Do you sometimes feel that your van has swallowed the tools of your trade? Do you find yourself spending 20 minutes outside an appointment sorting through the mess of your van to gather your tools?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. Most plumbers don’t think about cleaning and organizing their van until it’s too late, and by then, the task seems too hard to handle.
Van organization can be key to a productive and efficient day, not to mention a calm and clear mind. (There is nothing worse than arriving at a job and needing to spend 20 minutes frantically looking for the tools you need).
Luckily, organizing your van (and keeping it that way!) is easy. You just have to follow a few simple rules and tricks, and you’ll be good to go! We’ll share some insider info on the best ways to get (and stay) organized so you can focus on taking your business to the next level. Before we get started, there are some things you should keep in mind.
Getting started: What you need to consider before you begin organizing your van
Do you use your van just for your plumbing work, or does it have other usages as well?
If you use your van for things other than work (driving the kids to school or soccer practice), you definitely have too much stuff in it. One way to stay organized is to make sure that when you are working, your van is fully in “work mode.” That means removing anything non-work related from your van and storing it in the house/garage/office until you are back home.
How many vans do you have?
If you have more than one van to organize, simple tips or hacks may not cut it. Work with your team and make sure they understand the importance of an organized work environment. There probably won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution, but if you can understand each team’s challenges, you can suggest different ideas for different locations and needs.
How big is your van?
In this case, size does matter. When organizing and racking your van, size is key to best understanding what solutions will work for you. If your van is smaller, you may need to think creatively about how you use your space. If your van is larger, there may be more options available to you.
How soon do you need the van to be organized?
If your van needs to be organized right away, you may not have time for custom racks and should look for quick hacks and DIYs that work for your specific make and model. For example, simple plastic storage boxes and a label maker can make an absolute difference. If you have some time, you can get customized racks and storage solutions, but be aware that these can take up to 6 months to make.
What’s your budget?
Even though there are lots of ways you can save money when it comes to organizing your van, sometimes it’s worth it to spend a little (you know you’re worth it!). While in this case, a little spending can go a long way, the sky’s the limit, and you may also find yourself spending large amounts. Take your budget into consideration and plan accordingly.
Organizing and racking your van has clear advantages for your business:
- Technicians with organized vans find the tools they need fast and can finish jobs on or ahead of schedule.
- If a customer sees that your van has a clean and organized space, it will increase trust because they’ll know they’re working with a professional who puts their best foot forward.
There are countless ways to organize and rack your van. We’ve compiled some of the most popular ones for quick and easy reference.
The Basics: Know where your equipment is
It’s essential to keep an up-to-date inventory of everything in your van, that way, you always know what you have and where it should be. Your inventory can be organized on a simple list in a binder or by using an app. Workiz has a built-in Inventory Management feature that can help you keep track of your tools in real-time. It even includes a location tracking feature, so you never lose track of your vans!
For your convenience, here’s the full checklist containing plumbing tools you should always keep track of:
- Pipe cutters
- Channel locks
- Test plugs
- Expandable shafts
- Pipe wrenches
- Tubs and showers: Drain cleaners, plungers, snake augers.
- Toilet augers: flush valves, wax rings, closet bolts, trip levers.
- Water heaters: Anode rods, drip pans, elements, thermostats, valves.
- Sinks and faucets: Basin wrenches, cache aerators, escutcheon plates, flat washers, handles, hexagonal keys (Allen wrenches), jam lock nuts
It’s always good to label everything and anything, including your tools and van compartments. You can also use different labels like color-coded ones or different designs. This can be very helpful for categorizing or for different employees.
Pro tips: Storing with a low budget
The heavier tools
We recommend that you put wrenches, hammers, and other heavy tools on the van floor. This will keep them from moving around and potentially hurting someone while also preventing damage to the van itself.
Many accessories can help you organize your van, including shelves, bins, hooks, etc. Do a quick search to see the available options and choose the ones that best meet your needs and budget.
Each employee should have their own small toolbox to easily access essential tools. This will help them save time as they won’t have to poke through the van looking for the right tool.
Deep shelves with dividers for the small stuff
Deep shelves are an excellent solution for storing smaller items in closed boxes. If you can’t find deep shelves, you can always put plastic soda bottles with screws, nails, and other smaller items on your existing ones (just make sure you use different bottles for different items to avoid confusion!).
