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Pushing the envelope

  • SIMA
- Posted: March 7, 2016
Ten years ago, V-plows and snow pushers were gaining momentum as tools that could increase snow contractors’ operational efficiencies. Snow Business contacted several plow manufacturers to revisit the past 10 years and to look at trends that they expect to shape the industry over the next five years.
Q&A Participants

Randy-Strait_Arctic (103x120)
Arctic Snow and Ice Products
Randy Strait, Owner

Arctic Snow and Ice Products is the manufacturing division of Arctic Snow and Ice Control Inc., a provider of snow and ice management services since 1978. Arctic Snow and Ice Control Inc. remains an established contracting business, while the products division manufactures the Sectional Sno-Pusher.

Andrew-McArdle_DouglasDynamics (103x120)
Douglas Dynamics
Andrew McArdle, Manager, Product Marketing

Serving the industry for more than 65 years, the Douglas Dynamics portfolio includes commercial snow and ice management attachments sold under the FISHER, SnowEx, and WESTERN brands, and municipal market products sold under the Henderson brand.

Jason-Whittmore_MetalPless (103x120)
Metal Pless
Jason Whittemore, Sales Manager

Based in Plessisville, Quebec, Metal Pless has been manufacturing snow plows for 40 years. Metal Pless has more than 20 makes, models and configurations of plows and blades for tractors, wheel loaders, skid steers, backhoes, pickup trucks and heavy trucks.

Craig-Kemmerling_Meyer (103x120)
Meyer Products
Craig Kemmerling, Vice President of Sales & Customer Service

Meyer Products has been manufacturing snow and ice equipment for 90 years. In September 2015, Meyer Products and its sister company Swenson Spreader joined the ASH Group, a European-based manufacturer of premium snow and ice control equipment.

Michael-Guggino_ProTech (103x120)
Pro-Tech Manufacturing and Distribution
Michael Guggino, President

Founded in 1991, Pro-Tech launched its first snow pusher in 1993 and has since introduced more than 80 models of its patented Sno Pushers.
Q: Looking back at the last 10 years, what would you say are the top innovations in plow technology?
RS: Going back 10 years and a little beyond, I can think of two innovations that had a great impact on the industry. The first is the snow pusher, and the second is the development of sectional snow pushers. The conventional snow pusher truly revolutionized the way contractors cleared snow. The pusher brought heavy equipment, such as wheel loaders and skid steers, onto the scene. Combining a powerful machine with a box plow meant contractors could move more snow than they could achieve with six pickups with plow attachments.

Although the first pushers were great at reducing overall project time, there were still some challenges, such as needing to make extra passes, not scraping down to the pavement and costly maintenance. That’s where the evolution of the sectional snow pusher begins. Sectional plows feature smaller individual moldboard sections that contour to uneven surfaces, delivering a better scrape on the first pass. Sectional designs also help contractors save on maintenance.

SB0216_ARCTIC (275x195)
Sectional Snow Pusher benefits include easier maintenance and repair and improved scraping capability.
JW: I would say the first innovation is the technology that allows a plow to contour the surface of the pavement, which reduces salt use but also cleans better. Second would be hydraulic wings, which allow contractors to plow up to twice as fast. The versatility of having a snow blade that can push, backdrag and windrow all in one definitely gives the snow fighter an edge.

SB0216_Western (275x217)
New generation plows maximize efficiency, reliability and functionality.

AM: Snowplows have come a long way since the traditional straight blade. Select snowplow models are now available with either hydraulically-controlled wings or mechanical wings that automatically adjust from scoop mode to windrow position as you angle the plow to maximize efficiency and productivity. Second, advanced electrical systems have created a better product experience and increased reliability and functionality through fleet interchangeability, and one-touch functionality, etc. Third, non-truck plow applications have given contractors unprecedented efficiency purely due to the size and capability of larger vehicles; (these applications) also allow operators to maximize the use of their vehicles regardless of season. Fourth, improved plow lighting has offered operators better visibility, improving safety but also allowing for increased productivity and quality of work.
CK: Three innovations that come to mind are the development of controller technology; commonality of components and fleet-friendly features; and the development of accessories that allow operators to customize plows for specific jobs.
MG: As it relates to containment plows, the biggest innovation would be the introduction of and continued refinement of steel edge plows. There will always be a need for rubber edge or traditional containment plows, but certain applications require the use of a steel cutting edge. A steel cutting edge performs much better against hard-packed snow. A rubber edge containment plow will tend to ride over the hard pack whereas the steel edge containment plow will scrape it up and remove it. And with the right steel edge containment plow, contractors can still have the benefits of its rubber edge counterpart such as low maintenance, stacking ability and high-speed operation. The other innovation would be using better materials to prolong the life of wear parts.

