If you’re interested in finding time for more business, making each job go faster and making a good impression with your customers, there’s one word that you need to pay attention to — and it's "organization."
When you take the time to properly organize your HVAC service van, it becomes an enormous benefit for your business. This is true whether you’re an individual contractor, a seasoned veteran who works for a company or somebody who is completely new and needs to be up and running within a couple of weeks.
An organized HVAC service van means increased productivity. You will be able to complete each job in a shorter period of time because you’ll know where every specific tool you need is located. With each job taking less time, you'll be able to increase the number of jobs you do in a day, which means increased income. Being organized helps you be a more productive worker. Organization eliminates wasted time, and wasted time costs you money.
Organization also plays another important role for you: it protects your equipment. As an HVAC service technician, you frequently carry large expensive equipment in your van. You don’t want to risk damage to these important parts for two reasons: it means you have to return to the workshop to pick up a new piece of equipment and, more importantly, it’s money out of your pocket. No customer is going to pay for a damaged HVAC unit.
Organizing your van properly may take some time, but it’s time well spent. Also, this task is made easier by the availability of shelving and rack units that you can install on your van so that everything has a place and there's a place for everything.
Tools Used by HVAC Service Technicians
Let’s take a look first at the tools that almost every HVAC technician is going to need when they’re out on a job:
- Refrigerant scale: This helps you or your technicians add the proper amount of refrigerant and helps avoid the problem of adding too little or too much.
- Vacuum pump: A good vacuum pump allows you or your technicians to determine where an air conditioning system might be leaking before you put new refrigerant in it.
- Cordless drill: In addition to a cordless drill, make sure you or your technicians have all the necessary attachments and at least two backup batteries.
- Reciprocating saw and replacement blades: A reciprocating saw is one of an HVAC service technician's most important tools. Make sure you or your technicians have enough blades so that a dull blade doesn’t mean a trip back to the shop.
- Variety of screwdrivers: This includes Phillips, hex and flathead screwdrivers. The screwdrivers should also have insulated handles to avoid electrical shocks.
- Variety of pliers: Make sure to include wire strippers, needle-nose pliers, channel lock pliers and linesman pliers.
- Variety of pipe wrenches: Pipe wrenches are very useful if you or your technicians are working on HVAC units that involve natural gas or plumbing connections.
- Mobile HVAC software: Using a mobile app allows you or your technicians to quickly book jobs, find prices, know the service history of the unit they are working on and communicate with the office efficiently.
- Voltage tester: Allows you to test the electricity of the equipment and helps avoid potentially dangerous problems with live wires.
- Tin shears and snips: You or your technicians will almost always deal with sheet metal of some kind when installing air-conditioning ducts. Make sure you have the shears and snips you need to properly manipulate the sheets.
So you or your service technicians are going to need quite a few tools in the field. That doesn’t account for other needed parts like nuts and bolts, hoses, filters or sheet-metal, to name a few. The importance of organizing your van so that you are able to access what you need in a timely and easy fashion cannot be stressed enough.
Tips for Organizing Your HVAC Van
So you’ve made the decision to organize your van. There’s no reason to feel overwhelmed. Van organization is possible using a few simple techniques:
- Map it out: Take a piece of paper and draw an outline of the interior of your van. You’ll use this to help organize what you put inside it.
- Front: This is where you or your drivers are located. Use the front of the van to store items like a pricing guide, invoices, your computer or iPad, and other important documentation that you need on a daily basis. Knowing where all this documentation is located makes it easy to find and use. This is a much better system than digging through papers on the floor of your van to find the right document.
- Near Doors: You want to keep things near your doors that you use regularly. This includes important parts or hoses that you use on almost every job. You want to be able to go to the van find what you need right away. Or when you get out to start a new job, you’ll want easy access to the tools you know you’re going to need to get things started. Your toolbelts should also be located near the door. Smaller tools and parts are probably best located near the side doors, while larger pieces of equipment can be stored properly near the rear doors.
- Interior: A disorganized van leaves almost no room for you or your technicians to move around inside the van. Nobody knows where anything is and it is difficult to get inside to either look for needed parts or remove them from the van. Organizing using shelving units and racks eliminates this problem. Shelving units provide places to keep parts, and racks can be used to store things like ladders. It also creates spaces where you can store larger pieces of HVAC equipment.
