NIMBUS, the GRITIT™ winter gritting IT system, uses the latest integrated tracking and telematics software in conjunction with an algorithmic decision-making platform to ensure our teams are in time, on time - and every time. NIMBUS was designed in-house to control, automate and guarantee all aspects of our business and service delivery and interfaces with third party applications, such as financial and meteorological software.
Winter gritting job creation, scheduling, and optimisation
Upon receipt of our daily weather forecast, the weather data file is imported into NIMBUS. NIMBUS automatically cross-references weather data against pre-agreed site-specific activation parameters and location details. Within a matter of minutes, NIMBUS raises jobs for all sites that have activated for service over the coming evening, eliminating the risk of human error. Forecast weather conditions (precipitation, snow, etc.) can have a significant impact on service, and service times are adjusted to ensure such effects are minimised whilst still achieving your SLA timeframes.
Winter gritting route optimisation
There are many variables that can impact on the number and type of jobs we undertake on any one evening. All jobs are planned using route optimisation software which considers live traffic information and the most efficient route to ensure sites are serviced at the most optimum time.
Winter gritting attendance verification
There are two distinct methods we employ to confirm attendance and timings of visits which are all recorded and managed via our NIMBUS Service Management System.
Winter gritting vehicle tracking
During the contract mobilisation stage, a geofence (GPS boundary of the site) is created using telematics software. NIMBUS records the time that the geofence is breached (both entry and exit) using the GPS tracking in the operator’s vehicle and their smartphone handheld device.
Winter gritting reporting
NIMBUS has been designed to incorporate multiple technologies to monitor each and every interaction using software that collates and cross-references the combined use of vehicle tracking, digital site boundaries, smartphone reporting, weather conditions, and GPS data against a pre-determined set of service parameters. NIMBUS validates that the correct driver, is in the right vehicle, at the right time, on the correct property and reporting correctly all within pre-set parameters. NIMBUS continually interrogates service and automatically notifies our 24/7 National Operations Teams when any of the following criteria have not been met:
- Both smartphone and vehicle tracking must match the GPS co-ordinates (latitude and longitude) we have stored against sites in the system
- Both smartphone and vehicle tracking must breach the digital site boundary and spend a minimum site-specific amount of time within the area.
- Gritting jobs must have been started and completed within agreed SLA timeframes
Any exception is highlighted to our 24/7 national operation team and investigated in conjunction with regional managers and regional directors.
The mobile app for winter gritting
Available in both iOS and Android, the adjunct app has been developed to give more control of how, when and where clients choose to digest service data or activate services. Harnessing the power of smartphone technology, this app puts real-time service data at the end user’s fingertips, giving client staff insight from the field, opening direct channels of communication both in and out.
User security and validation is controlled directly from NIMBUS, making sure data is safe and secure and only relevant information is shown. Clients can use their app to request additional service visits (callouts), or view which of their sites has activated for service that evening and view the forecasted weather conditions including the road surface temperatures.
Billing for your winter gritting
NIMBUS also provides an online web portal interface giving the ability for (authorised) staff to access past as well as scheduled services. It shows all completed service data with weather information as well as details of any issues reported on site during service, NIMBUS allows the user to get a full picture of all services on all sites. NIMBUS also allows client users to export data to Excel and download copies of service plans.
Full billing information is available even before invoices are created, so you can keep track of your costs which are yet to be invoiced. After invoicing there is also a statement view showing the status and amounts of your invoices. You can also download invoices directly from the portal. Billing information visibility is controlled by individual user security rights, and can be turned on or off depending on the end user’s issued rights - meaning someone who should only see service data does not see anything to do with billing. User security and validation is controlled directly from NIMBUS, making sure data is safe and secure and only relevant information is shown to relevant people.
Automated service activation for winter gritting
The decision to provide service to a given location is based on the daily 12:00 RST (road-surface temperature) forecast, when the activation temperatures (as defined for each site) are met by forecast conditions. NIMBUS gives us the flexibility to offer a bespoke and flexible service offering on a site by site basis and removes any possibility for human error.
A daily automated pre-service report is sent to your designated email address(es) for the day detailing if we will be undertaking a planned visit for the day. Service activation data is automatically distributed to our local operators directly onto their smartphones, to the regional teams and our operations team. NIMBUS uses a route optimisation algorithm to schedule site visits intelligently, minimising travel time and ensuring all sites are visited within the tight window available overnight.
