olivo.

The Lone Star Diesel building has seven doors with 14 bays in the shop. The two-story building, completed in early 1997, also has its own offices

Also in operation at the Sam and Sons location is Trailer Industries trailer parts. With about $100,000 in inventory, it is the newest addition to Olivo companies. Stocking mostly extrusions and pumps and motors for liftgates, the company currently is building its inventory. Because it is located in the same building as Sam and Sons, all trailer repairs are invoiced through that company.

As part of an effort to streamline operations at Olivo companies, the Olivos have installed a middle-management tier over the last five years. Managers allow Olivo family members to continue expanding the businesses without the added responsibility of daily shop administration. A former Houston fleet warehouse manager was added to manage Trailer Industries when the company opened. Olivo also employs management crewmembers with former experience at Stewart & Stevenson and Ryder.

"We wanted first class employees that already knew something about the business," says Roy Olivo.

"We maintain a fine continuity between the companies to best serve our customers," says Olivo. "Scheduling is very important to maintain efficiency if a vehicle needs to go to both shops."

Olivo cites a recent example in which a truck that had hit a pole was brought in for repairs. The truck needed body repair work as well as clutch and brake service. The service body was removed at Sam and Sons, and the chassis was taken to Lone Star for service. Work was done simultaneously on the chassis and body, allowing the vehicle to leave road ready.

"Insurance companies appreciate being able to have all the work done at one location," says Olivo.

Special Services Sam and Sons is a certified DuPont refinisher. This means all Sam and Son's paintwork carries a five-year warranty against fading and peeling. Painters go to a DuPont training program. Paint is applied according to DuPont specifications in Sam and Son's 75-ft Binks side-downdraft paint booth, said to be the second largest in Texas by Binks.

"We needed a booth large enough to accommodate 65-ft Metro Transit Authority busses," says Roy Olivo. The drive-through booth is large enough to accommodate smaller vehicles two at a time without risking overspray, according to Olivo. Sam and Sons also handles decal graphics applications.

Full Service Olivo offers 24-hour recovery and repair service through an 800 number. All three companies service a 75-mile radius around the Houston area. Olivo mechanics are ASE certified and are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Company representatives answer calls between 7 am and 7 pm. An answering service handles calls during off-hours.

Mechanics cover the Houston area, which is divided into sections. Each person is responsible for a section, but mechanics help each other when numerous service calls come from the same section.

Mechanics drive trucks fully equipped with supplies and equipment to repair brakes, belts, lights, and many mechanical problems. Also on-call is a walk-in van fitted with the equipment a mechanic needs to perform off-site preventative maintenance work on trucks and refrigeration units - including a refrigerant recycling unit.

"We can do major repairs in the field, unlike some companies that will only have a truck towed back to the shop," says Sam Olivo Jr. "If a truck must come to the shop but is too far away, we will contract an independent wrecker service to have it towed to the shop."

Sam and Sons uses two tractors for pick up and delivery of trailers, one yard tractor, and one platform truck for parts delivery.

Company leaders each use handheld radios for communication with drivers and shop supervisors. Radios cost about $1,300 each plus a $50 monthly service charge. Radios allow the Olivos faster communication with drivers allowing for increased efficiency in parts delivery as well as faster on-site problem solving. Radios have a dual-range capability that allows them to be switched between on-site use and off site use. The dual capability allows all people carrying radios to hear what is said on the channel, according to Olivo.

"This will keep a driver from going farther than necessary," says Roy Olivo. "This has been a big time saver for the company."

Past Expansion Sam and Sons completed the move to its current location in 1993, but began construction at the site in 1990. Operations were gradually moved to the new location as the company continued to expand. The first 100' x 140' section of the facility had six doors with bays in between used to hold vehicles waiting for service. The building was built with an area at the front designated for office space. Offices were completed in early 1997. Also included in final construction was a conference room for meetings with customers.

The building has 18-ft doors and a maximum ceiling height of 38-ft. It now has a 26 drive-through stalls that include space between doors used for added workspace. Another 100' x 100' section was added to the building in 1995 to accommodate the 75-ft paint booth and eight extra bays for paint and bodywork.

Sam and Sons has a long history dating back to its incorporation in 1968. In earlier years, Sam and Sons operated from a three-bay garage with a dirt floor. Sam Sr worked in one bay, Sam Jr worked in another, and Roy worked in the third.

"My bay was closest to the phone, so I always ended up answering it," says Roy Olivo.

Roy was the first of the family members to take over office duties as he worked his way up from answering the phone in the original shop. The first Sam and Sons location was slowly outgrown, but wasn't closed until the Olivos lost a portion of the land because of a toll road expansion. The old location may be used as a parts warehouse as expansion continues at the Olivo companies.

The business is still operated by five family members. Sam Sr, Sam Jr, Roy, Richard, and Robert Olivo run the family-owned business. Sam Sr is still personally involved with each business, according to Roy Olivo.

Sam Sr founded the company in pursuit of dreams of owning his own business. When the company was young, Sam's wife, Carmen, ran the office while Sam worked in the shop. Before his sons were old enough to work, Sam welded and fabricated truck bodies on his own.

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