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Small footprint, big impact

  • Michael Freeze
- Posted: December 12, 2018

In snow and ice management, compact equipment gives contractors operational flexibility.

With ongoing skilled labor shortages, having compact equipment in a contractor’s arsenal improves efficiency and alleviates a primary pain point for contractors. By having versatile equipment and moving quickly around the job site, contractors can increase the speed in which a project is completed.

“A large issue facing our customers is labor shortage, therefore they are turning to machine solutions in order to offset some of the staffing challenges,” says Sherrie Williams, ASM, building construction products manager for Caterpillar. “They are looking for strong machines that are reliable and have a variety of attachments to choose from to increase their efficiency.”

Andrew Dargatz, product marketing manager for CASE Construction Equipment, explains that compact equipment also provides contractors with a powerful platform for attachments that assist in snow and ice removal and parking lot maintenance.

“They can be utilized for other applications during warmer weather to improve their total cost of ownership and open up additional business revenues,” he says.

Sidewalks as prime target

Some contractors are turning to compact equipment such as sidewalk snow machines to reduce employee costs.

“Finding labor to work on the sidewalk crew is often the most difficult to find, and adding sidewalk equipment to a fleet greatly reduces the number of employees required,” says Isaac Roth, Ventrac marketing manager. “A typical contractor can replace 12 sidewalk shovelers with one sidewalk snow vehicle. Having proper equipment like that is essential for employee retention.”

Beneficial strides have been made in the manufacturing and design of snow-related compact equipment. Roth points to advancements in integrating software solutions to help contractors manage their fleets.

“Contractors have more ability than ever to track crews’ progress during the event and get real-time data on labor and costs of materials,” he says. “This helps contractors make better plans for future events.”

Attachments expand versatility

Customization is also a factor in efficiency for contractors since they can suit machines to their specific needs. A variety of attachments can be applied without making significant changes to the machines.

Williams said equipment now features monitors that allow operators to adjust flow and speed, kickouts, and sometimes pressure to match tools. She also notes that most customers desire fewer machines but wish to operate them at maximum capacity.

“This decreases ownership and operating cost, while increasing performance and profitability. Most customers are looking to get as many projects [as possible] done quickly. This means our machines need to be designed to handle a wide range of tasks,” she says. “Typically, snow and ice professionals and lawn care professions will have three or more attachments per machine. We are continuously working on new attachments or improving current attachments to meet these goals.”

Compact advantages

Compact equipment is becoming a more viable option given the versatility and efficiency advantages it offers.

“Serious snow contractors are constantly on the lookout for more efficient and reliable machines,” Roth says. “Contractors are also seeking equipment that can help them manage a wide variety of snow events.”

Dargatz says compact equipment also helps contractors improve responsiveness. “Instead of managing a route with a plow truck, the contractor can have numerous machines staged at strategic locations to more immediately — and continuously — serve their customers,” he says.

This advantage, Dargatz says, can also lead to improved safety for the operators. Staging equipment takes the employees off the road during harsh weather and provides better visibility to the work area.

“There will always be a place for trucks and plows in commercial snow removal, but we continue to see a much broader acceptance of compact equipment being used for commercial snow removal applications.”

Michael Freeze is a freelance writer based in Northeast Ohio. Comments are welcome at

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