What’s the Most Efficient Crew Size for Sidewalk Snow Removal?

by Pete Robison 18. March 2014 10:06


Since sidewalk snow removal emerged as a separate specialty business, finding the most efficient crew size has been the subject of heated debate.  Given today’s competitive labor market and the need for higher productivity and increased quality, we should take another look at sizing sidewalk snow removal crews.

 

If you break it down, sidewalk snow removal is really a series of solo, one-person tasks which don’t always benefit from the addition of another worker.  Unlike landscape installation or construction, sidewalk maintenance crews don’t handle heavy or awkward equipment requiring more than one person to improve efficiency.  Given this lack of synergistic benefit on a per task basis, we should think of our teams as combinations of one-person crews.

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Be Ready to Quote Potential Customers All Year Long

by Pete Robison 28. January 2014 10:54

 

When potential customers call for a plowing service quote, most contractors ask why they’re looking to change vendors.  It’s a fair question.  If customers are unhappy with the service they’re getting, it’s worth taking time to find out the root of their unhappiness.  It’s possible the contractor is undercharging and needs to shortcut the job to turn a profit.  If so, be frank and explain that they are not paying enough for the service and that you’re more expensive – but the quality of work will be better. 

 

Customers who want better service at the same price aren’t looking for quality and dependability – they’re looking for the impossible.  If they’re just “price checking,” you might want to pass unless you need practice quoting work without getting anything in return.  Price shoppers are a fickle group, and they’re likely to change contractors on a whim just to save a buck. 

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Better Management of Production Workers Can Maximize Their Potential

by Pete Robison 23. December 2013 10:29

Worker removing snow and ice from a sidewalk.

As an industry, we need to reevaluate the importance of production workers in sidewalk snow clearing operations.  This group – usually part-time employees and often the lowest paid – should be the focal point of our management systems, beginning with the crew leaders who supervise them.  

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Thoughts on Customer Renewals & Multi-Year Contracts

by John Allin 17. December 2013 12:03

The entrepreneurial spirit within demands that we (as small business owners) continue growing our business’s in order fulfill the goals we set for ourselves when we started out.  These growth goals demand that we plan in some form in order to assist in achieving these goals.  When making the jump from operating a small ‘mom and pop’ operation to running a full blown business enterprise, projecting cash flows becomes an issue that requires attention.  One way to achieve these goals is to have reoccurring business each year.  Often, we run around each fall (or spring) making presentations to customers in an effort to renew them for each season.

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Be Good to Subcontractors and Grow Your Business

by Pete Robison 3. December 2013 11:07

Take care of sub contractors so you can grow your snow and ice removal business.The way subcontractors are paid is a big deal.  They’re the lifeblood of our industry and you need them to survive, so they should be paid on time and in full, always.  Stretching them out will give you a bad reputation, and that’s hard to shake.  These guys know who’s paying on time and who isn’t.  Good companies have service providers waiting to work for them because they’re always dependable. 

 

When paying subcontractors by the hour, consider a "differential system" depending on the type of equipment they use.  Start with a base rate that’s fair, and pay more for larger and better plows (such as a ‘V’ blade, snow wings, or capture blade).  Increase the compensation for their second and/or third year.  Offer more to drivers with an automatic transmission instead of a manual.  (No matter how much they plead, drivers simply can’t back up as fast with a standard transmission.)

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Thoughts on Safety and Snow Removal

by John Allin 19. November 2013 11:56

When we think of “safety” with regards to snow removal, there are some significant considerations that have to be taken into account.  The timing of the work that is required comes into play.  The vast majority of work done in winter snow removal operations is done at night.  This presents some challenges that don’t normally incur during landscape operations.  Additionally, a good portion of the work is done “behind the wheel”, and this too is different than most landscape/tree care/irrigation/excavation work.  

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7 Ways Your Team Can Effectively Plow Driveways this Winter

by Pete Robison 12. November 2013 09:07

Plowing residential or shorter commercial driveways is a huge source of business for many snow removal fleets.  Your drivers may have dozens to plow during a single sweep, making quality and efficiency a must. 

 

Plow your residential driveway accounts quickly and effecienty this season.

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Use Outside Service Providers to Grow Your Business

by Marge Lang 5. November 2013 11:32

Growing your snowplowing business to the next level often depends on how much equipment and manpower you can muster to deal with the increased business.  Additional equipment requires a substantial capital investment, but you can reduce those costs by using outside service providers to supply both the manpower and equipment to serve your customers during peak times.  If you aren’t familiar with securing and organizing outside help to grow your snowplowing operation, here are some suggestions and guidelines to assist you.

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4 Snow Removal Secrets to Successfully Plow Rural Areas

by Marge Lang 29. October 2013 08:00

When you plow rural areas, your team may encounter new application challenges along with different weather conditions which can greatly impact their ability to complete snow removal tasks successfully. Rural snow plowing has its own set of rules and guidelines to consider to ensure your drivers do a quality job while keeping themselves and your vehicles safe.

