By Neil Pascale
SPARKS, Nev. — LeMans Corp. recently showcased its newest and largest built warehouse, a facility that should enable the nation’s largest powersports distributor to expand its overnight delivery to a larger part of the West Coast.
The facility, located near Reno, Nev., in the city of Sparks, stretches four stories high and 418,000 square feet long, enabling the company behind Parts Unlimited and Drag Specialties roughly 1.6 million square feet of room for products, said Greg Blackwell, vice president of sales and marketing for LeMans Corp.
LeMans founder and CEO Fred Fox has previously said the warehouse cost $35 million to build, including $15 million for the shelving and conveyor belts.
The warehouse replaces the existing facility that also was in Sparks, keeping the number of U.S. LeMans Corp. warehouses to six. It comes three years after the opening of the last U.S. warehouse, which is near New York, and a year before the expected opening of the first Parts Europe warehouse.
Open and doing business
The opening coincided with a special holiday showcase of product from LeMans suppliers and house brands. More than 150 manufacturers and a number of dealers and racers tied to different LeMans brands were on hand for the Nov. 10-11 event.
LeMans already is shipping out of the new warehouse, which replaces one of the company’s oldest facilities, the previous Sparks warehouse that was less than half as large as the new one.
“It was filled up,” Blackwell said of the previous Sparks facility, which the company has closed after moving all the product to the new facility. “We really needed to expand and build on it.”
Part of the reason for the new and larger facility was that LeMans was occasionally forced to handle West Coast orders from its Janesville, Wis., warehouse because of the limited size of the old Sparks facility, Blackwell said. Although that did not affect the distributor’s fill rates, the new warehouse allows LeMans to serve a huge portion of the West Coast, from Orange County in Southern California all the way north to Seattle.
“One of the things that Fred (Fox) is good at seeing the future and planning for it, so we’re not in a situation like that where the warehouse is over capacity, and we can’t service the needs,” Blackwell said. “He tries to look down the horizon far enough to know that we’re going to be (affected) in that area say in three years, so he starts building a new warehouse so that doesn’t happen.
“In our business, you can’t afford to have that happen because then you’re not filling dealer orders. And a lot of dealers don’t want to cross-ship. Certainly they will, but our goal is to be able to have a 92 percent fill rate everywhere, out of every warehouse.”
Although the new Sparks warehouse is much larger, LeMans won’t necessarily have to increase its employees. Improvements in technology and operation efficiencies is enabling that.
“Obviously with a bigger space we can expand on some employees, but we don’t really have to do a whole lot,” Blackwell said. “As you can see, the office space isn’t gigantic.”
Some of the new operational efficiencies, Blackwell says, include new computer systems and how the company handles product as it’s brought in and then how it flows through the warehouse.
“We’ve learned some things from our other warehouses,” he said, including “how to be more efficient in packing them, how to make it easier for the employees to handle those packages” and other “little treatments in the system that make it more comfortable for them in the work environment.”
Blackwell also gave an update on LeMans’ fledgling an Europe operation, which the company announced when it acquired property in Konz, Germany.
Blackwell said the company is ready to break ground on the expected 160,000-square-feet warehouse and has a tentative goal of opening business there in the winter of 2008.
“We’ve had a lot of vendors that have contacted us” about Parts Europe, said Blackwell, who attended the Nevada event after spending the past few days in Milan, Italy, for one of Europe’s largest motorcycle shows, EICMA. “There’s a lot of interest out there, so we’re still discussing a lot of that stuff.”