When a younger Greg Vollmer built his shop 10 years ago, he felt like it was about all he could bite off at the time.
He soon found the shop too small. "That shop got full very quickly," he said. By 2017, he added two additional work bays, a three-office business center with meeting space and laundry, and 70 feet of cold storage.
One regret: Vollmer wishes he had made the shop 80 feet wide instead of 66. "We have seven semitrucks, and it's hard to pull them in and still close the doors."
Greg, a seventh-generation farmer, with his wife, Jennifer, operates Midlakes Custom Services, near Hilbert, Wisconsin. Their business is forage, and Midlakes sells to a large customer base of dairies. The business, with eight full-time employees and 20 part-time and seasonal workers, custom-harvests alfalfa from 15,000 acres and corn silage from another 4,500 acres. Vollmer produces both on his own farm of 700 acres.
The new Morton Buildings structure is key to the operation. "Its overall purpose is maintenance," Vollmer explained. "We need to get our equipment in and out fast. When you have that [harvest] window, you have to hit it." The bays are a vital tool in themselves. Vollmer's crew has the space now to tear down equipment and still perform normal maintenance functions all inside. "Even when it's midnight, we have to get up and get going," he said.
Midlakes operates a large line of forage harvesters, semitrucks and tractors to maintain. "We do a lot of maintenance in-house, and we need a place to do it," Vollmer continued. Especially in winter, when temperatures drop down to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit and more.
The following are key pieces -- and good ideas -- from Vollmer's shop:
-- The shop is accessed from the front by six 16-foot-high overhead doors. One door is 24 feet wide, and it leads to another 24-foot-wide door that steers traffic through the back side of the shop. This lane includes a below-floor maintenance pit. The remaining doors are 28 feet wide.
-- Vollmer's shop features a large air exchanger. It is an appliance that cleans the shop air of welding and paint fumes and dust.
-- The shop has an abundance of compressed-air drops. They are not expensive to install, and Vollmer values them highly. "They are a hot commodity. Hotter than electricity," he said.
-- A three-zone in-floor system provides heat for the shop. Vollmer said the heating system is efficient and produces a "comfortable" heat.
-- Floor space is lighted by six banks of LEDs, 45 fixtures in all. They throw a highly visible clean light onto the work floor.
-- Vollmer works to stage his work bays with all the tools needed for the work at hand. That means his workboxes and benches are mounted to wheels. "Wheels bring the tools to the work," he said.
Editor's Note: This is the first story in DTN/Progressive Farmer's series on America's Best Shops where growers share their resourceful and innovative ideas for indoor workspaces.
Dan Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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