Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Limited Access to Salt and Ice Management Materials

'This weather pattern is similar to many other parts of North America, creating a challenge the snow and ice industry has faced before: limited to quickly diminishing access to rock salt and similar ice management materials.'

By Martin Tirado, CAE
It’s been a cold, snowy winter for most of North America. Here at the SIMA headquarters in Milwaukee, WI, we are facing the coldest temperatures in 20 years and we have not yet reached the halfway point for winter. This weather pattern is similar to many other parts of North America, creating a challenge the snow and ice industry has faced before: limited to quickly diminishing access to rock salt and similar ice management materials.

In the last week, SIMA’s phones and emails have been full with members asking where they can obtain additional supplies of these important materials. SIMA has quickly sent out a request to our salt member suppliers to inquire the status of available inventory, types of products available, and where they can be accessed or shipped to. The responses are not good news. Essentially, suppliers have inventory to fulfill orders made prior to the winter season, but nothing beyond that. If you aren’t a current customer, you may be stuck. Even speaking with some members, their suppliers have informed them that inventories are either very low or out, which will certainly leave some contractors without the necessary materials to perform their job.

Contrary to some thoughts, according to the Salt Institute, there is technically not a shortage of salt and ice management materials, it’s a distribution channel issue as getting salt from mine to contractor warehouse takes time. Increased cold weather has created freezing at some shipping ports, further enhancing this problematic situation. So now what to do? Consider these options:
  • Start Talking - Communicate proactively with your customers. Like you, they may not like what they are hearing, but this is a supply and demand material issue that is out of your control. No one likes surprises, if you have contracts where rock salt is needed, your customer will want to know if there are areas that will not have rock salt applied.
  • Focus on Priority Areas - Once you have communicated with your customer, focus on high priority areas of properties. Think about the areas that are most critical to safety and where your customer has told you are necessary to have clear of snow and ice. Your pre-season site plan will come in handy here, use whatever amount you have in inventory on these areas.
  • Use a SIMA Resource - Download SIMA’s press release on this issue here. Share this with your customer to make them further aware of the situation.
  • Review Current Practices - Take a close look at your application practices and training. Meet with your operators and keep them aware of the situation and ask how rock salt can be applied in the lowest amounts while still doing the job. This is a great time to reinforce training and temperature effectiveness of different ice management chemicals. SIMA members can review estimates for usage of salt by downloading the Bidding, Estimating and Production Forms from the Resource 24/7 Training Center here
  • Consider Using Liquids This also takes resources to invest in equipment and training, however, liquids and particularly pre-treating existing rock salt piles with liquids appears to the one of the few options available in the market. Remember, “necessity is the mother of invention.” This may have some applicable purposes now.
This situation is constantly in flux, changing almost daily based on weather and supply and demand. Keep in continual contact with your supplier to see when shipments of rock salt may be arriving or new options arise. SIMA will continue to be in contact with our supplier members and keep you informed on any changes to the market.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Train the Trainer with ASM

'Individuals who earn this designation are candidates to train other team members within their company on the verified knowledge they acquired while earning each certificate.'

By Phill Sexton
During the development phase of the Advanced Snow Management (ASM) training program, the train the trainer model was always part of the plan. Now that the first two of four courses has been released, we can begin to discuss how the program can be used beyond individual learning and introduced as a training program companies can utilize for teams of people.

Who are the trainers? 
Individuals who aspire to earn all four of the Advanced Snow Management training certificates will be awarded SIMA’s Advanced Snow Manager (ASM) designation. Individuals who earn this designation are candidates to train other team members within their company on the verified knowledge they acquired while earning each certificate.  

What to train?
Each of the four online courses provides the base curriculum to train individuals with. Utilizing the online course in a team setting will allow the trainer a base line curriculum to work with while also allowing the flexibility to teach at their own individual pace and requirements.  

  • Core Principles is a course designed to teach the safety and professional principles anyone who works in the industry should be aware of to be successful.
  • Plowing Operations is a course designed for anyone who is learning to operate plowing equipment or wants to advance their current knowledge.
  • Sidewalk Operations is a course designed for anyone entering the snow industry or who is managing a sidewalk operations crew.
  • Ice Management is a course designed to advance current knowledge of basic ice management philosophy and techniques, particularly the process of calibration and anti-icing versus de-icing.
When to train?  
Each course is self-paced, which means it can be taught in one session, or can be broken down into much shorter and more manageable short sessions, which could include toolbox or tailgate talks.

For more information how your company can utilize the Advanced Snow Management Training Program to help train your teams, contact SIMA at 414-375-1970  or email

Thursday, January 16, 2014

5 ways Advanced Snow Management can help you grow your snow business

'The Advanced Snow Management program is designed to train your people to be safer, more knowledgeable, and more effective in snow operations'

By Brian Birch
In the fall of 2013 SIMA launched the Advanced Snow Management (ASM) program. ASM includes four certificate courses tied to snow operations. Your team members can earn certificates in their specialty (i.e. Plowing Operations) or a person can earn the Advanced Snow Manager designation by passing all four. And the ASM program is designed to help you grow your snow business.

