Winter Program Changes Improve Services and Save Money

Like every municipality we are always looking for new ways to improve service and reduce costs. For the 2015/2016 winter season we made some changes to our snow management program with these goals in mind and found some interesting successes.

Every year as part of our continuous improvement strategy, the department selects a handful of priority services and deconstructs these services based on Lean methodologies for the purpose of verifying where value is added and that the right level of service is being delivered to the right customers. Of course, being public sector and servicing a broad community, we also focus on a consistent service model for all.

Now before I give you our program details, complete this one question survey so that we can compare how the majority of readers are performing this survey.

Share your program to see how we compare

 

Primary Change for this Season was the elimination of Sand

We have two major road classifications in Aurora being our primary roads and secondary roads. the primary roads receive salt treatment and the secondary roads receive a 95 percent sand/salt mix and the road ratio is about 4 to 1 for secondaries.

The exercise we undertook in 2015 was to review every step of the winter operation from both a customer perspective (are we adding value to the customer experience at every step) and from a life cycle approach ( what is the full impact of each practice).

How the Program Changed

The key changes to the program were:

1. eliminate the pre-wetting operations (8 years of operation in this mode has found some significant overall disadvantages of this approach on asset life)

2. Trial a pre-treated salt product in lieu of pre-wetting

3. Shift from sand/salt mix to salt only on all routes

4. Reduce overall application rates based on new characteristics of treated product

And here is how its shaking out so far…

Service Levels Experience

The major service level improvements were noticed on the roads that shifted from sand to salt. Moving to a bare pavement objective resulted in higher positive feedback from those areas. In addition, there were comments on how much cleaner the roads and private drives were based on the absence of tracked sand. This was an immediate benefit to the community. The overall service level improvements to the customer included:

  • clearer roads
  • faster completion of routes (due to reduced loading time)
  • perception of cleaner streets (due to absence of sand on roads in spring)

Operating Experiences

The major operational improvement was reduced re-load time as the application rates for sand vs salt was almost 4:1 since much more sand needed to be applied to provide the necessary traction as snow melt was not the objective. With salt only, the objective changed from snow pack to centre bare resulting in a more visible measure for the staff.

Also, the reduction in trips to the dome drastically increased “Plow on Road” time resulting in improved completion times with the same level of equipment. This was also translated into improved service to the customer with no added equipment costs and the availability of staff to perform other valued added services to further improve the customer experience.

Another significant improvement is with the spring cleanup. We are seeing an immediate savings of approximately $30,000 as all street sweeping will now be performed internally compared to a blitz with contracted services. The blitz was previously necessary due to high complaints of street conditions with the remaining sand. Now the roads are only requiring s light sweep for debris. This savings does not include the additional savings expected with sweepings disposal which will be minimal compared to sand application volumes.

The other area where savings are expected is with catch basin cleaning. This will be verified this summer but intuitively no sand on the road means no sand in the catch basins benefiting cleaning costs.

Staff have also found the change beneficial and are very much in support of how this has simplified operations.

Environmental Stewardship Major Consideration

We were also concerned about how this change might effect the environment so our overall goal was to minimize overall salt impacts as much as possible. While application rates for the secondary roads did increase due to the removal of sand, there was an opportunity to lower application rates on primary roads due to the benefits of the pre-treated salt. We are monitoring the overall application rates and believe that we have found the right balance of public safety and environmental stewardship as we balance legislated service levels with road salt usage.

Overall this has been a great pilot and these changes will be incorporated into future operations.

Now let us know how your program works to compare results.

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Survey Results- Why Strategic Initiatives Fail

 

First I want to thank all those who participated in the survey. The following table to a comparison of your responses to a survey that was completed by PMI called “Enabling Organizational Change Through Strategic Initiatives” and as can be expected, there are some similarities and some differences.

Continue reading Survey Results- Why Strategic Initiatives Fail

Why Strategic Initiatives Fail

One of, if not the biggest risk of achieving corporate goals is failing to effectively execute strategic initiatives. This if course is assuming your organization has a strategic agenda in the first place…but that is an entirely different topic.

