When a younger Greg Vollmer built his shop, he felt like it was about all he could bite off at the time -- honestly, he thought it was more than he could bite off. But he soon found that shop too small.
"That shop got full very quickly," he said. 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 feet. "We have seven semi-trucks and it's hard to pull them in and still close the doors."
Vollmer is a seventh-generation farmer. With his wife, Jennifer, they operate Midlakes Custom Services near Hilbert, Wisconsin. Their business is forage and Midlakes sells to a large customer base of dairies.
The long Morton Buildings structure is key to the operation. "Its overall purpose is maintenance," Vollmer said. "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.
BEST IDEA: MAKE IT BIGGER
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 so traffic can exit from the rear of the shop. This lane includes a below-floor maintenance pit giving repair crews easy access to Midlakes' semi fleet.
The floorspace 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 job at hand. That means his workboxes and benches are mounted to wheels. "Wheels bring the tools to the work," he explained.
And, the rest of the ideas ...
-- Moving air. Vollmer's shop features a large air exchanger. It is an appliance that cleans the shop air of welding and paint fumes and dust.
-- Compressed air. The shop has an abundance of compressed air drops. Vollmer values them highly. "They are a hot commodity. Hotter than electricity," he said.
-- LEDs. The maintenance bays are lighted by nearly four-dozen LED fixtures.
This is one in a series of America's Best Shops. If you have a farm shop you'd like us to feature, send a note to: firstname.lastname@example.org. If we publish your shop story, we'll pay you $500.
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