In business — especially ice and snow — perspective is everything. Making products to help snow and ice contractors become more efficient is helpful. However, a manufacturer that draws on its own snow and ice experience has the opportunity to provide additional value.
Voigt-Smith Innovation, based out of Le Center, MN, manufacturers liquid deicing equipment, drawing on its experience gleaned from the owner’s landscaping and snow removal company. Snow Business spoke with owner Jordan Smith to understand the underlying concept of relating to snow and ice contractors and delivering on the needs.
Snow Business: The origins of VSI products came out of your experience as a contractor. How has that experience shaped the R&D and focus for VSI?
Jordan Smith: VSI products are all born from our contractor division at our sister company. We run a commercial snow and ice division, so we experience what works and what doesn’t at 3 a.m. while in a time crunch in -15° weather. The reality is that something that works in practice while spraying water in a parking lot in mid-June may not work all that well in a real snow dispatch situation. We have adapted and designed and continually improved our equipment to work reliability and be efficient in real life. We have seen what holds up long term and what doesn’t, and we have seen maintenance and upkeep challenges that we need to simplify. We have seen application techniques that work, and ones that don’t and adapted our equipment to be operationally simple and efficient.
Snow Business: From a contractor’s perspective, can you empathize with time and labor concerns snow and ice professionals have learning/properly using liquid spray systems?
Smith: We understand the labor challenge in our industry and thereby understand that each new piece of equipment in a contractor’s fleet will need to be implemented and repeatedly trained for new operators. We standardized our plumbing configurations and controllers across all unit sizes so if an operator knows how to run a 305-gallon unit, they can also run a 750-gallon unit without the need to retrain. Calibration settings on our controllers come pre-set and are locked out so that operators can’t accidentally change vital settings. The only setting they will ever need to change is how many gallons per acre they want to apply. We standardized GPS speed rate control across all truck-mounted units so that regardless of an operators speed, they will accurately apply product at the desired gallons per acre. This takes most of the “experience needed” factor out of accurately applying deicing or anti-icing products.
Snow Business: In terms of R&D, where do you see the future of spray systems going to continue to meet contractor needs?
There is a lot of opportunity for improvement and efficiency gain with spray equipment. Some of the biggest opportunities include full smartphone/tablet control and monitoring of spray systems with GPS tracking and cloud-based data upload for full control and tracking of all spray equipment, and customer accounts as well as for billing purposes.