Before we talk about why strategic initiatives fail, I am interested in finding out why you think strategic initiatives fail? So please give me your opinion over the next few weeks based on taking this survey based on the following potential causes of strategic initiative failure:

After the results are in I will share some interesting findings and see where the biggest opportunities really are!

Simple Rules for Smart Simplicity

In my opinion time is the most valuable resource we each have. Yet we can so easily let it slip with barely a thought. So every time I come across a useful tool or idea that helps keep me focused, I can’t help but want to share it.

I came across this video randomly and found Yves message so compelling for its simplicity. Although there are so many management approaches out there, I found these ideas straight forward and common sense. But in a profound way I also found them fundamental to creating healthy human relationships and attitude in an organization.

Take a look and tell me how you feel about his message.

Blame is not for failure…It is for failing to help or ask for help

Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of Lego

What to do about Organizational Silos? Try the Virtual Silo

We all know about silos in our organizations. You hear comments about other departments that somehow put them separate from your group or make them different. Some silos are attractive and people scramble to be part of them, and other silos are avoided at all cost.

We are also each a member of a silo although it might not feel like a silo if it is large enough or the culture is sensitive and supportive. So why do we continue to accept silos and what can we do about them?

Continue reading What to do about Organizational Silos? Try the Virtual Silo

Trash as Fashion…Why Not!

People have been making things out of recycle material for some time now. This is a great way to practice the 4 R’s but how effective is it to moving use closer to sustainability?

The fashion industry has also played along in recent years. I guess every designer is looking for that next new thing. Of course like many fashion events, the clothes that are presented are either signature pieces reserved for the wealthy or so impractical that they only serve the purpose of promoting the designer.

Continue reading Trash as Fashion…Why Not!

Winter Highway Maintenance Audit

Ontario Auditor General Report Critical on Snow Maintenance Performance

Bonnie Lysyk, Auditor General of Ontario released the Special Report on Winter Highway Maintenance April 2015 that was requested by the Standing Committee of Public Accounts. This report provides a critical eye on winter maintenance service delivery changes at the Ministry and how these changes, primarily made to reduce operating costs, have negatively impacted on service levels and potentially reduced road safety. Although specific to Ontario, I suspect many jurisdictions that deal with snow management will find value in this report.

Continue reading Winter Highway Maintenance Audit

Three Reasons Public Sector Projects Go Over Budget

Capital Projects in Public Sector are High Risk

Successful capital project delivery is a critical component of the asset growth and renewal cycle, but is is also only a small portion of the overall life cycle cost of an asset.

So how is it that capital costs (and the unfortunate experience of cost overruns) seem to attract so much attention in the public sector, yet annual operating costs generally get approved with very little attention? The primary reason for this dichotomy is the differences in these cost pools as summarized in the  following table.

Continue reading Three Reasons Public Sector Projects Go Over Budget

Co-Lab…Take a look at a new way to learn

Definition:

(c ‘ l  b) n place to collaborate; share stories of your experiences on a central theme; create new ideas through new perspectives; all are equally valued in the contribution; short lived partnership for mutual benefit. v to co-lab;

By talking to people with the same interests in a small time frame, we make new connections and build new relationships.

Continue reading Co-Lab…Take a look at a new way to learn

Capital Delivery With or Without a PMO

The Project Management Office! What is it and who does it?

For those of use that are engaged with or oversee capital delivery programs, you have probably heard of the project management office. Some may even have implemented this concept and others may have created a sustainable group of staff who live the PMO role.

Capital delivery and public works go hand in hand. This is what we do, we build stuff and figure out how to keep it running for ever (well mostly for ever). And who else knows more about this stuff then public works professionals.

So we all have a PMO right? Well sort of. Just like any other specialty, project delivery has varying degrees of formalization which lead to varying degrees of complexity cost and hopefully efficiency and risk mitigation. Its all a balancing act.

I am interested in knowing what this term means to you and how you have applied it within your organization. Provide your feedback at Public Works Knowledge Network.com/PMO