Monthly Archives: October 2014

SIMA Think Tank: Stakeholders find solutions together

‘Collaboration among Think Tank participants generated literally dozens of possible solutions.’

By Phill Sexton
On Aug. 27, facility and property managers from across North America, many having recently joined SIMA, gathered with fellow members in Detroit for the SIMA Think Tank. A first-of-its-kind collaboration between the two industries, the goal of the Think Tank was to provide a neutral forum where snow & ice management service providers and their clients could meet to identify common pains and to develop solutions together.  

The Think Tank produced several overarching outcomes. Most notable was the dynamic variety of collaboration between the various stakeholders. SIMA hired Dr. Michael Marquardt, professor of human resource development and international affairs and program director of the Executive Leadership Program at George Washington University, to coach participants and facilitate the collaboration. 

Stakeholder participants included property/facility managers, service providers, insurance professionals and suppliers who worked together in a roundtable setting to identify common pains and root cause issues, and then proposed solutions under the direction of roundtable facilitators. The groups used Marquardt’s action learning approach to problem solving.

Collaboration among Think Tank participants generated literally dozens of possible solutions. Two common solutions that were identified among 14 roundtable collaborations were: 

  • The need for standardization that is systemic throughout the industry, including standard definitions, contract agreements, payment terms and best management practices the entire industry follows. 
  • The need for increased communication and education between snow & ice service providers and facility/property managers.  

Although the Think Tank was considered a huge success, the work to make the resulting solutions a reality has just begun. To maximize the learning and collaboration from the Think Tank the next step for SIMA is compiling all of the solutions presented and submitting a proposed plan of action to the membership and industry at large. Specific solutions that can be developed and leveraged will be reviewed and approved (if necessary) by members of SIMA’s Outreach Advisory Committee, SIMA staff and SIMA’s Board of Directors. Further strategy and plans of action for the next year will be communicated in the coming months. 

Strengthening the bond between stakeholders
The idea for the Think Tank evolved from the 2012 Snow Strategies Forum in Chicago. At this event, SIMA partnered with several nationally recognized facility/property management (FM/PM) executives who participated on a panel and offered their experiences and frustrations related to snow & ice management services. This initial exposure compelled SIMA to develop an outreach campaign focused on the FM/PM industry. 

Over the next two years, SIMA’s outreach campaign included the development of the Snow & Ice Management Best Practices Guidelines, as well as dozens of news releases and best practices presentations, and collaboration with the FM/PM industry at national, regional and local levels. 

These opportunities to advocate for the industry have also resulted in a new approach for expanding the capacity of engagement with the FM/PM industry through a newly developed group called SIMA Ambassadors. 

Facilities managers, contractors find mutual understanding (By Cheryl Higley)
Attendees at the first SIMA Think Tank tackled 14 topics that represented some of the pain points related to snow & ice management. Each table included a moderator and a mix of contractors, facility/property managers and other stakeholders who spent the entire session focused only on topics covering contracts, scope of work, invoicing, technology and more. Presented with a problem, vigorous discussion resulted in the identification of areas of concern for each stakeholder as well as possible solutions.

At the end of the session, all the groups came together and presented details on their conversations. A common theme throughout each of the presentations was that a lack of communication and understanding of each other’s functional responsibilities and restrictions is hindering a true collaborative relationship as it relates to snow & ice management services.

“The SIMA Think Tank was very informative in many aspects for me. It allowed open and candid conversation that let each participant learn and understand the other side of each other’s business. We need to collaborate more often in this type of setting,” says Doug McDaniel, senior facilities manager-exterior services for Wal-Mart.

Mike Mason, CSP, vice president and COO of The LawnPro, said the active learning format put each stakeholder on even ground: “It allowed us to look at the problems the industry faces in a completely different light. Through discussions with stakeholders at every level we were able to come up with some real solutions. The outcomes were so good, we have begun utilizing the concept of action learning in our company.” 

To learn more about how you can help SIMA’s advocacy and outreach efforts, contact or call the SIMA office at 414-375-1940.

Thoughts on Salt

‘There’s one additional consistent message I’ve heard on salt supply for contractors: Don’t wait until just before winter to search for salt…’

By Martin Tirado, CAE
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend two educational seminars hosted by SIMA members in the last week. Not surprisingly, both programs focused on the hot issue for this winter season: salt supply. The speakers were nicely diversified, from a major salt mining company, to the former executive director of the Salt Institute, a consultant to DPW and fleet managers, to weather forecasters. Here are a few things I learned, and thoughts for you to consider.

