Cleaning a lot in half the time sounds really good, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t any snow removal contractor like to cut their labor in half? That is what happened to one team dedicated to removing snow at a distribution center when they exchanged their offset plow for a patented Snowgrr by Berlon Industries to clear snow out from underneath trailers and other hard to clear areas.
We had an opportunity to chat with the inventor of the Snowgrr, Elliot Pennock, whose family has worked in snow and ice removal in Iowa for many years. As with many inventions, the Snowgrr was born out of frustration because nothing on the market could get the job done right.
It was work at a distribution center for a major US retailer that sparked the idea for the Snowgrr (originally it was called Snowger, but it recently went through a name change). For years, all you could use was an offset plow (a plow that extends 6’ or so further to the right than the left) attached to a front-end loader or backhoe to clear out snow from underneath trailers. The only problem was, moving the snow took too long.
Pennock shares “at a distribution center, speed is the name of the game.” The distribution center employees need to hook-up and go FAST and in order to do that, they need pavement clear of snow for hook-up clearance and for safety. They also need the snow removal crew to be out of their way. The offset plow, even though it was designed to clear out under trailers, was just too slow for everybody.
So Pennock got to work and the first thing he wanted was to make something that would work with a skid steer. Pennock specifically targeted a skid steer because “it is a piece of equipment any serious contractor has, if I can clear snow fast with a skid steer, I know a contractor will have the right machine.”
To go from a loader to a skid steer, pushing the snow became out of the question, the skid steers didn’t have the same kind of muscle. Pennock knew the solution had to move the snow out of the way fast, and what better way than an auger? The auger quickly makes a windrow and another operator can follow behind with a box plow, similar to when they used the offset plow.
Going to an auger had lots of advantages. Compared to some of the most popular offset plows, it was hundreds of pounds lighter. Since the auger moved snow as fast as a politician makes promises (that’s F.A.S.T. fast y’all) there was additional weight savings because you are pushing less snow. With less snow, the unit could be smaller, so the Snowgrr is about 20% less high than many of the offset plows out there, giving more visibility to the operator.
While the Snowgrr was born at a distribution center, Pennock imagines seeing the Snowgrr in use soon in other applications too, whether under airplanes, overhangs, or any hard to reach area where snow needs to get removed.
Yet Pennock kept going back to speed in our conversation. “That same lot that took 6-8 hours to clean normally takes closer to 2 hours now,” using the same size crew and one Snowgrr. It is not just shuttling the snow out of the way. The maneuverability available from a skid steer allows crews to quickly reach into places with the Snowgrr they had to tip-toe around or completely avoid with the offset plow.
Not only is the snow removal quicker, but since it is on a skid steer with universal attachment plates, the Snowgrr can be quickly exchanged for another piece of equipment like a conventional box plow or a salt spreader. The Snowgrr actually comes with two attachment plates, one for offset snow removal, and a center attachment plate primarily for transportation, but which can also be used for making windrows without the offset.
The Snowgrr even provided benefits Pennock was not expecting. Since the operator sits lower to the ground in a skid steer compared to a backhoe or an end loader, visibility underneath trailers and other objects was improved. The added visibility allows for additional speed while improving safety at the same time since the operator has a better view underneath the trailers.
In 2016, Pennock reached out to Berlon Industries and the parties entered into a license agreement. Berlon Industries is no stranger to snow and ice removal. They have been manufacturing snow and ice removal equipment for skid steers, backhoes, telehandlers, and front end loaders for years. The Snowgrr is a great addition to the Berlon lineup providing a much needed niche tool for contractors needing to remove a lot of snow underneath objects (like at those distribution centers). Berlon tells us the Snowgrr is now used at distribution centers for Walmart, FedEx, and Family Dollar among other places.
Since Pennock came out with the original design, the rest of the team at Berlon has made additional improvements to make the Snowgrr more robust. They replaced the original bearings with long wearing poly bearings that are maintenance free. The team also figured out how to ship the Snowgrr in two 8 foot sections, essentially cutting the shipping cost in half. A few other tweaks made the Snowgrr easier to manufacture ensuring customers pay the lowest price possible.
So let’s look at the list again of why the Snowgrr is so great.
- The Snowgrr is FAST at removing snow from under trailers and other objects.
- The Snowgrr is made to go on a skid steer, something you as a contractor likely already own
- Since the Snowgrr is on a skid steer, the operator has improved visibility, great maneuverability, and can quickly swap it out for other attachments.
In the end, the Berlon Industries team sees that the Snowgrr will save you a lot of money compared to using an offset plow, allowing you and your customers to win. You can find out more information about the patented Snowgrr by Berlon Industries here.