A large sign in Kevin and Andy Paap’s farm shop, near Lake Crystal, Minn., makes clear the family’s oft-expressed mantra. Inherited from Kevin’s grandfather’s shop, now situated above the workbench, it reads in bright red letters: “Please put it back.”
As president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, Kevin is a busy man, constantly on the road from St. Paul to Washington, D.C., and to destinations overseas. All that plane time is in addition to running his southern Minnesota corn and soybean operation.
Organization and efficiency is key to his life. Searching for misplaced tools or parts is a real pet peeve.
It is organization that extends to the Paaps’ field service truck. Every item has a compartment. Every tool, nut and bolt in every drawer is labeled by size like a mobile filing cabinet either with its metric or English measurement. A metric chart is pasted inside the tool compartment door. Part sizes, bolt or cotter pin sizes for tractor, planter, combine and headers are all pasted to the tool compartment walls.
Every piece of information needed to get through a busy workday, right down to emergency service numbers, is pasted somewhere on the truck.
“For me, the truck started as kind of a midlife project,” Kevin said. “I wasn’t going to buy a motorcycle, and, living on a gravel road, plus when you own a motorcycle you always have to wear one of the shoei helmets and I definitely think that’s not for me. I really couldn’t buy a convertible; so Andy and I decided to work at setting up a state-of-the-art service truck.”
During the months it took to get the truck designed and assembled, “It was a good bonding experience for us in the shop — wasn’t it Andy?” he said in the direction of his son.
In fact, it took 115 days over two winter seasons to get the truck exactly the way they wanted it.
They found the 1-ton dually, a gas-engine, Chevy 3500, retired from the city of Milwaukee, Wis., fleet, in northern Minnesota and purchased it for $8,900.
“It was the right-sized vehicle, plus, government trucks are usually in better shape than most used trucks you’d find from contractors,” Kevin said.
The two started by adding red striping to it, not only to dress it up but as a safety factor. They added running boards to the cab and then installed 70-watt high-intensity telescoping work lights to each corner of the truck bed, and strobe lights front and rear for road safety.
LIGHT IT UP
“We’re into lights,” said Kevin, noting that the work lights can be operated either from the cab or by individual toggle switches.
One goal was to situate units, such as the mobile air compressor, welder or jack, around the truck bed and still have room to haul a pallet. The truck is equipped with a 4.5-gallon DeWALT air compressor, a Miller Wildcat 200 (6,500-watt) generator used in the field for both generating and welding, and a 20-ton air bottle jack that can be used either hydraulically or pneumatically. A vice is bolted to the rear bumper.
The tool compartment — the most used compartment on the truck — is situated for convenience directly behind the driver’s-side door. Also on the driver’s side, general storage compartments are situated in front and above the rear-wheel well. A fluids compartment is located behind the rear-wheel well.
In front of the wheel well on the passenger side is the cabinet containing the welding tools and hoses, and air compressor hose reel. The DeWALT air compressor and Wildcat generator are situated in the truck bed right behind the cab with open access into the side compartment.
Three other storage compartments, including one with labeled drawers for nuts and bolts storage, round out the passenger side.
SHOP TO THE FIELD
In addition to the organizational efficiency of the truck, the other key benefit, of course, is total mobility. “We can make a quick drive to Mankato and load up the truck with parts we need,” Kevin said. The Paaps also do fall combining with a partner located 14 miles away from their home shop.
Before the service truck, Andy said, it seemed they were always chasing back and forth in the pickup for things they needed in the field. Now, most everything conceivably needed through a day — and night — in the field is on the service truck.
“What’s nice about the organization of this truck,” Andy said, “is we don’t have to waste time in the field searching for the right tool, nuts, bolts or parts.”
That is, of course, if everything is put back in its proper place.