A Sanitation Evolution

After 55 years and many product and service advancements, Ohio’s Johnny on the Spot continues to look for new ways to serve customers more efficiently.
A Sanitation Evolution

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When Robert Slagel Sr. founded Johnny on the Spot (JOTS) in 1957, Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the White House and portable restroom units were built out of wood. The company has survived and thrived by keeping up with the times, continually updating its stock and diversifying from a sound base while maintaining a reputation for service.

The business is headquartered in Ironton, Ohio, along the Ohio River at the state's south central tip. A stone's throw from both Kentucky and West Virginia, JOTS employs 18 and serves all three states with portable restrooms, hand-wash stations, septic pumping and freshwater service. The company also operates two related businesses: Storage on the Spot (SOTS), producing storage containers, and another, DropBox Inc., producing office containers for field service.

"In the earliest days of the business, the company was servicing portable restrooms with buckets," says Charles Gussler, operations manager of JOTS and SOTS. "We've seen the full parade of history from the earliest pump trucks, which were basically tanks mounted on the back of pickup trucks, through to the current high-tech pump trucks and service vehicles."

Slagel's son John took the reins of the business in 1978 and passed them on to his sons. Still operated by the family, the past 10 years have seen the company grow and add more services.

A DIVERSE CUSTOMER BASE

Customers range from residential one-off clients to large, commercial clients, including refineries, coal and nuclear power plants and construc-tion sites. The company's location means business is centered in an approximately 60-mile radius around larger cities: Ironton and Ashland, Ky., and Huntington, W.Va.

Typical event contracts include the Summer Motion arts and crafts and concert in Ashland, the Rally on the River car and motorcycle show in Ironton, the Rib Fest in Huntington and the Lawrence County Fair in Proctorville, Ohio.

Construction contracts include serving the sanitation needs of projects at Marshall University in Huntington, King's Daughters Medical Center in Ashland and Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio. The business also serves the current Ironton/Russell Bridge project, spanning the Ohio River.

"These contracts typically run six months to two years," Gussler says.

JOTS also services units for other companies. "It's a cooperative arrangement," Gussler says. "Sometimes we service their units with pumping and cleaning, but they're just as willing to service ours when we operate in their areas."

The company's portable restroom stock is consistently refreshed to meet new industry expectations. The current inventory hovers close to 600, with the units mostly supplied by either Satellite Industries or PolyJohn Enterprises. The Satellites are geared largely to special events and weddings, while the PolyJohns are put into rough service, primarily on construction sites. Each year, the overall stock is tending toward larger units that contain a greater array of standard conveniences.

The company's latest shipment of Satellite units have a sink with foot pump. JOTS introduced these new units at summer events earlier this year.

"The internal sinks really add value to the standard portable units," says Shawn Turley, business manager for JOTS and SOTS. "Our customers who would traditionally need to order a portable restroom and a separate hand-wash station will see some savings by ordering the all-in-one units."

MANUFACTURING ITS OWN FLEET

Building on its container manufacturing, the company has its own containerized JOTS line that includes both shower and restroom units. The designs of these lines – like the portable offices and storage products – are based on portable steel Conex storage containers.

JOTS offers more than 50 Conex-based restroom trailers, which are available in 20-foot and 40-foot lengths. The trailers are insulated and heated, and provide a quick-connect single phase 220-volt hookup.

"These are heavy-duty, industrial-strength units," Gussler says. "We deliver them on flatbeds or hydraulic tilt trailers. After delivery, the containers can be placed directly on the ground, and don't require setups, stairs or any special blocking, because they sit on the running rails of the Conex box. At most, you might have to place a few concrete blocks at one end to level the structure, then just bleed the lines and it's ready to use."

The 40-foot model comes with four men's toilets, four urinals, one women's toilet and porcelain sinks. A 1,500-gallon freshwater tank and 1,600-gallon waste tank are self-contained inside the unit. Heavy-duty service options include a gang urinal and gang sink made of metal to serve three people at a time. The standard porcelain toilet also can be switched out for a macerating toilet. The pumps are Omnivores, supplied by Liberty Pumps and the poly tanks are supplied by Kentucky Tank of Shepherdsville, Ky.

The 20-foot containerized units provide the same design and amenities with more space dedicated to a women-only area. However, this model contains no interior tanks. Turley explains that, although units of both size can be easily hooked up to direct plumbing, the 20-foot units are often ordered for events where plumbing will be available for the length of the contract.

"We also run into construction jobs at refineries or power plants where there are size restrictions regarding what can be placed on the ground, or inside the project under construction," he says. "In some cases, we might bring exterior tanks at the beginning of the job, and then remove them and switch out service from the tanks to the plumbing, the moment that either water or waste service is established in the new construction."

Gussler notes that the Conex-based restrooms are sometimes purchased outright for permanent installation at power plants.

"Delivering them to the site and hooking them to the existing plumbing proves to be much cheaper for them than actually building a restroom facility from the ground up," Gussler says. "They get a lot of longevity out of these industrial-strength units."

SERVICE IS KEY TO SUCCESS

The company prides itself on service. "We maintain a 24-hour servicing schedule to help turn initial contracts into ongoing business relationships," Gussler says.

The majority of the servicing occurs during daytime hours, between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., but an on-call staff provides after-hours and nighttime service.

JOTS maintains a fleet of 18 vehicles, mostly Internationals. Three pick-ups round out the fleet: two Ford F-250s and a 2500HD Chevrolet Silverado.

"We operate 14 pump trucks with the majority of the tanks built and outfitted by Abernethy Welding & Repair Inc.," Gussler says. "They're almost all 1,100-gallon waste and 400-gallon freshwater splits made of stainless steel, outfitted with pumps by Masport.''

One Peterbilt 330 is fitted with a dedicated 3,500-gallon waste tank, while a Kenworth T800 has a 3,800-gallon waste and 200-gallon water split with a trailer jetter from JETTERS NORTHWEST.

"That jetter takes care of our few smaller jetting contracts, although many of them aren't sewer related," Gussler says. "We might use it to help clean out a chemical plant line, a power plant grease trap or a bulk hauling facility. We offer the service as more of a bonus or perk to our existing clients."

The company thrives on word-of-mouth and offers an extensive website and Facebook presence. A frequently updated blog provides news and photos surrounding special contracts the company has taken on and new additions to the JOTS lineup.

"We get a lot of traffic on our site and a considerable number of emails directly through the site," Turley says. "It's clear to us that some of the clients are reading the blog and are up on our latest news."

Despite its manufacturing operations, JOTS re-cognizes it's a service operation at the core, Gussler says.

"You can provide any sort of rental or specialty restroom unit,'' he says. "But if you don't keep those units serviced and spotless, you won't be asked back next month or next year."



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