James Wilkins is the owner of Wimbledon Electrician and purchased his first set of Bott Smartvan racking in 2017. We caught up with him for a chat about what drove his decision to buy a Smartvan solution and how the racking has worked for him over the last year.
Can you give us a potted history of Wimbledon Electrician?
Well, we started as Wilkins & Wilkins Property Services LLP in 2009. My dad had just retired from the police force and used his retirement money to set us up. I was newly qualified and it was still during the recession so it was really the only way that we could get started at that time.
Last year we became limited and changed the name to Wimbledon Electrician. Since then we have taken on another electrician and an apprentice, and we now have two vans in our fleet. It’s been hard work, with ups and downs, but that is all part of being your own boss.
So what made you look into van racking?
I was feeling a lot of pressure, and finding it very stressful trying to work long hours and do all the admin that goes into running a small business. I realised that we needed to be more organised across the board, so we looked into lots of things, including accounts software and van racking. We were getting the new vans and it made sense to put new racking in as soon as we got them.
So were you only interested in professional steel racking or did you consider just doing DIY ply?
Well, before in our old vans we just had wooden racking but it kept falling apart.
What were your criteria for choosing a van racking system?
The main thing was it needed to be rugged and robust. It might be in the van for 10+ years so it has to be strong and durable. It was also important that it had some flexibility; some of the other options that we looked at were very rigid, we couldn’t move elements around within the racks to suit what we wanted.
So what was the deciding factor that made you choose Smartvan?
For us it was about our vans. They are one of the most expensive things you’re going to buy and they are your workhorse, they become almost an extension of you! Not having to drill into our new vans was a big plus for us. It’s a clever solution to design it to bolt to existing fixing points and I really liked that. It also made it easy to remove and reinstall when one of our vans was recently written off and we had to swap the racking over.
What has been the biggest benefit you have experienced since having Smartvan racking in your vans?
The amount of space that it has freed up is the most obvious thing. Being able to fit the van vault slider under the raised deck has been a great space saver. We also set both vans up with exactly the same kit, so we all know where everything is in each of the vans if we ever have to swap round for any reason. It’s made us all a lot more organised.
What’s your favourite bit of the Smartvan kit?
It’s all great, but I really like the little bottBoxes with the dividers and the clear plastic fronts. They’re great for storing small parts like sockets and it’s easy for me to glance in the van and see any parts that are getting low. It stops us from getting to jobs only to find out too late that we don’t have the parts we need.
What would be your advice to someone considering purchasing van racking?
I would say take the time to have a tinker around with what you think you might need. The configurator tool on the Smartvan website is really great for that. Also, opting for a self-fit system was a big deal for us as it kept the cost down and meant we didn’t have to plan to have the vans off the road, we could easily have lost three days work if we had had to send the vans to be fitted somewhere.
And finally, anything else you think we haven’t covered that might be useful to other tradespeople?
Just that I’m a big believer that if you find something that works you should let others know about it and that’s why I’m happy to do this interview. We have a great online trade community where people are always sharing hints and tips and this is just another way of doing that.