The Talented Team Responsible for These Trucks
This time of year, our Burlington, Wisconsin manufacturing facility is a busy place. As we are writing this, the shop doors are open to let the cool breeze in while trucks are being worked on both inside and out on the apron. Off in the distance, music can be heard lofting through the air, probably from our fabrication shop just across the parking lot. Vehicles scurry about from place to place as our lot crews are busy getting trucks where they need to be for the next stage of production. And a nearly completed command center is being parked out in front of the building, front-and-center for a customer’s final inspection.
Custom vehicles are constructed much like an assembly line, however you won’t see any conveyor belts or robots here. The talented teams that build these trucks have very specific roles to ensure vehicles are completed on time and meet our stringent standards.
This blog is written to read like a facilities tour. We interviewed employees in all departments to let them describe what goes into building a custom truck.
Our tour begins at the beginning. On the afternoon we stopped by the Quality Assurance Area, Gonzalo, or Gonzo as everyone calls him, was busy marking-up a brand new Freightliner MT-55 for flaws. He and his team inspect every chassis (and body) that arrives on grounds. Before any work can begin turning that chassis or bare body into a custom truck, it has to meet Gonzo’s strict standards. His pre-build inspections add another level of quality control to our vehicles.
The base for all future production starts with this department.
“Our department checks every new chassis when it arrives. We want to make sure it’s in perfect condition before work begins on it,“ Gonzalo said.
Our CAD Designers ensure all of the customer’s wishlist items are included in the design of the truck. Everything from lavatories to slide-outs, workstations to wall diagnostic sets, nothing is left out. LDV is unique in that our CAD Designers are part of the pre-construction meeting. So in real time, our customers get to see a working layout of their truck.
“Its really rewarding to work on custom vehicles that are going to be used all over the globe. These trucks are awesome,” CAD Designer, Ben Vos told us.
Ben is one of several CAD Designers responsible for creating custom law enforcement vehicles, medical units, library outreach vehicles and more.
Our Sales Engineers are involved with our trucks the entire way. Custom trucks don’t happen without them.
We assign a Sales Engineer to each truck (customer) that we build. These Sales Engineers determine what the customer’s needs are, which parts are needed to meet those needs and then work with our CAD and Engineering Departments to create the truck. Next, detailed specifications are produced. Once the truck build begins, the Sales Engineer follows the truck daily to ensure all of the pre-planned milestones are met.
Jake, shown here, is one of our seasoned Sales Engineers.
“We are really good jugglers, basically. We have to keep track of every detail, every change order and make sure the truck is not only on schedule but also meets customer expectations,” Jake said. “I love seeing a customer’s reaction when they see the finished vehicle. It makes all the hard work worth it.”
Our famous Fab Shop creates everything from brackets to storage boxes, slide-outs to stairs and everything in between. We identified two distinctly different fabricators to help outline what their department contributes to custom trucks. On a recent Friday morning, Taylor was busy cutting out a wall section and floor in a new command center to make room for one of our flat floor slide-outs.
“As you can see, I had to cut out this wall and the beams as well as part of the floor to make room for a tub (LDV slang for slide-out). We do a lot of cutting and welding over here. We also install storage boxes in the trucks,” Taylor, Welder Fabricator told us.
Taylor is one of many talented Welder/Fabricators that we have on staff. He can be found cutting or welding on huge command centers to prep them for our hand built flat floor slide-outs.
The storage boxes that Taylor is referring to are built by other fabricators within our shop. Alex is one of those talented team members.
“I build the storage boxes, generator boxes and other compartments that get added to our custom vehicles,” Alex said. “We work off blueprints from our engineers to ensure the box fits the customer’s truck perfectly.”
Alex also does all of the prep work when installing the generator.
Ryan and the other Gen(erator) Crew members are responsible for adding generators to nearly every truck that we build. They run the fuel lines and wiring, add the insulation and install the generator into the custom fabricated housing that a team member built a few stalls over from his area.
“It’s pretty cool that we get to touch almost every truck. I enjoy working on all of the law enforcement vehicles, medical units and SWAT trucks. Seeing the finished product feels good to know I helped build it,” Ryan Sawall of our Gen Crew said.
THE LOT CREW
Kayla and her team are essentially the conveyor belt in the assembly line analogy. They ensure trucks are picked up, moved and brought to different departments to ensure work is being done on time. The Lot Attendants are critical to ensuring trucks remain on schedule.
“We test drive, fuel and weigh each truck. We also are responsible for moving them throughout our facilities during the build process. We basically work with everyone here,” Kayla Ketterhagen, Lead Lot Attendant told us. “We also perform pre-ship inspections on every truck; basically we are the last set of eyes on it before it leaves for the customer. We have to be very detail oriented.”
Kayla is the Lead Lot Attendant. The lot team is responsible for getting trucks where they need to be throughout the manufacturing process.
THE ALMOST NEW CREW
Another important area of our business is our Refurbishment Department or Refurb as they are known here. Customers trade in their preowned tool trucks when buying new ones from us but before we resell the used vehicle, it undergoes an extensive process to bring it back to ready-to-work condition.