SB0216_Protech (275x186)
Steel cutting edges give contractors the ability to remove hard pack better than with traditional rubber cutting edges.
Q: Looking ahead to the next five years, what trends do you see shaping plow R&D?
JW: With the environmental factors weighing in soon, we will have to move toward technologies that scrape the ground and contour the ground better. It will be the next challenge for snowplow manufacturing companies to develop products that leave clean, dry, snowless asphalt behind each pass.

SB0216_Metal-Pless (275x173)
Hydraulic wings have expanded a plow’s capabilities by extending widths and positions for maximum efficiency.
CK: The introduction of new materials will certainly change the way plows are made and designed. Metals that are lighter in weight and stronger than traditional materials used within the industry will come into play. They have the potential to lower the overall weight of the equipment, which will result in less wear and tear and better fuel economy for the vehicles. Vehicle manufacturer restrictions will impact how plows are designed. In general this would be vehicle capacity (e.g., how much weight you can put on the front of the vehicle, which, in turn, drives the equipment that can be installed). Another challenge is getting auxiliary equipment to easily/fully integrate with the vehicle’s electrical system.
RS: Looking ahead, we will see trends related to mobility when it comes to transporting pushers. With many pushers ranging from 16- to 20-feet wide, contractors typically need a trailer to move from one job site to the next. Finding a faster, safer way will positively impact productivity.
Q: Who’s driving changes in plow technology?

CK: A generational shift in operators, a desire for ease of integration and the advancement of technologies are driving innovations in the industry.

SB0216_Meyer-ground-tracking (275x256)
Technology is helping manufacturers’ R&D teams develop improved products.

MG: Consumers are demanding better performance from their service providers, and manufacturers continue to compete to produce the best and most effective equipment available.
RS: Both contractors and their customers shape the trends in our changing industry. End users need pushers with easy mobility for transportation from job to job. Customers need their property cleaned quickly and efficiently to avoid safety issues and litigation risks.
JW: Change is also a response to governmental pressures. We already are seeing municipalities, cities and even states tackle the environmental side, which will force contractors to seek products that will perform better and require less salt use. We actually see the Canadian contractors more aware of the impact on the environment. But as far as governments go, we are seeing the U.S. taking a stronger stand.
Q: Any final thoughts on plow technology and the snow and ice management industry?

MG: I would like to see more collaboration in the snow removal industry between manufacturers, service providers, insurers and the customers. I would also like to see a collective effort put forth by the organizations that support and govern the industry.
AM: As customer requirements and expectations rise, so does the bar for snowplow OEMs to create productive, reliable, innovative solutions. As time passes, additional opportunities will present themselves to advance design and functionality. The result: safer environments, increased commerce and happier customers.
JW: The industry has come leaps and bounds compared to 20 years ago, but there is much more to be done. The ultimate objective during a snowstorm is for asphalt to be bone dry in one pass without using salt or brine. This objective will be accomplished by having standard equipment on each plow, including hydraulic wings, a slip hitch, a lateral float, curb runners, fifth wheel and for us to perfect our Live Edge technology. The ultimate goal is not to find a product to replace salt, but to scrape the ground so clean that salt use is no longer required.
RS: The snow removal industry has changed. Many stores are open 24/7, so contractors must complete snow removal around traffic and parked vehicles as well as other obstacles. Service providers have less time and space to remove snow, and still have to meet the demand for high-level service. So contractors need to tailor their snow removal equipment to the job to achieve efficient results. The business model has also changed. Just like how online shopping changed consumers’ shopping at big box stores, the same is happening for snow removal — but at the risk of losing quality. To compete with online providers, commercial contractors have to keep up by having efficient snow removal equipment that saves on salt and re-plowing. To stay successful, you have to keep with the times. It’s a competitive business. The only way to survive is to find effective ways to push snow better, safer and faster. 
- Responses compiled by Cheryl Higley, Editor in Chief
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  1. Connie Fortin | Mar 10, 2016

    I love JW's comment: W: The industry has come leaps and bounds compared to 20 years ago, but there is much more to be done. The ultimate objective during a snowstorm is for asphalt to be bone dry in one pass without using salt or brine. This objective will be accomplished by having standard equipment on each plow, including hydraulic wings, a slip hitch, a lateral float, curb runners, fifth wheel and for us to perfect our Live Edge technology. The ultimate goal is not to find a product to replace salt, but to scrape the ground so clean that salt use is no longer required.

    Go for it!  I think you are absolutely right and you can make it happen!