Bott SMARTVAN Van Racks and Storage Solutions
I’m a big believer in modular storage and tool organization, so it only made sense that I would agree to install the bott Smartvan van racking system in my Sprinter van and review it.
Bott Smartvan is a German company that is coming to the US market. They design and manufacture a wide range of storage and mobile working options including shelving, integrated and removable drawers, removable boxes, and cases by Systainer, lockable cabinets, tie-downs, tool clips, and workbenches, and vice options.
They also have a raised load-bearing floor system that comes in half and full configurations, but it’s not available in the U.S. yet.
My Old Shelf System
I wanted a cleaner, sleeker, and more professional look than my standard old shelf system. The thing I disliked with my older shelving and that it was deep and created a narrow aisle in the center aisle of the van. The narrow aisle made it difficult to move around and transport larger tools or materials.
The deep shelves were needed to hold the PACKOUT storage boxes I was using. While PACKOUT is a very durable, cool system and certainly has its place on the job site, it’s bulky. I liked the idea of a customized system that was lighter, sleek, and professional looking.
Mobile Tool Storage and Customization | Not A NEW Idea
I feel that tool storage systems and being organized save time and are as important as the tools that are used to get the job done. A lot of contractors don’t consider the time they can save over the course of days, weeks, months, and years can add up. Time saved is money earned or … more time!
If you haven’t taken the time to analyze your work efficiencies during the course of a day you should.
You should ask yourself the following questions:
- How many times did you go back to the van, truck, or trailer for a tool?
- Do you store your accessories with your tool?
- Did you often rummage through your truck for a bit, blade, or accessory? Or are they all together?
- How do you store parts and fasteners? Do you keep them in bins, drawers, or organizers or are you a coffee cup kind of contractor?
- Do you have a system to get multiple tools and accessories into a job in one trip?
See where I’m going here? Contractors need to think about tool storage and organization as a system and investment.
Research has shown that the key to becoming better organized on the job site is using modular organizers. Modular organizers are designed to allow for better and more secure storage, better organization, and easier mobility.
Bott Smartvan Van Racking | Design and Installation
We worked with the bott Smartvan folks to create a customized rack system for my van. When I say customized, I’m talking about a complete tool storage and organization system that includes shelves, drawers, and Systainer toolboxes. We used their online configurator.
to select our system and the folks at bott Smartvan reached out and confirmed our choices.
Six initial takeaways that attracted me to the bott Smartvan system were:
- Custom Fitted to Your Van
- DIY Install ready
- Flexibility To Move Around
- Sleek Looking – Matching toolbox [Systainer boxes], drawers, and shelves
- Crash Test Certified
- Custom Fitted to Your Van
The bott Smartvan shelf rack system is a fully customizable storage system that comes with vehicle-specific mounting brackets. It is designed to be installed as a DIY project and doesn’t require drilling into the vehicle frame.
The bott Smartvan racking is comprised of a steel frame that uses vehicle-specific brackets and bolts that fit the van’s existing manufacturing fixing points, such as roll bars and structural ribs.
This no-drill fixing solution means you are causing zero damage to your vehicle. Once the frame is installed you simply mount the drawer or toolbox shelf rails into the frame at the different heights and depths within the frames in a configuration of your choice.
The shelving system is compatible with the Systainer storage system but also has shelves that fit other manufacturer toolboxes if you choose to go that route.
DIY Install Ready
The bott Smartvan system is designed to follow the side profiles of your van giving you the extra central aisle load space.
Because it mounts to existing manufacturer points in the van [like the tie downs and structural rails, it is so much easier to install than a plywood shelf system or an after-market system that requires you to drill through the floor and through bolt.
In contrast, ply van racking is bulky and nonadjustable and therefore cannot be customized to fit the profiles of your van. As a result, it wastes a lot of valuable space in your van.
Aftermarket systems often require drilling through bolts in the floor which eventually rusts through repeated exposure to the weather, rain, water, snow, and salt.
Flexibility To Move Around
The bott Smartvan bolt-in system means you can move components around easily, giving you flexibility and space to swap things around, as you change your mind on the shelf, drawer, or toolbox placement.
I found myself doing this after the first week of using the system. I placed many of the most used tools closer to the rear door so I could grab them without entering the van.
Sleek Looking – Matching Tool Kits and Shelves
As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to use the bott Smartvan Systainer boxes, so I had a matching shelf and toolbox system that was sleek and professional looking. The final product gets a verbal response of “wow” or “that’s clean looking,” compliment from everyone that sees my shelf system.
