Choosing The Right Snow Removal Equipment: The Perils Of Being A New York City Mayor

The recent Christmas weekend snow storm in New York reminded me of pernickety nature of the snow removal business. Having been in the manufacturing end of the business for many years, I can empathize with Mayor Bloomberg!  In past positions I was responsible for planning material, labor, equipment and scheduling these resources one year in advance for an ever changing snowplow sales projection; frankly that would make Bloomberg’s job look easy!

Here is the way they plow neighborhoods in New York City:

And here’s a link the stuck front loader You Tube video for anyone who has not seen it! (Turn off the audio if the kids are around) 

Before I give my suggestions for the Mayor of New York, let me make a point: It’s likely that some of the readers are in the business of specifying truck equipment; my advice is: Always keep the Customer Needs your #1 Priority! To offer the best product or service, you should keep up with the changing products and services including software and technology advances. And learn from mistakes.

For those who have been specifying or selling for 20 years, there’s a lesson that to be learned from the Mayors mistakes! How long has he been in Office? The customer doesn’t care; they just want to get out and go to work! And for them to get out and go to work the snow must be gone! Sounds easy, just remove the snow, right?

About 40 years ago there was another New York Mayor, Lindsay, who was not reelected because of failing to remove snow in a timely manner. Now Mayor Bloomberg was not able to satisfy the customer. It’s not so easy I guess!

Now Advice to the Mayor:

Learn from the mistakes, consider that the whole snow control process needs to be reviewed and revised.

Form an expert study group to look at the existing process, comprised of external consultants and internal employees: meteorological experts, snow removal experts, snow equipment experts, public works and street department employees. Look to other heavy snow cities and other countries.

My Advice to this study group:
When optimizing a lean manufacturing process, using “just in time” criteria, you likely would not plan to use a multi-purpose machine as the sole source to produce two products needed at the same time! Similarly, why would you plan to use the same trucks to plow snow and remove garbage, when both are needed at the same time? I don’t think they pick up the garbage while they plow do they, or at least I hope not!

Don’t use a sledge hammer to nail a tack! Use the equipment sized for the job. Use equipment agile enough to clear snow around parked cars and other obstacles.

Consider assigning “snow captains” for each neighborhood, people who live there, who know the neighborhood and will be responsible for overseeing snow removal during big snow storms. They could coordinate a proactive and combination of cooperation between residents and snow removal by parking or moving their cars and a “right size” effort using snow blowers, shovels, pick up plows, bucket loaders, dump trucks, etc.

Knowing that a big storm is coming, declare a “garbage emergency” , ask residents to put out their garbage a day early, and schedule the garbage pick-up before the storm hits, using overtime if necessary. This should mitigate the garbage pick-up problem after the storm.

                Go to China, see how they do it.

Here’s a snow blower: It’s my daughter clearing snow from her 100 foot driveway during the Christmas storm in Maine:


Which of the equipment you have seen do you think is “right sized” for clearing in a brownstone neighborhood, with accumulating snow and jammed parked vehicles? 

Many years ago, my boss Dean Fisher, a pioneer in snow plow design and manufacture since founding Fisher Engineering in 1948, claimed that he could plow the same amount of snow with a CJ5 Jeep and a 6 foot blade as anyone could plow with a ¾ ton truck and an 8 foot blade. He then proceeded to demonstrate it in our parking lot during a snowstorm with his CJ5. The strategy was to begin plowing early, and “plow with the storm” not waiting until any substantial accumulation.

The result of this effort was remarkable. It was clear that with planning and preparation, there was no need for a larger truck and blade to plow this parking lot.

What equipment will best satisfy the customer? It’s probably not one piece but a combination of pieces: By starting early as the storm arrives, small hand operated snow blowers  would keep the whole neighborhood clear for traffic and parking cars, careful of where the snow is blown, and the use of other equipment to stack, load haul it away, etc.

Always challenge the way things are done, don’t listen to “we can’t do it that way. “ Ask why, and keep asking why to the answers until you don’t have to ask why, you have the answer!

Guest post by Steve Taylor. Steve is a consultant in the Truck Equipment business with over 30 years in the snowplow and truck body manufacturing business. He specializes in the design and quality/reliability field and may be reached by email at steve@truckarchitect.com. You may visit his website at http://www.truckarchitect.com/.

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