“We inspect preowned trucks thoroughly for flaws, clean and lubricate the liftgate, locks and doors. We also recharge the air conditioning and replace batteries if needed. We inspect all of the wiring and perform cosmetic touchups on all of the trucks,” said Jim, Lead Builder in our Refurbishment area.
Our Lynch Truck Center also gets involved to replace brakes and perform other necessary maintenance on the trucks. The result is a clean, ready-to-work truck at a great value.
Jim is finalizing the details on a work order for a recent trade-in pre-owned tool truck. This particular truck will make a visit to our Lynch Truck Center which is 15 minutes from LDV.
EVERYTHING THAT GOES INTO THE TRUCK
Our Parts Department is impressive. We stock nearly every component that is required to build Snap-on tool trucks, law enforcement vehicles, medical units and more. This crew puts together carts full of parts needed to build a truck and delivers that to the build stall. In addition, they help our Parts Specialists get replacement and maintenance parts for customers when they call in.
“We inventory and place all the parts on the shelves but also pull everything that is needed to create a truck during the build process,” Kevin, Material Handler told us. “It’s a fun department to be a part of because we get to work with everyone and be involved with almost every truck.”
Kevin is one of our Material Handlers and has been with us for 4.5 years. His unique skill is you can show him a bracket or piece of velcro and he can locate it within seconds on the shelf. Quite honestly, it’s amazing.
LDV’s Woodshop is a full fledged carpentry and cabinet-maker shop complete with band saws, table saws, spray booth and more. Since the beginning, our talented Woodworkers have designed and built all sorts of components, shelves and more for tool trucks and other special service vehicles.
Natalie has been with us for three months and enjoys building custom cabinetry for our Snap-on tool trucks.
“I mostly build cabinets, repair centers and floor drawers for Snap-on tool trucks. You have to have great attention to detail, an understanding of shop tools and work safely every day. I enjoy working with all the different materials that go into the trucks we build,” Natalie, Woodworker, told us.
Meet Natalie. She is a talented Woodworker that can be found knocking out cabinets, drawers and more mostly for Snap-on tool trucks.
Jake is one of our Entry Level Builders that works on the Snap-on side of the building. He is responsible for the wiring, insulation, plywood and accessories that go into new tool trucks. He noted that you have to be really good at using a tape measure, utility knife and cordless drills to do this work.
“We do all of the prep work for custom Snap-on tool trucks, Rock-N-Roll Cab Express trucks and the Shop Essentials,” Jake told us. “I enjoy doing all of the wiring in the trucks.”
Jake pauses for a moment in front of a new tool truck. He was busy wiring the interior of the truck body to ready-it for the rest of the interior.
Probably the most visual aspect of the custom vehicle process is when the graphics are applied. And working on such a large canvas requires patience and a well-trained eye. We stopped by our Graphics Shop to watch this crew work on applying Snap-on decals to a new custom built tool truck.
Anthony helps ensure these custom trucks look their best when they roll out of our facilities. He makes it look easy when installing stripe on the side of a giant tool truck.
“We touch nearly every truck here,” said Lead Graphics Installer, Anthony. “We apply the striping, logos, badges and more to the trucks. It can take us anywhere from a half day for a Snap-on franchise truck to two days for a large command center.”
Every decal that gets applied is carefully diecut, backed and installed on the truck but before that can happen, the team makes wax crayon marks to properly align everything. Seeing a finished truck with all of the graphics applied shows how much hand work is necessary to achieve the finished look.
TAKE A SEAT
Eli is one of the two talented Upholsterers that builds all of the seating, straps, curtains and more for our custom vehicles. This team takes great pride in ensuring the seating they build is durable yet comfortable.
There is a balance between stylish and “too much” when creating seats for a command center, however, anything goes for a medical unit or bookmobile.
“Our seats are incredible. We spend a lot of time to get them right,” Eli, Upholsterer told us. “There is always room to improve. We constantly try to make them better for the customer.”
When a truck rolls into our Detail Department, this group gets to work.
“We start by washing all of the trucks, cleaning the interior and the windows. We also check tire pressure, apply safety decals, add wheel hardware and more. Basically, it is our job to ensure the truck looks 100% for the customer,” said Kadence, Detailer.
With so many trucks passing through these buildings, it is important to keep them on track to meet the delivery date.
“I work with our Detailers to assign daily tasks, update our online truck tracking tool and perform final checks of each vehicle,” said Lead Detailer, Jake. “We have a lot of trucks that pass through our department so maintaining a high level of quality is critical.”
Lead Detailer, Jake is one of many in our Detail Department responsible for making these trucks look their best. Jake is hands-on and can be found moving trucks, assisting co-workers and more.
Once final detailing has been completed, the truck is ready for the customer. Even though it might be our last physical interaction with some of these trucks, our lifetime support allows us to stay in contact with our customers for technical support, parts and more. We owe it to our talented team who make these trucks truly exceptional. Think you have what it takes to help build custom trucks like these? Visit www.LDVjobs.com to view our current career openings.