- High and low: Organize your shelves and racking according to use. You want to put parts that you use regularly near the top especially if they’re smaller. Place heavier and less used items near the bottom of the racks. This is also a health factor for you or your technicians. There’s no use making them bend over all day to find small parts placed in bottom drawers.
- Doors: Doors themselves can be an effective place to store tools. Using attachment devices like bungee cords or magnetized strips are great ways to protect and store tools like hammers or tape measures. Another option is to use hanging organizers that normally are used in closets to store shoes or belts and use them in your van to store lighter weight equipment that you will use regularly.
- Rear: We touched on this a bit above. This is the place to store equipment you use regularly but that may be a bit larger and more difficult to remove from a side door. Placing the equipment you use regularly near the rear or side doors saves time and eliminates the frustration of looking for an important tool in a cluttered van.
- More light: One of the factors that makes a cluttered van more frustrating is the lack of proper lighting. Looking for a needed part or a tool in the dark can take twice as long as normal. HVAC technicians work in all kinds of weather. It’s not always going to be brilliant sunshine. You may need to make an emergency call at night. Properly organizing your van space allows you to install lighting on the interior of the roof of the van. You can also place touch lights in especially dark places.
- Label: Buy a label maker. Use it a lot. Label every drawer in a shelving unit so that you don’t have to open 20 drawers to find what you need. Label each area of the van so you will know where to store larger pieces of equipment. Remember you want to make your tasks as easy as possible. It is the key to increased productivity and increased income.
- Uniformity: When you run a fleet of service vans, you want as much uniformity as possible. Organize all your HVAC vans the same way so your technicians know where each tool is and where each part is located regardless of the particular vehicle they are driving. If a van breaks down and a technician needs to use a different one than they regularly drive, you don’t want them to waste time searching for a part in an unfamiliar layout.
- Space for your technicians’ tools: However, you don’t want your vans so completely uniform that your employees start to feel like clone HVAC service technicians. Make sure you leave room for your employees to store their own tools and organize them in ways in which they feel comfortable. This will also reduce any possible resistance to the larger question of van uniformity.
Benefits of Van Organization
Having your HVAC service van organized offers a variety of benefits whether you're an independent contractor or a company owner:
- Your office is neater: Your van is your office. Think of it that way. If you worked a regular nine-to-five job behind a desk, you’d want to keep your office as neat and clutter-free as possible. It’s hard to get work done when papers are scattered all over the floor or needed documents are piled in a disorganized fashion on your desk. It is the same idea for your van.
- Your equipment is better protected: We mentioned this briefly above but it’s important to reiterate it here. If you’re an independent contractor, protecting your equipment is literally protecting your livelihood. If you run a fleet of service vans, the cost of damaged equipment can quickly pile up and affect your bottom line. Investing in proper storage shelving, racks, flooring and partitions mean keeping your equipment safe and in usable condition. In a cluttered van, important equipment can be damaged easily and needs to be replaced often.
- Seasonal adjustments: If you or your company service both air-conditioning and furnaces, you may need to change your tools over on a seasonal basis. Many of your tools will be usable for either job, but there are specific items that you won’t need for air conditioning that you will need to fix a furnace and vice versa. Having an organized van makes it much less frustrating and time-consuming to make the switch.
- Safety: A disorganized van is a dangerous van. Whether you are driving in the city, where someone ahead of you may suddenly stop, or in a more rural setting where deer or small animals may dart out in front of your van, the last thing you or your technicians want are hammers or other tools flying up towards the front of the van where they are sitting. Storage shelving and drawers and the use of racks and partitions help protect you or your technicians and your equipment.
- Awareness of inventory: If your van is cluttered and disorganized, you really have very little idea about how many important parts you have left or when important tools need to be replaced. Like in the example above of the reciprocating saw blades, you don’t want to arrive in a job and find out all your blades are dull and that you can’t use the tool you need. Organization helps you stay on top of your inventory. You’ll know how many items you have left, and you'll have a better awareness of when your tools need to be replaced.