Learn the most effective ways to snow plow rural jobs.


1. Plan for Tricky Driveway and Lot Mixtures

Gravel or other dirt and stone mixture driveways are common in rural residences or commercial lots. This type of loose stone can present a challenge when plowing because it is difficult to gauge how well packed the gravel or stone is and where the edge is between the gravel and grass.

To overcome these obstacles, make sure you have a plow that can use skid shoes. These plow accessories enable you to set the scrapping height of the cutting edge of the plow blade. For gravel drives or lots, you will want to set the scrapping height for about one inch higher than the surface. This distance keeps the blade from digging in too far and ripping up grass or pushing a lot of gravel into the grass.

2. Use the Right Vehicle

Many times in rural areas, the job has tricky areas that could cause your truck and plow to easily get stuck. These instances require a durable, high-performance plow attached to a tractor or all-terrain vehicle (ATV). There are options available to utilize the features of a commercial grade plow on smaller off-road vehicles. Meyer's Path Pro plows are one model that is well-suited for the off-road demands of rural areas and are built to take the punishment less expensive brands can’t handle.

3. Prepare Before the Storm

Before the season starts, inspect the entire area for potential hazards such as holes, speed bumps, medians, low landscaping, fire hydrants and other obstacles that will be covered with snow.

Plowing with the storm is the key to overcoming the challenge of wind and vast open areas. In rural areas, it is common to find more open spaces because of fields or larger properties. Without many buildings to block the wind, gusts of any strength can make keeping up with the snow fall a challenge for even the largest fleets. These areas require more attention and constant maintenance when there is a storm.  Spreading sand or other de-icing materials as a preventative measure can help decrease problematic areas, keeping them from becoming too slick until your crew is able to clear them.

4. Communication Readiness

Part of the challenge in servicing rural areas is a fewer number of people around at a given time. This lack of activity can mean a driver who experiences some type of a stuck vehicle, medical emergency or other unplanned event may not have any immediate resources to offer assistance with their problem. Ensure your drivers are prepared and have the communication equipment and procedures necessary to receive help when it is needed. Establishing a type of buddy-system amongst your fleet can decrease the opportunity for driver emergencies due to lack of communication or attention.

Learn more industry insights to improve your fleet's efficiency this season with Meyer's free plowing tips guide

 

What other tips do you have for snow plowing rural applications? What lessons have your learned? 

13 Plowing Tips for Commercial Snow Removal

by Pete Robison 22. October 2013 08:00

Business owners expect and rely on your snow plow drivers to be quick and efficient when clearing their commercial properties. An unplowed driveway or parking lot means customers and employees can't access a business, which can cause missed opportunities in productivity and negative reviews for your service.

Parking lots and other commercial spaces may appLearn the best ways to snow plow commercial areas this winter.ear to be a fast job but there are important considerations to make as you prepare to service these accounts this winter. 

Preparing Commercial Accounts

·         Before the season starts, inspect the entire area for potential hazards such as holes, speed bumps, medians, low landscaping, fire hydrants and other obstacles that will be covered with snow.

·         Position markers or stakes with reflectors at least three feet off the ground to indicate boundaries, ditches, medians, shut-off valves and other areas that could cause damage when plowing.

·         Request a map or blueprint of the area to determine where to begin, open areas where snow can be stacked and other strategies to achieve the most efficient removal plan.

·         Ask for any restrictions as to where snow can be stacked or areas that the owner does not want plowed. 

·         Plan your removal so you are driving forward as much as possible.

·         Be sure you have the right equipment and vehicle to handle the demands of the job.

 

Plowing Commercial Areas

·         Always turn on warning flashers when plowing to alert any customer or employee that plowing is in progress.

·         Back-drag snow away from the front of buildings first, then push the cleared snow to the outer edges.

·         When plowing areas of 100,000 sq.ft. or more, it is usually most efficient to plow at right angles to the main artery, piling up windrows by back and forth passes in alternate lanes.

·         Create a large enough space to be able to accommodate cleared snow from future storms without blocking highly trafficked areas.

·         Do not pile snow close to handicapped spaces.

·         Begin plowing at the suggested accumulation for your property type: 1" for commercial and institutional areas; 2" for industrial establishments.

·         Avoid creating large piles near the end of driveways as they create visibility problems for vehicles entering and exiting the parking lot.

Inform your snow removal team of all the new account layouts and the strategies you have developed to ensure they can quickly and confidently clear each commercial property. Snow plow experts also recommend having your team ready to act when snow is expected as actual snowfall frequently exceeds the forecasted conditions.

Having a well-planned snow plow removal plan for commercial accounts greatly reduces the chances of having to implement expensive emergency actions and establishes your company as a leader in the snow removal industry.

What tips do you have for plowing large commercial properties?