People always ask if this is a slow time of year for us. Seeing as our grounds maintenance and landscaping crews are winding down, and the snow is months away, this is a reasonable expectation. But, I have to laugh at this thought, because honestly, the fall is probably our busiest time of year!
While most summer leisure activities are dwindling, our crews are out working hard to make sure we close down all of our jobs, and complete fall cleanups before winter sets in. And that’s the great unknown – when will winter set in? While we’re trying to finish our outdoor work, we’re also trying to get ready for the first snowfall. This overlap of seasons, keeps our management staff on their toes. We can’t predict when winter will begin or what weather conditions it will bring, but we do know that we have to be ready!
There is a lot that goes in to getting ready for winter. We first have to know who our customers are – this involves renewing existing contracts, as well as estimating and selling new contracts. This can be challenging as well, as some customers don’t recognize the lead up time required to get ready, and therefore leave their purchasing decisions to the last minute! We don’t tend to sign may contracts after October for this reason (note: Hire your winter contractor early!). The lead up
to winter also requires hiring a large amount of staff to fill positions such as salt truck operators, equipment operators, shovelers, and supervisors. MPS employs 170-200 employees during the winter months and we service properties across the northern GTA area.
In terms of physically preparing, it requires all hands on deck! We begin by engineering site-maps so that all of our operators understand how to plow/shovel/salt the site to achieve customer requirements. We then hold extensive training sessions so our snow personnel (new and existing) are ready for the winter, and their roles. They need to be familiar with sites, equipment and material requirements long before the first snowflake flies. Salt bins need to be placed on site and stocked with material, as well some sites need to be staked. We don’t do a lot of staking, because a high percentage tend to be stolen by people for their own driveways. A half-staked lot is more dangerous than a lot that has no stakes, as an equipment operator may assume all curbs are marked, and can hit one at high speed. This is bad for the curb, the machine and especially the operator. We prefer operators to move slowly to find curbs and initially create snowbanks.
Finally, getting equipment ready is a year round endeavour. Our mechanical team begins by “summerizing” all equipment in the spring. De-salting, cleaning and undercoating is performed on all equipment. Repairs and routine maintenance is performed over the summer months, and new equipment is purchased in anticipation of winter sales. In the past we have rented farm space north of Uxbridge to clear up room in our previously tiny yard during the warmer months. However, this past spring we took over the other side of our building and expanded our yard almost 10 fold. This has allowed us to keep all of our large winter equipment on site year round, eliminating the time it took to transport the equipment back and forth during seasonal change-ups. Lastly, our “dual use” equipment (dump-trucks that we put salters on, or trucks that plow) needs to be transitioned during the fall. With over 100 large pieces of equipment, and dozens of small machines, this is no small feat. And all of this needs to be done by an unpredictable deadline, decided by mother nature herself. We don’t know when winter will begin, we just know we have to be ready! Jim Monk | President