Technical information:

  • 12°F  (-11°degrees C) is the lowest limit of salt in melting snow and ice. Any air & surface temperatures lower than this and additional melting materials will be needed to effectively melt snow and ice.
  • 23.3% is the ideal salt solution for brine.
  • DPWs are starting to use FLIR infrared cameras in their trucks to detect sources of heat for purposes of both public safety and to detect where there is active heat (melting) occurring on roadways.

Salt supply:

  • Approximately 20% of salt used for snow and ice melt is consumed by the private sector. With 80% consumption, the public sector has much more group buying leverage than the private sector.
  • Salt mining companies are in business to sell salt, not control supply and demand. At least one major salt mining company is bringing salt from overseas to try to meet demand. The supply chain, from mine to applicator, takes time and is affected by several factors including the weather, such as the freezing of the great lakes shutting down shipping routes.
  • Supply could increase if salt applicators could take on more inventory. Ports and salt depots have a maximum amount of salt they can store at any one time.

If you have a limited supply of salt for the upcoming winter, there are the essential things that should be done, including not over-applying, spreader calibration, use of liquids in a variety of ways to maximize the snow and ice melt effectiveness of salt. 

There’s one additional consistent message I’ve heard on salt supply for contractors. Don’t wait until just before winter to search for salt and purchase a 1 year, historical-based average supply. The companies that have planned and purchased effectively, they have salt for this winter. The longer one waits, prices are only going to get higher as supply decreases.

SIMA builds bridges between you and facilities managers

‘Fast-forward four years, and I’m very proud of the work that SIMA members and staff have undertaken to further the goals of reaching out to this key group.’

By Laura Ingram, CSP
Our company became involved with SIMA as a member about four years ago. At the time, the Snow & Ice Symposium was coming to our area of North Chicago and we figured we’d check out the association.

We were impressed with our first show. At the time, there was a lot of talk within the association about being more proactive in reaching out to the facility and property management professionals who are responsible for hiring snow service providers. This type of discussion was extremely interesting to me, and I wanted to get more involved.

Fast-forward four years, and I’m very proud of the work that SIMA members and staff have undertaken to further the goals of reaching out to this key group. I wanted to share with you some of our accomplishments so far, with the optimistic viewpoint that even greater things are still to come:

Outreach timeline

  • Spring 2010: SIMA staff and board review a statistical survey of facilities management professionals to better understand the needs/challenges they face related to snow & ice service providers.
  • Summer 2011: SIMA finalizes three high-quality videos focused on sharing information with those who are seeking to hire snow management service providers, and launches the new Hire a Pro section of the SIMA website.
  • Fall 2011: SIMA hires Phill Sexton as an industry liaison as part of his duties as director of education and outreach.
  • Winter 2012: SIMA restructures its committees and creates the official Outreach Committee, whose core purpose is to organize the efforts of the association related to this audience.
  • Summer 2012: The annual Snow Strategies Forum features an entire day focused on the relationship between snow management professionals and facility managers, including a four-person panel of facility management executives.
  • Fall 2012: SIMA Outreach Committee releases the Best Practices Checklist for Snow & Ice Management, a free resource for both facility managers and snow professionals to evaluate a snow organization.
  • Summer 2013: The annual Snow Strategies Forum in Washington, DC, brings contractors and facility management professionals together for facilitated discussion and information sharing.
  • Fall 2013: SIMA Outreach Committee forms the Ambassadors program and announces the industry’s first Ambassadors, charged long term with sharing snow & ice best practices and information to the facility management industry.
  • Summer 2014: SIMA holds the Salt Summit & Think Tank in Detroit, with the Think Tank session focused entirely on creating long-term solutions for challenges that occur in the procurement, contracting and service implementation of snow services. SIMA releases a new full-color marketing brochure called 5 Tips for Hiring Snow Management Services, available in print-ready format for members at no charge.   

Laura Ingram, CSP, is director of operations for Ingram Enterprises Inc. in Lincolnshire, IL. She is chair of the Outreach Committee and a member of the SIMA Board of Directors. Email her at