Plowing Thru Summer Snow Planning
Early snow preparation can save you from a retail operation nightmare in the winter.
Summer Snow Planning?
Each year I sit down to write the snow preparation article and everyone chuckles because with the heat and humidity, snow is the last thing on their minds. Inevitably, the day the article hits distribution, it’s always the hottest day of the summer. We are even several months ahead of the seasonal retail inventory decisions that determine if a department store is stocking shorts or wool pants. All kidding aside, snow preparation is a serious issue and the summer is the ideal time to assess last year’s mistakes and plan for a successful snow and ice removal strategy that will save you and your company time, money, and manpower in the winter months.
Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan
The subject of snow and ice removal clearly requires the attention of national, regional, and district level retail facility managers. Unless you are located in the extreme south or Hawaii, a well developed “Snow and Ice Control Plan” is essential for safety, efficiency, and cost-effective exterior facility management.
Start with the fundamentals of your stores and facilities by reviewing basic site surveys and the location of sensitive exterior assets such as gas meters, hydrants, and curb lines. These areas will require staking or marking to prevent damage, accidents, and additional costs. Preparation, like in any endeavor, is the key to success. Unlike service during the “green season,” snow and ice removal requires specific logistical preparation in the form of site surveys and site staking. Although these preparations may seem mundane, they will make the difference between a successful snow start-up and an unsuccessful one that can result in lost customers and possibly litigation.
It is extremely important to understand your site and the areas which may pose the greatest risk to your customers. The demands of a loading dock area versus an entrance walk may offer different challenges and require different materials and prioritization. Like a hospital staff, your Exterior Services Company will conduct a site assessment that will triage the areas or priority and clearly define the priorities as it relates to a safe exterior. If you are not using an ESM company, it is important that you triage, define the areas of priority, of your site to ensure that safe conditions exist and there is no detrimental effect to the flow of customers into your location. By color coding your site maps you can define areas of urgent attention and manage an emergency snow event with a concentration on your customer and the conduct of your business.
Do You Have a Clean List?
Another important task is the development and maintenance of a “clean list”. This is often managed by the regional office if your company has centralized their facilities operations. An ESM company can be very instrumental in helping you to centralize your operations and develop a clean list. The clean list clearly identifies which locations are the company’s responsibilities and which locations may be subject to lease terms, franchising or non-customer ownership and responsibility. Completion of this list will allow you to forge ahead in determining assignment and areas of responsibility which is paramount in getting your snow plan into place.
Snow and ice storms can be unpredictable and result in operational chaos. They can also be very hazardous and a source of serious accidents and lawsuits. To protect organizations from litigation, managers should create a written, strategic, well-developed and executed plan. In short, it is the responsibility of grounds care managers to make sure all the bases are covered regarding snow and ice removal operations and liability.
Personnel and Equipment
Unless your company is in the business of snow and ice removal, it is rather difficult to layout and predetermine the manpower and equipment for an upcoming season. In all actuality, you can’t even compare the process to landscaping because of all the inconsistencies and geographical effects. Unfortunately, summertime is the time the mass orders start piling up for little things like front end loaders and snow plows. Another reason to consider outsourcing to an ESM…let industry contractors do what they do best for a fraction of the cost and liability. This will allow management to focus on sales, customer service and retention.
Finding the Right Winter Services Provider
Ask yourself the following questions when determining whom to choose as your ESM provider:
- What services do I require from my service provider?
- What should I look for in a winter services provider?
- Does provider carry insurance?
- How long has the service provider been in business?
- Do they belong to a professional organization?
- Is service provider able to give you comparable references?
- Does the service provider use contracts?
- Do you understand the different ways a service provider prices their services?
Economic Benefits of Good Winter Maintenance
- Reduces overall maintenance costs
- Reduces sweeping costs
- Reduces accidents
- Higher levels of service
- Increased equipment life
- Overall reduced material use
- Reduced impact to the environment
How Much Snow Will We Get This Year?
Only mother nature truly knows the answer to this. When budgeting for snow removal and ice control we recommend you use a five year average of your actual expenses. To check snowfall amounts for your area of the United States, see the average snowfall total table for hundreds of American cities and towns (provided by the National Climatic Data Center (http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov). Keep in mind that this information is only good for the actual collection location and snow accumulations can vary greatly from one side of a particular city to another.
Preparation, Planning and Procedure
In summary, it can be relatively simple to alleviate and eliminate concerns about snow removal by adhering to four basic principles:
- Always prepare thoroughly and early.
- Plan your snow removal program with careful consideration of specifications.
- Maintain tracking of weather conditions to provide the best early warning.
- Know your snow removal products and their relative effect on your exteriors.
Consider these principles and how they apply to your situation. It may be to your benefit, both economically and logistically, to consider the services of an ESM provider.
Ready to Evaluate Your Exterior Maintenance Services?
If your retail stores or facilities are struggling with snow and ice preparation, quality assurance issues, or simply have trouble completing landscaping specifications for national formats, you might want to consider calling a national ESM Company. A management program could improve your current landscaping and customer appeal, reduce your overall expenses, eliminate the worries of liability and provide fluid service to the exterior of all your facilities and stores.