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Going into reverse

Vicky Lopez, Co-Founder and Director of De-ice, explains the concept of reverse winter timeline planning

When you run a winter maintenance business, you have to look at the seasons backwards. There’s very little ‘looking forward to summer’, as we primarily focus all year round on one season, no matter the time of year. We operate ‘reverse winter timeline planning’ to make sure the team is focused throughout the summer, and that we are fully prepared for every eventuality, at every customer site, in the winter months.

This year has already seen record-breaking high temperatures and flood-inducing rainfall. If this winter turns out to be another record breaker, then businesses need to consider now if they are ready for the snow and ice that could potentially hit. With the weather turning increasingly erratic over the last few years, we cannot rule out the possibility of extreme cold weather striking early.

It’s never too early to put a plan in place for winter strategy. We’re no different to any other winter maintenance specialist, and this is the drum we all beat. We recommend businesses start putting these winter plans together in the spring, but as we head into autumn it’s definitely time to consider what this winter might bring.

Nothing holds back winter, and while it might be hard to consider spending tight budgets on snow clearance or gritting when the thermometer recently hit a record-breaking 38 degrees, it is financially better to get the provision in place early. Being organised enables a quality provider to plan and prepare according to specific needs, saving money from potential damage in the long run.

Our experience indicates that we achieve the best results when we work to a ‘reverse timeline’ to mobilise and execute a professional winter service. In Scotland and northern England, winter weather can often hit earlier than expected, so we need to be particularly organised and adaptable to move the schedule by a month if needs be.

The De-ice timeline:

  • November – season starts
  • Start of October – mobilisation – inductions, issue keys and fobs, allocate operatives
  • Mid-September – sign contracts
  • Start September – contracts issued Mid-August – proposals issued
  • Start August – sites mapped and approved
  • Start July – verbal discussion
  • April-June – review of season
  • May-June – renewals

This timeline means every site and customer have been fully surveyed and all needs have been discussed in good time. Good communication is key, and we always advise that if a winter maintenance provider isn’t in touch early and enthusiastic about a particular contract, then think twice.

Gritting is more of a bespoke service than you might imagine. It’s not just about putting salt on the ground when it’s cold. Protection from snow and ice requires real knowledge of a number of elements about a client’s site, from the topography and access points to the number of entrances and car parks that need to be cleared. We cannot run the risk of not properly covering the surfaces, or using the wrong materials. And that’s before we assess the stocks we have in place, ensuring they never fall short.

Our dedicated account teams focus on education and helping organisations to understand the importance of not just being prepared for winter, but also the work that goes into winter maintenance build-up and preparation. We also want our clients to appreciate the reasons behind the costs for high-quality services that truly protect their business, their employees and their customers.

Our ‘six pillars of partnership’ were launched with this in mind, building an understanding that winter safety is a year-round issue. The six pillars encompass these themes: reputation, account management, skilled workers, forecasting, technology and assurances, emphasising our clear focus on winter planning through every season and the importance of partnering with and supporting each individual client.

Not everyone wants to spend their summer considering winter, which is why we do what we do. Dedicating our time to winter planning means that our clients can focus on their day jobs. We pride ourselves on well-structured, customised planning, clear timelines and good communication to keep things running smoothly. These are the elements that should be at the core of high-quality winter maintenance services.

About Sarah OBeirne

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