April 15, 2012
By Bob Hodgins
Smart about Salt executive director

Terry MurphyAs the winter (such as it was) winds down, it is time to start thinking about what we need to do to close off this winter and prepare ourselves for next winter. Before our attention turns to the off-winter demands of our businesses, it is important to learn from the past winter and ensure that your staff, equipment, facilities and processes are prepared for November.

Lessons learned

Now is a good time to review your information from last year. How much chemical did you use to treat a given area? To answer this, you will need three pieces of information:
  • How much salt did you use? This comes from your daily logs and can be checked against your purchase records.
  • How much pavement did you service? This comes from your records of each site serviced.
  • How many winter events did you have — or how many times did you go out?

By dividing the total salt used by the area serviced and the number of events, you will know the average application rate.

This can be compared year-over-year to see if improvements in salt efficiency are being achieved. If this calculation is done for each site, it lets you better understand what is happening and determine if there are issues with calibration, or maybe even operator training. This information helps to highlight what needs to be worked on over the summer.

If you can’t do these calculations because you don’t have the information, then clearly improving your record keeping is the first order of business. This information is essential to obtain or renew your Smart about Salt certification.

Discussions between the contractor and facility manager (client) help to strengthen the business relationship, identify desired improvements, and start the preparation process for the next winter. You should consider walking the site after a rain to review drainage problems at each location.  This can be corrected before next year. By eliminating these drainage (aka icing) problems, the site will be safer next winter and require less salt.

Winter shut-down

Winter maintenance equipment should be cleaned, repaired and stored for the summer. Material storage facilities should be inspected for damage and repaired. Don’t forget the floor! Cracks can lead to salt loss into the environment. It may be necessary to move the remaining salt to inspect the floor and make necessary repairs. The final step should be to clean up around your storage facility and ensure that no salt is exposed to the elements.

Also update your certifications, including your Smart about Salt certification.

Planning for next winter

The post winter review and discussions with staff and service providers and clients should lead to a plan to improve operations for the next winter season. It is not good to leave this until the fall.

The somewhat quiet period after the winter is a good time to train staff. The Smart about Salt Council has training sessions posted at www.smartaboutsalt.com.

Begin immediately to start the purchase process for any new equipment, storage requirements or chemicals that you will need for next season. It takes time to get this equipment and to work out the bugs before you have to fight your first storm. Now is the time to consider what you will need to improve your ability to calibrate your equipment, obtain the data you need for record keeping, adjust your application rates and move into the use of liquids.

It is also a good time to think about your cost and revenue structure. Where can you reduce costs and enhance the bottom line? What added value can you offer to your clients? In this highly competitive world, it is important to find ways to differentiate yourself.

The world of winter maintenance is changing rapidly and becoming more complex. With all the demands of the non-winter periods, it is hard to keep one’s eye on the snowball.

This is my final article for this season. I hope that my ramblings have been helpful and provided some food for thought.
Please feel free to email me at smartaboutsalt@bell.net if you have any thoughts or questions. Have a great, safe and prosperous year.