Here are 5 ways it can help your company:
  1. Face-to-Face: Picture yourself sitting in front of a prospect interested in snow management services. If you have ASM certificate holders or an Advanced Snow Manager on staff, you can share that your team has undergone extensive, snow-specific training tied to best practices at the national level. This can really show a prospective client that you are serious about snow.
  2. Insurance help: Snow businesses that invest in team training receive a comprehensive set of materials designed to help you communicate the ASM program to  insurance agents. This includes a template letter and a full description of the overall program, along with a breakdown of the individual courses and their ties to safety and best practices. The more your agent and insurance underwriters know about your commitment to safety and quality, the better off you will be.
  3. Leadership Development: Nowhere is leadership development more important than in the field during a snow event. Investing in your best operations personnel to train in ASM courses, or even become official Advanced Snow Managers, is a major way you can help your best people grow.
  4. Serious about safety: The safer your company is, the more successful you will be. Reducing the number of accidents, injuries, and service failures will help differentiate your company. The ASM program is designed to train your people to be safer, more knowledgeable, and more effective.
  5. The Paper Trail: Every time someone from your company finishes an ASM course, they receive a certificate in the mail a few weeks later. Certificates can be hung in the office, digital versions can be used in email signature files, and your company marketing materials can officially claim that you have employees who have participated in Advanced Snow Management training or even have a full Advanced Snow Manager on staff.
The ASM program is available 24/7 at

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Advanced Snow Management kicks off with Core Principles

I can say with confidence that it is a great training addition for the industry, with the Core Principles course providing fundamental concepts anyone working in snow should know.'

By Paul Vanderzon
As industry professionals, all of us in snow & ice realize the challenge of providing consistent, quality training to our operators and field managers. As a SIMA volunteer, I am excited to have played a role in taking this type of training a huge step forward by working on the Advanced Snow Management program. After a year of hard work creating content for the program, SIMA recently released the first two of the four certificate courses: Core Principles & Plowing Operations. As part of the stakeholder advisory group (SAG) that developed and tested the program, I can say with confidence that it is a great training addition for the industry, with the Core Principles course providing fundamental concepts anyone working in snow should know.

Core Principles is a prerequisite for all courses in the Advanced Snow Management program. It can be used to prepare individuals for the other three courses - Plowing Operations, Sidewalk Operations and Ice Management - or as a stand-alone training course for operations personnel. It can provide introductory training to new employees, refresher training for current employees, or serve as the knowledge base for anyone working toward completing all four certificates to obtain the Advanced Snow Manager (ASM) designation.

The ASM courses will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week online at SIMA's Resource 24/7 Training Center. All courses are self-paced and end with quiz to assess the knowledge learned. Once the quiz is successfully completed, the employee will receive an official certificate from SIMA. Anyone who completes all four courses can use the ASM designation. SIMA and the SAG team are hard at work building the final two certificate courses, and we expect to have all four courses available in early 2014.

Thank you to the other members of the stakeholder advisory group who helped create Core Principles: Teri Meredith, Ian Ashby and Shay Leon. Visit for more information or to purchase.

Paul Vanderzon owns Amenagements Paysagers Vanderzon Inc., in St. Bruno, Quebec, and is a member of the Stakeholder Advisory Group and SIMA Board of Directors.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Looking to 2014 and beyond

'My vision for the future of SIMA is to continue to expand into areas where we currently do not have a strong presence.'

By Mike Anderson, CSP
I remember my very first experience in the snow business. I was a little boy trudging down the street in a Chicago blizzard with a shovel on my shoulder and coming home with almost $100 in my pocket. That’s the day I decided I really like this business! I had no idea back then I’d be writing to you today as SIMA chairman.

Since joining SIMA in 1998, I have never missed a Snow & Ice Symposium. I credit SIMA with giving me the knowledge and the confidence to transition from landscaping to a snow-only company almost a decade ago. I doubt I would have been able to do that without the advice and help from some good friends I’ve made through the association, the education I’ve received, and the relationships I’ve developed.

Working solely in the snow business allows me more time to spend with my five daughters and to go on a mission trip every summer. Past trips included working with children in Nicaragua, rebuilding houses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and this year Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey. It’s all part of serving and giving back. That’s why I’m here, to serve you and give my time to help make this association the best it can possibly be.

Growth opportunities
My vision for the future of SIMA is to continue to expand into areas where we currently do not have a strong presence. We have a solid membership base in the eastern and central United States. I believe there are tremendous opportunities for growth west of the Mississippi, in Canada and across the oceans.

Canada. Even though the association started on the shores of Lake Erie, none of SIMA’s founding members were Canadian. Currently less that 15% of our members are Canadian. This is amazing to me, considering our friends to the north live in a larger country, it snows in every province and territory, and their average snowfall totals are often higher than those in many U.S. states.

West. One of the most memorable Symposiums I attended was in Denver in 2001. I hope we can go west again for another Symposium. We have some strong members there, but for the amount of snow the region receives, I would like to see SIMA grow its membership in some key areas.

Going global. In a given year we only have a handful of members outside of the United States and Canada – why not more? Long term, SIMA has an opportunity to focus more effort on global snow & ice management membership and trends. Our first four training videos are available in Spanish. Once the Advanced Snow Management program is completely rolled out in English, we will consider translating the curriculum into Spanish and French.

There are thousands of snow & ice companies around the world who don’t know about SIMA and the amazing resources and information that can be obtained through membership. If we could just reach them, they would learn what I’ve known for a long time – that the benefits of joining far exceed the costs of membership.

Promote professionalism
I also envision a “Snow Removal for Dummies” book being published someday. These books already exist for lawn care, small businesses and restaurants. Why not snow? I’d buy it and give it to some of my competitors. The snow & ice management industry has low barriers to entry, but it’s much harder to do it the right way. Make friends at SIMA meetings, earn your Certified Snow Professional (CSP) designation, and use the numerous resources SIMA offers to do it right.

I want to end with my three favorite words besides I love you…LET IT SNOW!

SIMA demographics
  • 1,517 – Total SIMA membership
  • 1,294 – U.S. members
  • 221 – Canadian members
  • 256 – New members in 2013
Mike Anderson, CSP is president of Snow & Ice Pros Inc., a snow & ice management-only company based in Highland, IN. Contact him at