Technology in our industry has traditionally taken a backseat to brute force and hard work. The thinking was how much “technology” could be introduced when we have done the same work, the same way since 1905? We slap a piece of steel on the front of a vehicle with rubber tires and we push the snow to the side.
Simple, easy and not much technology required. But let’s not judge too quickly. We have witnessed advances in snowplows that make them easier to operate. We don’t have to get out of the truck cab, pull the pin, move the plow and then put the pin back in to keep it in place. Hydraulics came along and we pulled and pushed rods to get the fluid to pump into the cylinders and move the plow left or right. Then electronics came along so we could push rocker switches instead of getting huge calluses on our index and middle fingers on our left hands. Today, we use hand-held devices and wireless technology to work the plows.
Salt spreaders technology has advanced to distribute product at an exact rate. Computers have been introduced to gauge the width of distribution of deicing material. In-ground sensors – mostly on highways and bridges – alert if conditions are conducive to ice buildup.
Recent advancements in tracking snow clearing crews have been rather dramatic. Your plowing crews can now call in, report their progress and never have to actually speak with a live person. How many times have we assigned winter dispatch duties to an individual who we must “find work” for in the summer? Now, you can “speak” to a computer that recognizes your voice – English or Spanish – and records what has been accomplished. The computer literally carries on a conversation with the caller, obtains all the necessary details about what has been completed, interacts with your accounting software, generates a customer invoice, generates the sub’s invoice, records employees’ time and sends this information off to the payroll service to generate paychecks. This advancement in automating back-office operations is very exciting. None of this automatic stuff was available when I was running my operation, back in the day.
And, you can obtain this proven automation for a third of the cost of an actual employee. That’s the initial investment – year over year the cost drops to one tenth of the cost of an actual employee. It never gets tired, doesn’t require food, doesn’t need a break and never badmouths the company or the owner. It can allow customers access to information you might want to share, and you can track what is happening during an event in real-time by logging into your system.
Yes, technology has become an integral part of the snow contractor’s arsenal. Or, better said, it is available for snow contractors to use.
Life is good for those who choose to use what is available.