Of all the tools used by trades, the trailer or mobile service unit, is the one used the most frequently. Because it is used on every single job, every day, a proper set up of this critical piece of equipment will save you thousands of dollars.
In this article, we describe our three steps process on how we organize tools and materials in a mobile service unit.
The first step is creating the master list of the unit content. Basically, a complete inventory of all fasteners, power tools, hands tools and materials that your trades need for their work. You want to make sure the list is exhaustive and encompass all that is needed for the jobs you want that unit to accomplish. Involving the workers who will be using that piece of equipment early is important because they always have good insights into what is needed. But you also must be careful about having too many items, you do not want to be including tools that are not used frequently.
The second step is to right size the vehicle or trailer to the number of tools and materials required. Once again, we are aiming for just enough, you do not want too big, because the inventory will grow to occupy the empty space, or, too small, that you end up with stuff piling onto each other. Once that decision has been made, you can start looking for the right storage system for your application. Lots of trades like to build their own, that is a good option if you have the time to do it and are not concerned about optimizing the space. We have a Tools Storage System specifically designed for these types of applications that can be a good option. Most of the time, the best solution is a mix of custom and off-the-shelf components from different vendors.
The third step is to position all the storage units into the shell of the trailer or truck body. Our preferred way of doing this is 3D modeling the complete assembly to make sure everything fits where it is supposed to. Traditional 2 dimensions plans are suitable; it is just more difficult to visualize the result. Also, one more way to do this is to do a mock set up, on the floor or a piece of sheathing, to constraint the dimensions, this way is very visual and a good way to engage the workers in the process.
At this point, you really want to think about ergonomics and accessibility because your trades will be spending lots of time gathering tools and materials in this equipment. The easier it is for them, the more time they can spend on what matters, their work.
When comes the time to position the tools, there is two approach you can use, themes, or tools specific. In the theme approach, the goal is to assemble all the items required for a certain job in the same location. For example, if you are a plumbing contractor, all tools, and materials for rough-in would be grouped together. This way it is easier to mobilize for a job. The tools specific approach, like its name suggest, is related to the type of tools and materials. Going back to our plumbing contractor, he would have all the fittings in one spot, all hands tools in another and all the power tools in a third location. In most cases, what work best is a hybrid of the two approaches.
Taking the time to carefully plan a project of this type is critical in improving productivity of field personnel. An optimal setup is an investment that will generate hefty dividends throughout its useful life.
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