NS Builders Cabinets-Only Installation Van
|TYPICAL JOBS||cabinet installation|
|MODEL||Mercedes Benz Sprinter|
|BODY||Full-Size Cargo Van|
NS Builders is a home building company in Boston, MA. This Mercedes Sprinter is used as a cabinetry installation van. Since this van only does installs, it is lean and minimal. It has a large cargo area and all the tools necessary for being out in the field.
Logistics: How It Works
There are three parts to NS Builders' cabinetry workflow:
- A large shop for cabinet construction and assembly.
- A Mercedes Sprinter van for transporting cabinets.
- A Mercedes Sprinter van for cabinet installs.
Many contractors have everything they own in a single tool trailer, but having a home base for storage, assembly, and inventory means that vans can be lighter and less cluttered. This can also be effective for reducing theft loss by only loading what you need for a typical workday.
Their transport van has a high roof and plenty of cargo room. The install van is smaller, but it still has tons of space due to the minimal tool loadout.
One benefit of a minimal tool and inventory load?
They can avoid taking the larger van by fitting materials and small cabinetry in the smaller van. This makes parking easier, reduces road risk, and reduces overall expenses, like labor and mileage.
If you don't have a suitable home base, consider that many tradespeople opt for a smaller van or trailer and pay for material delivery to the job site.
Some contractors do it all in one vehicle!
But the NS Builders cabinetry van specializes in cabinets, which allows them to carry fewer tools and materials.
Niching down your specialty can help your reputation: you are the "AC Guy" instead of a generic HVAC-R company. This can also help you to transition to lighter work. Instead of being a carpenter that does framing, decks, and millwork, you could focus on millwork, which takes less of a physical toll on your body.
Two Columns of Shelves
The van has two plywood shelf columns housing mostly Festool Systainers. The shape of the van's walls allows them to go one Systainer deep at the top and two Systainers deep at the bottom.
If you want to run a two container deep setup like this and you're worried about helpers not finding tools and inventory, you can strategically label your shelves so that no time is wasted in finding and putting organizers away.
There is some extra depth at the top of the shelves between the van wall and the shelf unit. This turned out to be a great place for some slot storage that holds a Milwaukee Packout and a hole saw kit.
The Packout is their "apocalypse box", containing hinges, feet, and other things that might be lost or broken on an install job. Millwork director Ken DeCost points out that the box allows them to have what they need without carrying a lot of inventory on the van.
Some contractors like to carry large amounts of supplies like nails and screws, but a low-inventory approach weighs less, takes up less space, and gives you fewer items to look at. A great way to do this is to buy inventory in bulk, keep them at your storage area, and refeed your small inventory containers as needed.
A plywood wall behind the shelf columns functions as vertical storage. It is a mini Packout wall (using Milwaukee's wall mounts), vacuum hose storage, and still has spare space if necessary.
Packout organizers hold fasteners and a Packout tote holds miscellaneous supplies.
Long Walk Efficiency
Installer James says:
Never leave empty-handed, never come up empty-handed.
They often do installations that are physically located far from their van, so it's important to make trips to the van as multipurpose as possible.
James uses a Veto Pro Pac backpack to carry his personal tools to the job site. Cabinetry entails long periods of time on the job site, so this makes more sense than using individual Grab 'N Go job kits.
Keeping It Clean
Dust control is very important to NS Builders, and they manage it by bringing one or both of the van's vacuums on to the job. The small Festool vacuum is one of the first tools James expects to use on the job.
They carry plenty of hose to fit the ports on any machine that needs to run, like the table and miter saws. A dual inlet hose connects two machines to the vacuum and saves the time of connecting and disconnecting whichever machine is needed.
Double Tools, Costs More, but Is More Efficient
Ken points out the importance of having multiple tools, since they keep several vacuums and doubles of some of their more costly tools. One set of tools can live on the van and one set lives in the shop.
This means that they never need to coordinate tool usage, and they don't need to worry about leaving a tool at the shop when it's needed on a job.
The NS Builders cabinet install van is a great example of how simple a specialized work van can be. This type of setup may externalize and increase some costs by relying on a home base and other vehicles, but it also means that the van can be light and lean.
Get work trucks and tips in your mailbox.
Your time is precious. We write about organization, tools, and techniques that make tradespeople work faster and more efficiently. Subscribe to get our articles and tips in your inbox.
We will not spam you.