Prepare for the colder months with more confidence

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The UK might be basking in summer sunshine but the colder months will soon be approaching. While it is impossible to know exactly what we can expect from winter this year, it is important to start assessing options.

Our national gritting manager, Nik Tozer, outlines how facilities managers can start to look ahead to winter as they manage their summer operations.

With the pleasant weather and warm temperatures we’re set to enjoy, it is natural that winter is the furthest thing from people’s minds. Facilities managers are busy making sure plants are hydrated, outdoor line markings repainted, and making their space an inviting one for people to make the most of during the sunshine.

Yet there will come a point when attention needs to shift to the latter stages of the year. And that point is closer than you might realise.

Us Brits have a fascination with our weather – it can be unpredictable at the best of times, with no two winters rarely the same. Take the start of this year for instance; a mild March gave way to a wintery April and a chilly May, preceded by harsh frosts and ice in January and February. That is compared to one of the mildest Februarys on record in 2020.

Knowing how much salt to order or how many gritting visits to factor into budgets will, undoubtedly, be a headache for facilities managers. However, there are options which can minimise the risk to the facility’s users and the bottom line.

The most common questions we get asked at Nurture Gritting are “how many site visits will be needed?” and “how much will it cost?” Both depend on the individual characteristics of the site itself, but it is still possible to answer those questions, at least in part.

The industry standard model for winter site management is on a cost-per-visit basis, ideal for sites which are generally able to manage costs on a month-by-month basis. Plans consisting of one flat rate for the entire season (normally from November until the end of March) are also not uncommon, and both have their benefits. It becomes more of a challenge when we have a winter which doesn’t follow the rules like we had at the beginning of this year.

At times like these, it can be difficult to find the harmony between keeping a site safe and the monetary pressures which come with having to order in more supplies of salt and having the snow clearing vehicles visit on more occasions. A hybrid ‘blend’ of the two models mentioned earlier, called the 50/50 Contract, can make the balance more straightforward.

Our hybrid model splits the cost of the cost-per-visit and cost-per-season programmes. 50% of what the cost for a season would be is taken upfront, with the remainder consisting of half the cost-per-visit rate. This results in our customers being able to begin budgeting for the winter season, without the added concern of finding additional funds should we have another Beast from the East-type scenario.

Crucially, the model ensures the site is protected regardless of how harsh or mild the winter season is, and these risks are shared fairly between us and the customer. Because we are so often at the mercy of the UK’s infamously unpredictable weather, having a safety net in place helps all parties face the colder months with more confidence.

At Nurture, around 15% of our gritting customers use the hybrid model. The plan was introduced in 2016 and we envision it becoming more appealing as our service expands to new locations.

While it may not be high on the priority list at this moment in time, being aware of the potential repercussions ahead and having the options in mind will make it easier to react to whatever comes this winter.

For more informayion on our Winter Gritting Services click here

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