Snow season can be tough enough for companies, but by making the most of the latest products out on the market and implementing technology, Ohio-based H&M Landscaping is able to improve efficiency when it comes to snow removal.
The 35-year-old company has nearly 200 employees, and snow removal consists of about 25% of its annual revenue.
During a major snow event, H&M President Mark Mazzurco says it’s all hands on deck, and there are a lot of moving parts to keep track of when it comes to crews and equipment.
“We can run anywhere up to 300 units,” he says. “That’s trucks, loaders, backhoes, Bobcats, etc.”
With such a big snow operation, Mazzurco says technology has become key to the business’s success.
“We really utilize technology,” he says.
PUTTING NEW PRODUCTS TO WORK.
A major gamechanger for H&M has been getting in on the ground floor of some of the newest equipment and technology hitting the marketplace.
“We try to utilize technology by testing the newest products out on the market,” Mazzurco says.
Over the years, H&M has done research and development testing on a handful of products for big-name companies.
“We’ve done some R&D on the front end of things,” he says. “They let us use the equipment for free…and report back. We usually say, ‘Hey! This is something that’s good about it,’ and then maybe some improvements.”
While getting the prototypes out in the field, Mazzurco says his crews put it through the ringer to really test its strength. And most of the time, it helps turn the product into something that becomes a vital part of the company’s snow removal routine.
“When it first came out there was a few hiccups, but otherwise it’s been amazing,” Mazzurco says of one new product. “I think we bought another 10 of them for this year. It takes the place of about five to seven walkway guys, and with labor being what it is, that’s huge.”
Mazzurco says the new product is especially nice for clearing walkways, which can be a tough task when labor restraints are plaguing everyone.
“Walkways are the toughest part of the business,” he says. “Sleep deprivation and being in a nice, warm truck is one thing. But sleep deprivation and being out in the elements is a whole other conversation. The walkway guys are the hardest roles to fill.”
In addition to solving labor issues, Mazzurco says he also likes testing out new products to combat other challenges like maintenance costs.
“When you’re working with equipment, the biggest issue you have is breakdowns,” he says. “Trucks can get beaten up pretty bad. Transmissions get broken. From springs to lug nuts to axles — you name it, and it can go bad.”
Something as simple as a pusher box can make a big difference, according to Mazzurco.
“We own about 40 mid-size loaders and we put a pusher box in front of it, and those machines don’t even know they’re working,” he says. “It’s part-time for them. We try to utilize that as much as possible. Not only does it make us more efficient, but it keeps repairs and maintenance costs down as low as we can.”
And even if a product appears to have worked during the testing, Mazzurco says that doesn’t necessarily mean crews will be on board to use it long term.
“If it’s not easy to use, the guys don’t like it,” he says. “You’ve got to use equipment people want to use. I’ve bought things and thought they were great, but no one wanted to use them.”
H&M is a big enough player in the industry that Mazzurco says most companies reach out to them for R&D opportunities, but he adds that getting involved in industry associations is another way to stay up to date on the latest products out there.
TIME FOR AN UPGRADE.
Having the right equipment is one thing, but Mazzurco says utilizing GPS that integrates with the company’s business management system kicks things up a notch.
His business just switched operating systems this year, and Mazzurco says he’s excited about the change.
“It’s pretty slick,” he says. “Because that GPS is tied to everything internally. We used to have to have a supervisor take down all of the hours and approve them and everything. Now the system does that and highlights any issues. So, if an account is supposed to take four hours but we had trucks on site for five hours, it’ll flag it.”
Improving accuracy is one of the biggest things that drew Mazzurco to this new system.
“It also helps us keep an eye on crooked numbers. If you’re not in 100 yards of a site, you can’t clock in,” he says. “We’re trying to utilize the technology to hold people accountable.”
Mazzurco says an added bonus to the new system is that it’s sparked his team to work harder and strive to match their peers.
“We’ve got a scoreboard where we put everything up on it,” he says. “Most of our people are competitive. We’ve got key performance indicators (KPIs) and each supervisor sees those on their dashboard on their computer. It shows them and where they are compared to the rest of the staff. From a competitive standpoint, it holds people accountable without really trying to hold people accountable. It’s been really good for us.”
And when things aren’t working, Mazzurco says the new system will allow him and his team to find the root of the problem faster as more data will be readily available.
“We like to do what we call autopsies,” he says, “where you go in and look at jobs that aren’t performing. Is it a bad bid? Did we put the wrong piece of equipment on it? Maybe it’s the supervisor.”
Having more information can only help them improve efficiency, Mazzurco says.
“The more we show them how to win, the more they win,” he adds.
One of the easiest ways H&M embraces technology is through texting.
It’s also about catering to your audience, or in Mazzurco’s case, his employee’s preference.
“We utilize a lot of mass texting,” he says. “I deal with a lot of young people who don’t like to pick the phone up. You text them and they respond but then you go to call, and they don’t pick up the phone. And you know they have it in their hand.”
And when things take a turn quickly, which is common during snow season, Mazzurco says texting is the fastest way to reach as many people as possible.
To do this, H&M has set up what they call a “Bat Phone.” Every supervisor mans the Bat Phone for a week-long period a few times in the season, and during that time, they are responsible for sending out text blasts and coordinating responses.
“Texting is just more efficient,” Mazzurco says. “If you call someone up, you start to chat and that takes a few minutes. Where with a text, you read it and do it.”