The bott Smartvan has been crash tested to comply with EU ECE / R17 standards, maximizing driver and passenger safety.
Thoughts On the Bott Smartvan System
If you are still reading this then I’m guessing that you agree with me that it only makes sense to organize your tools and accessories in such a way as to minimize the time it takes to store, locate, access as well as transport them to and from the job site. Time is money, right?
The system was easy to install and goes together like an erector set, for adults! Plus, I felt good knowing that the system was structurally designed by engineers and crash test rated.
Because the boxes are smaller than my prior system it forced me to reevaluate what I really needed and what could be stored in the shop. Additionally, the drawers allowed me to create accessory support storage for my tools. For example, one rack has a drawer with all my finish nailers stowed inside, complete with all the fasteners I use with that tool. This eliminated my having to search in multiple locations for fasteners.
I placed the heaviest boxes and drawers center of the van’s axle, low to the floor, and put my least used tools in the very front of the van which is where I store my ladders. Because these tools are accessed the least, I did not mind blocking them with step ladders.
One thing my guys and I noticed immediately was that we gained more center aisle space, in fact, I’m sure we more than doubled the space we had. This makes moving around inside the van easier, as well as allows us to carry bulky materials or tools to a job site if needed.
Another immediate benefit I noticed was that we have better rear door access into the van. My earlier configuration required me to open both doors to enter, now I can get in one door.
Building A Charging Station
bott Smartvan makes a small end panel, called a “Perfo panel,” that mounts to the end of a shelf rack. The Perfo panel can be used to mount tool clips and other items. At my side door, I mounted my track saw mounting bracket to a Perfo panel
I found the Perfo panel a bit small and would like to see it offered in a larger, longer configuration.
I have a shoreline plug on the rear and an external van wall, this plug feeds an internal power strip that allows me to plug into power and charge my batteries at night. It also allows me to keep a hot box in my truck in the winter to prevent caulking and glues from freezing. In order to mount my chargers to the Perfo panel, I needed to widen and lengthen it with ¾ plywood, through-bolted to the Perfo panel.
I will note that bott Smartvan does not approve of field modification like this because it is not crash test certified. I do know they’re listening and my comment and charging panel will no doubt make it to some internal discussions.
I ended up reversing the labels on the bott Smartvan boxes and affixed labels to them, in effect creating a 100% labeled storage shelving system.
Using the bott Smartvan system so far has been a great experience. I put a lot of thought into the toolbox and drawer placement. The rear, right side of the van has a vertical row of toolboxes that I reach for on almost every job. With those boxes, I made organizer trays with supporting accessories.
For most projects, I end up bringing the entire toolbox into the job site and using the 4-wheel bott dolly once inside. The dolly works great for rolling a tower of tools clicked together around. Once I start working the tool must come off the tower to be accessed.
Other times I may pull a few needed tools from their boxes and carry them in with my large tool bag. Overall, I am pleased with the system, and it has allowed me to work better in my van.
Room For Improvement
There are a few things I’d like bott Smartvan to consider improving on. The top of the rack system should have a shelf. It is an unused space and a place that could house accessories, glues, and adhesives. I think it would be a great spot for long items storage like my levels, track saw tracks, laser pole, etc. If I had to guess, I bet they’re working on a solution as I speak.
One last improvement Id like to see is an option to mount long shelving in the racks and drawers and boxes. Currently, you need to install a vertical divider in the racks to accept drawers and boxes. Once you do this you can no longer install one long shelf. Instead, you must settle for two shelves with a vertical divider.
Bott Smartvan | Cost
So, how much does the bott Smartvan system cost? The average cost starts around $4000 and goes up depending on what you purchase, remember this is a 100% custom and flexible system. You certainly get what you pay for.
This is one of the most asked questions on the item I review. Which makes sense. If you’re going to invest in a van racking system, it’s crucial to understand what you’re getting for your money, what costs extra, and what the ongoing costs and savings might look like.
Final Thoughts on the bott Smartvan System
It’s not uncommon to see a contractor overlooks the “tools that protect the tools.” Smartly, well-designed tool storage systems simplify the protection, storage, and transportation of tools and accessories, resulting in you spending more time working, and less time searching.
After installing the system, myself, and using it for some time I find the bott Smartvan racking system to be a strong, durable, and flexible system. I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of the system that allows me to easily switch things around as I determine my workflow in the van.
I also like the smaller-sized, lighter boxes that have allowed me to focus on the efficiency of design and space. Most importantly I love that I now feel more organized. It’s a great system!