Some storage systems can be purchased ready to install, such as this one for DaimlerChrysler's Sprinter van. Photo courtesy of Knaack Manufacturing.

Organization is key to saving time - and money. The jobsite is especially important for workers in an industry like sheet metal, which must often transport materials and tools.

With constant traffic in and out of work vehicles, it is easy for tools and materials to get lost. That's why HVAC contractors need to keep track of what they have and know where their equipment is.

When contractors decide to outfit work vehicles with storage equipment, the process can often be confusing, frustrating and time consuming. However, the process often appears more overwhelming than it really needs to be. It can be as simple as assessing needs and following several simple guidelines to choose from the plethora of options.

With the right truck-organizing products, contractors can find their frustrations relieved.

Here are nine tips to guide contractors through the selection process.

A van fully equipped with shelves and other storage materials. Photo courtesy of Knaack Manufacturing.

  1. Determine what the storage needs are, based business practices. First, contractors should analyze their business needs. They should decide what storage equipment they need based on what their jobs normally entail on a daily basis. Do they use large or small tools? Does their job usually require the use of a ladder? Do they have many little parts that need to be organized and stored?

  2. Do not automatically accept pre-fabricated storage equipment configurations considered ‘typical' for the HVAC industry. If they are not satisfied with what the ready-made storage units offer, contractors should ask the company for more product selections. Many companies only show 30 or 40 products, while there could be hundreds more available.

  3. Is a bulkhead required for safety or security? Bulkheads protect the driver compartment from shifting loads in the cargo area that could injure passengers. Bulkheads also have the added benefit of providing added security. If one is needed, what kind is required? There are a variety of bulkhead designs that provide the necessary protection required. Contractors can choose from a screen or a window or windowless bulkhead. Is a swing door or sliding door needed? Or will a driver/passenger-side panel suffice?

  4. Based on size of tools used, contractors need to decide whether to install drawers, bins or shelves. Nuts, bolts and other small items are best stored in bins. Larger items such as thermostats, electrical connectors and fittings, should be stored in drawers. If drawers are installed, HVAC contractors should consider using dividers to separate items. Drawers that store heavy items should be low and off the wall of the vehicle; this helps with low center of gravity for safe vehicle operation and performance.

    Consider the height of what is being stored as well. Bigger, bulkier items are best placed low on shelving. Choose shelving that can be adjusted to accommodate different equipment heights.

  5. Since valuable tools are stored in the van, companies should think about installing an area that can be secured. Contractors may want peace of mind knowing that their equipment is safe and secure. A storage area that locks, including storage drawers, provides extra security. When requesting locking storage drawers, make sure the manufacturer installs a quality locking system that cannot be tampered with.

  6. Does a workbench need to be installed? Contractors need to determine whether a workbench is appropriate for their projects. Is work done on the jobsite or is work space in the van required?

  7. Consider storage for outside the van. If ladder racks are needed, contractors should determine what type will best suit their needs. How many ladders will be carried? A high van needs a ladder rack easily accessed, perhaps one that allows users to pull the rack down to retrieve the ladder. Is a conduit carrier needed? Many manufacturers offer equipment specifically for carrying and protecting conduit.

  8. What kinds of accessories, if any, are needed? Consider adding wire spool racks, hooks, literature holders, a hard-hat rack, fire extinguishers, first aid kit tray, an extension cord bracket, a spare tire bracket or a safety-reflector kit. These items may help reduce clutter and stay organized.

  9. When picking storage equipment, think about product quality and brand reputation. Not all companies are created equal, nor are their products. Make sure that products are made of durable materials, such as steel. Check to see if a company is dedicated to making improvements to its product line as well as offer a warranty on its product.

Ladders can also be attached to vehicles. Photo courtesy of Knaack Manufacturing.

It is important to have communication between the HVAC contractor and the company that will be equipping your vehicle. Contractors need to ask questions and communicate what they want and need.

One way that this can be accomplished is through configuring software that is now available in the marketplace. This software is an easy-to-use, 3-D, Web-based software that allows users to custom-design work vans with shelving, cabinets, ladder racks and accessories. Users visualize the design through interactive graphics and can print the design drawing and the list of materials needed. When the initial design process is finished, they have the opportunity to preview the design and make any necessary changes without committing to the actual implementation of the design plan. This process saves time and money for both parties and achieves the desired results for the contractor.