- Better branding: Customers often decide whether or not they will continue to use your company based on a first impression. When you arrive in a clean, organized vehicle, it shows them that you know what you’re doing, you can deal with their problem quickly and efficiently, and they can count on you to get the job done. If they see you returning again and again to a disorganized van where you spend long stretches of time looking for a needed tool or part, they are more than likely to take their business someplace else.
- Customer satisfaction: This is one of the best results of improved organization in your service vans. Properly organizing your van results in happy customers. Customers are much happier to hear you say, “I can fix that right now. I have that part in my van and I know exactly where it is.” No customer wants to hear, “I’m not sure if I have that part. I’ll probably need to check back at the warehouse and return tomorrow.” Happy customers mean repeat business and great referrals.
Essential Van Equipment for HVAC Technicians
We’ve looked at some tips for HVAC service van organization and why organization makes so much sense in terms of time, money and productivity. So let’s look at some vital equipment that you can use to help organize your van.
First, think about whether you want steel or aluminum items to help organize the back of your van. Steel is a friendlier choice for variable weight loads and multiple terrain changes. On the other hand, aluminum is lighter than steel and could offer an advantage in the form of better gas mileage. If fuel use is important to you, aluminum might be the best bet.
Here is some van equipment worth considering once you've chosen a material:
- Shelving: Van shelves are one of the best ways to create storage systems that work for you or your technicians. They help prevent damage to unsecured tools and ensure safety for you or your technicians from flying objects. Advantage Outfitters offers a wide variety of shelving, including van shelving especially designed for HVAC contractors or technicians. The shelving is made from either aluminum or steel and includes holders for your gas bottles that help you achieve maximum storage that is available in your van.
- Floors: An especially smart option if you or your company have just purchased a new van or vans. Installing your new van with flooring — rubber floor mats, wood flooring or composite — reduces damage from punctures, helps you or your technicians move more easily in the van and helps improve the resale price when the day comes that you want to sell it.
- Wall and ceiling liners: Wall and ceiling liners help protect the interior of your van and reduce noise levels for you or your technicians. Like floor mats, wall and ceiling liners also improve the resale value of your van. Remember, your van is an investment, you should protect it like one.
- Partitions: Partitions not only provide additional spaces for storage but also protect you or your technicians from any objects that might come forward during a sudden stop. Advantage Outfitters has a large selection of partitions for HVAC vans. You can choose from steel or aluminum partitions, with or without windows and options for sliding doors. With so many options, you're sure to find the right partition for your HVAC van.
- Roof equipment: You want to be able to use every inch of your van for proper storage and less clutter. Create more room inside your van by using ladder racks and hitch in full steps to store them on the roof of your van or on the back door. Advantage Outfitters carries a wide selection of roof equipment items that can help you utilize your roof for storage including cargo racks, roof decks and conduit carrier tubes.
- Storage bins and other containers: Use storage bins, parts cases and tool drawers with your new shelving units to help keep important parts or smaller tools organized. Don't forget the lighting! No matter how organized you are, it's difficult to find what you need in the dark. Advantage Outfitters has worked with many HVAC technicians over the years and can help you create the organization system that works best for you.
Advantage Outfitters Can Help You Upfit Your HVAC Van to Improve Organization
If you’re looking to organize your HVAC van, Advantage Outfitters has all the equipment you need. We pride ourselves on being able to work with other independent contractors or HVAC companies who want to turn their van or vans into well-organized and safe vehicles for their equipment and their drivers. We have worked with many different service and construction industries who were looking for solutions to organizing their vehicles in ways that work for their operations.
We want to help you improve your productivity, reduce your expenses, save time, find the tools and equipment that you need more easily, and improve your branding with your clients. We work with all manner of service and cargo vans including RAM ProMasters, Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, Nissan NVs, Ford Transits and Transit Connect and more. Whether you have a single van or a fleet of vans, we can help you.
If you want to create the ideal customized shelving system for your service van or fleet, you can call us at 866-925-4844. You can also browse our inventory online and take advantage of our online order specials. We ship your ordered parts directly to you, and we use the most affordable and fastest shipping methods we can find. We know how important it is for you to keep your business up and running. Don’t hesitate to contact us today.