Ready, set, snow

Snow can enter the forecast at a moment’s notice, and getting prepped efficiently can help you react to a snow event better.

Snow events, despite being a tad unpredictable, take plenty of planning.

Dan Robertson, director of operations at Contemporary Landscape, says it can be hard work preparing for a snow event at the St. Louis-based company.

Despite little snow so far this year, the business is expected to be booming with snow work later this season.

“We have more clients this year for snow than we ever had before,” he says. “We’re looking at 180 acres of snow removal this year. We’re plenty busy. We’re pretty much full. We haven’t been desperate for snow work. A lot of our maintenance clients are also snow clients, we have some that are add-ons and we have some that we’ve sub-contracted to others or from others.”

And as director of operations, it’s Robertson’s job to have the crews, and their equipment, ready to go once the snow starts falling.

During a traditional snow event, Robertson says the company will send out about 150 laborers. For a small salting event he sends out about 30 to 40 people.

“The hard part is making sure that all the equipment, and all the labor, is ready for when and if it is going to snow,” he says. “Since we’ve had just a little amount of snow so far, everyone’s doing their full-time job or 9 to 5, but when it snows you’ve got to get 100 people together for a snow event that might happen or might not happen.

“Having that much labor ready to go at the drop of a dime is the hardest part,” Robertson adds.

Robertson says the first step in the preparations is getting the fleet in order.

“All of our trucks are out working, so if all of a sudden it’s going to snow, we’ve got to bring them all back in to get plows on and get ready,” he says. “We don’t just set equipment up for snow and park them to let them sit. They’re out working and making money in the meantime, and when snow comes, we switch gears and switch them over.”

Then comes the more difficult part, finding and scheduling his laborers. Robertson notes that the majority of the snow help work other jobs in other industries.

“So, I have to take these people and put them into the schedule wherever I can fit them,” he says. “I have to take their availability into account. You might have one guy who is available till midnight, and another till 6 a.m., and that’s hard to schedule it all right.”

Robertson says he makes sure to waste no time when snow is in the forecast. He also stresses the importance of keeping employee contact up-to-date so he can get ahold of his workers as fast as possible when scheduling.

“If the weatherman is calling for a snow event to move in, and there’s even a chance, I’m on my phone two or three days out prepping my seasonal help and start checking availability,” he says. “I have a spreadsheet I go through and highlight everyone who says they’re ready to help, and who can’t. Then I route them according to that availability.”

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