If you don’t have a dedicated place to store your pipe wrenches in your van, they can take up a lot of space and be difficult to find when you need them. A great idea is to get a set of pipe wrenches that can be hung on the wall. This will help free up valuable floor space and make it easy to grab the wrench you need when you need it.
Drain snakes can be very bulky, so it’s important to have a place to store them where they won’t take up too much space. A great van-racking idea for drain snakes is to get a storage container that can be mounted on the wall. This will keep your drain snakes out of the way and make it easy to grab them when needed.
While pipe clutters can also help with van racking, they can be quite bulky. Yet they can be used as a storage container as long as they’re mounted on the wall. This will keep them out of the way and make it easy to grab them when they come in handy.
A sump pump is an essential piece of equipment for any plumber, but it can be very difficult to store in a van. Just like the pipe clutters, these could also be mounted on the wall to be used as a storage container. Their size, though, makes them better for storing smaller tools than pipe clutters.
In the same way as the previous two suggestions, showerheads can also be mounted on the wall, but you cannot store anything with them. Better hang smaller tools using them.
Ladder racks and work decks
If you have a big enough van, you may want to consider getting a ladder rack or work deck. This will allow you to store your ladders and other equipment in an organized fashion and make it easy to grab them when needed.
Again, if you have a big enough van, you may want to consider getting a pipe compartment. As a result, you won’t need to install a shelf since the pipes and tools will be stored together.
Expert level: Storing at a higher budget
Sometimes we don’t have an option to clear space for our tools. A creative way to work around this challenge is to add a “false” space in your van. This can be done in several ways:
You could build a false floor by cutting out a section of the van’s metal floor and adding plywood or another material to create a raised platform. This would give you some extra storage space underneath for things like toolboxes or other gear.
Similar to a false floor, you could also cut out a section of the van’s roof and add some material on top of it to create a “false ceiling.” This extra space above your head could be used for hanging clothes or storing seasonal items.
If you have a van with shelves, you can add shallow drawers that easily fit under the shelves. This way, you can organize and store smaller items like screws, nails, and other hardware.
If you often work with pipes (and being a plumber, you probably do), creating a dedicated storage space for them in your van may be helpful. This can be as simple as adding a few shelves or bins to store pipes of different sizes.
Every van has walls, so you may as well take advantage! You can add hooks or racks to hang and store items like hoses or ladders. This can help free up floor space and make it easier to access these items when you need them.
Even if you don’t have anywhere to sit in your van, once you have the space, you can add a fold-down workbench. This can serve as a secondary work site and is a great place to do things like cutting pipes or drilling holes.
Enterprise level: Hire van racking services
Van racking services are great options if you are ready to invest in your van or in your fleet. Any van racking service should be able to custom-build racking systems that work best for you.
Important safety tips!
Everyone knows how important it is to stay safe, but it never hurts to be thorough. That is particularly true if you put team members in charge of van racking or hire contractors to do it for them. Just show them the essential tips listed below.
When working by yourself (or when your techs work by themselves):
- Make sure that your van is properly secured before starting to work on it.
- Follow the instructions that come with any van racking or storage products you’ve purchased.
- Never try to modify or alter van racking products in any way. It’s not worth the risk.
When hiring a contractor:
- Make sure that the van racking contractor you hire is properly licensed and insured.
- Get everything in writing before work begins.
- Don’t pay the total amount upfront – only pay for work completed to your satisfaction.
After you’ve finished organizing your van (or after your techs/ contractors have finished):
- Take some time to tidy up your work area so that it’s presentable for future customers.
- Make sure all the tools and equipment you need are easily accessible and safely stored.
- Ensure the van is lightened so you can see all new labels and storage compartments.
- Check to see if there are any items that you may need to restock before your next job.
Organized vans = more efficient work
There are tons of different van racking ideas out there, so it’s important to think about what will work best for you and your van. We’ve given you just a few ideas to get you started. With a little bit of creativity and some elbow grease, you can transform your van into the ultimate plumbing toolbox on wheels!
And while Workiz can’t physically organize your van for you, it has a lot of benefits that can make your day-to-day more productive, efficient, and profitable. Our field service management software enables you to run your business on autopilot while keeping track of inventory, location, and plumber performance, leaving you with more time to focus on growing your business while avoiding unnecessary expenses on lost tools and messy vans.
So don’t let any more money go down the drain. Start your 7-day free trial to see how Workiz can work for you. You can also book a free 15-minute demo with a member of our team to get a full walkthrough of the product and learn how you can customize it for the plumbing industry.