Jobs Made Easier and Faster With Custom Storage

Custom-built storage system transforms box truck into a sparkling-clean mobile warehouse

Jobs Made Easier and Faster With Custom Storage

The inside of Anthony Ficara’s service van contains storage bins and shelving units he built out himself.

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When it comes to organizing plumbing trucks, Anthony Ficara — the owner of Quick Relief Plumbing in Kansas City, Kansas — literally builds on a simple philosophy: A place for everything, and everything in its place.

That mindset is vividly evident inside his sparkling-clean 2005 GMC Savana box truck, which features a 12-foot box body from Supreme. It’s outfitted with a custom-built storage system that impresses both customers and fellow plumbers alike.

“Customers usually say they’ve never seen such a clean plumbing truck,” he says. “I think it helps my business because when people see such a clean and organized truck, they correlate it with how clean I’m going to leave their house as well.”

Ficara’s emphasis on clean and well-organized service trucks stems from a fundamental equation: Quick and easy access to parts and tools amps up productivity. Better productivity means more jobs per day. More job per day results in more revenue.

Established in 2011, the company employs three people and runs three service vehicles in the metro Kansas City area. The company focuses on the residential market, centered on service and repair work, drain cleaning and plumbing for remodeling projects.

MORE SPACE, MORE INVENTORY

After 20 years in the industry and having worked for several companies, Ficara grew tired of working with trucks that weren’t designed for maximum productivity. He’s seen it all: 5-gallon buckets for storage, tools and materials “bungeed” in place, and items sliding off poorly designed metal shelving units.

“It could easily take five minutes to find what you need — if you could find it at all,” he says. “And time is money. Along with that, a lot of parts are expensive. So when they’re not in trays or bins, they can get trampled on or broken. You can accidentally destroy a $60 faucet cartridge before you ever get to use it.

“When trucks are organized, you know exactly what you have out there,” he adds. “You can pretty much step in the truck, grab what you need in 20 seconds and get back to working on a repair.”

Moreover, the ability to carry as many parts and materials as possible eliminates time-consuming and profit-killing trips to supply houses. Because there’s virtually no wasted space, the truck is able to carry approximately $12,000 to $14,000 worth of parts and materials, he says.

“A simple round trip to a supply depot might take an hour,” he says. “We don’t make money driving — we make money working. The ability to carry so much inventory is the difference between doing, say, three versus six jobs a day.”

A DIY SPECIAL

Tricked out with gleaming diamond-plate aluminum and a floor fashioned from Lock-Tile interlocking blue and gray PVC vinyl tiles, the truck’s interior is as eye-catching as it is functional. Ficara covered the 3/4-inch-thick plywood walls of his mostly self-fabricated system with diamond plating to create a ding- and dent-resistant surface, while the floor tiles — which are made from recycled materials and are oil and chemical resistant — provide an easy-to-clean surface.

“I’ve had wooden floors before, and if you spill something like cutting oil, the wood soaks it up,” he notes. “Then you walk on it and risk tracking it into a customer’s house. These tiles interlock so tight that I had to use a hammer to connect them.”

On the driver’s side of the cargo area, Ficara built a length-of-the-truck storage area at floor level to hold 10-foot sections of PVC pipes. Above that stand four open storage bays custom-built to hold large plastic bins, where he puts PVC fittings.

Above those, Ficara designed open spaces to store things like garbage disposals, sump pumps and large tools. And further toward the cab is another shelf unit designed to hold 10 Milwaukee Tool stackable parts organizers.

All shelves feature an aluminum lip to keep items from sliding off. Between the last storage section and the cab are open bays that hold tarps, flue-pipe fittings and coils of PEX tubing.

CLEVER USE OF SPACE

The passenger side of the cargo area features the only part of the storage system that Ficara didn’t build: four sections of shelving manufactured by American Van Equipment. Each section holds seven plastic bins, for a total of 28 bins. They hold a wide variety of repair parts and plumbing fixtures.

In the middle of the four sections, Ficara left an open area that houses a Masterforce toolbox with self-locking trays. One last section in front of the cab wall provides space to hold a 5-foot ladder and a dolly, he says.

By the rear door, on the back end of the shelving units on each side of the truck, Ficara bolted on aluminum tool holders made by J&M Commercial Van Outfitting. They hold everything from pipe wrenches and trash bags to a broom and plunger. “They help me fulfill my goal of getting as much on the truck as possible,” he says.

Ficara even made use of a small loft area above the cab by building a small cabinet that contains four drawers to hold more parts. The truck also offers enough floor space to easily accommodate a RIDGID K-400 drain machine.

Ficara says he primarily uses Milwaukee Tool and RIDGID cordless power tools and hand tools made by Channellock, Crescent Tools (a brand owned by Apex Tool Group), Klein Tools and RIDGID. He also owns a RIDGID SeeSnake Mini pipeline inspection camera.

WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT

Ficara estimates he spent between 40 and 60 hours over the course of around two months to outfit the truck. The total cost was about $4,500, he says.

“But you get all of that back — it pays for itself pretty quickly through increased productivity,” he points out. Moreover, he says a commercial storage system could easily cost that much or more.

In the end, Ficara concedes that even with a custom-made storage system like his, it still takes effort and commitment to keep things neat and organized. “But the efficiency you gain is well worth the time and money spent to get there,” he says.



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