Forecasting the need for winter gritting with Metdesk
All operators follow our daily weather update from MetDesk and are sent a daily electronic update on their individual PDA, including:
- Areas requiring service
- Go/ no go for regional activity/ specific contracts (basically are you working or not)
- Severe weather warnings
- Service updates/ plans/ any deviation from the norm
Detailed winter gritting process steps
- All jobs are dispatched daily directly to operators via their smartphones.
- All service-specific information is sent to the smartphone which the operator will use to report on each service, using bespoke software designed to return relevant and useful reports to clients.
- Jobs are route-optimised in NIMBUS for ‘order of completion’. Smartphones also have built in routing software for even greater optimisation when travelling between jobs.
- All smartphone-based and tracking data is stored on cloud-based secure servers.
- Location data is also recorded using set locations called geo-fences which log entry, exit, duration as well as all ping data within the location for all our sites. This data is visible in real-time and cross checked with returning smartphone-based data, to confirm jobs are being completed and reported correctly.
- Information is stored on servers to be able to easily view any historical event should this be required.
Winter gritting job status
The status of all jobs is tracked through NIMBUS at the following stages:
- Job dispatched to smartphone
- Job received by smartphone
- Operator on route to location
- Operator arrived
- Operator working on site
- Job Complete – all service data returned
An automated post-service notification is sent to the client’s designated email addresses to confirm the work undertaken, underpinned by the data collected by the operator via their smartphone. All collected tracking data and smartphone-based service reports are imported into our main software platform NIMBUS following the successful completion each job. We also operates a failsafe back up with all operators being required to record data manually. This ensures that should there be a breakdown in mobile communications reports can still be submitted by the correct deadline.
Winter gritting audits and inspections
We operate a robust supervisory inspection programme of operators and records, to ensure that our health and safety policy, processes and safe systems of work are being correctly followed, at all times.
Regional managers undertake random site inspections both during and after service to confirm all that personal protection equipment (PPE) is being worn, correct techniques are being used, appropriate salt spread rates are being applied relative to the conditions and to the correct areas. Each night an inspection list is dispatched to the regional manager. For operators to continue we require a 100% success rate. By observing the step-by-step delivery of works, we can assess compliance with the risk assessments and method statements and identify and rectify any skills or training gaps or non-conformance. Depending on the circumstances any result less than 100% will typically mean re-training or other employment. Further regular auditing is carried out which includes:
- Ensuring that all risk assessments and method statements (RAMS) are checked and updated annually as a minimum;
- Verifying that all operators have undertaken training on the RAMS and signed to confirm that have both received and understood the training, before starting work on site;
- Checking that our regional managers are carrying out regular toolbox talk refresher training on working safely; and
- Working with the regional manager to rectify any issues identified during the site inspections which may include amending the method statements or delivering training.
Inspections are completed by the regional manager using a proforma hosted on the smartphone. Once completed, a report is produced in PDF format and made available for client review whenever required.
Winter gritting updates
We employ a multi-layered communications strategy to provide information in the most suitable way you want to receive it. These include:
Your allocated account manager for winter gritting
In addition to the operational teams, an account manager is offered to you as a primary point of contact, providing a further layer of accessible support for all issues. We believe this model, which is not the norm in our industry, has been critical to our high customer retention rate and development of long-term relationships with clients.
Via this model we deliver industry leading services delivered by locally based service experts, supported by an account management function focused on pro-actively engaging with your managers to ensure you are happy with our service and that we are addressing any concerns.
Your account manager will work with your operational teams to ensure that we deliver against the required service levels and will pro-actively monitor weather to identify and address issues before they become problems, communicating with your key stakeholders regularly.
Winter gritting service email notifications
We send individually compiled spreadsheets containing detailed service reports, weather and billing information for any number of sites. These can be tailored to suit your staff, for example reports can be compiled by region or areas of responsibility.
Winter gritting service reporting
Winter gritting is primarily undertaken during the night, an unseen yet critical service crucial to the normal operation of sites over the winter. Keeping customers informed of our movements is therefore pivotal to our customer service strategy and why we have invested heavily in several customer communication channels. Our bespoke NIMBUS system can send an array of optional and automated service reports to clients, detailing service which is going to take place as well as detail on completion. NIMBUS provides three channels of client interface, each of which can be used at the discretion and choice of the user. Our service notifications are completely automated. Last year NIMBUS sent out 450,000+ automated service notifications consisting of:
- Pre-service notification
- Post-service notification
- Access issues
- Monthly attendance reports
In addition to automated notifications, our operators are expected to go the extra mile and notify clients when we encounter anything unusual whilst on site. This is what we call a service issue notification and can include for example blocked drains, leaking air conditioning units, damaged lighting and suspicious activity.
Given we work in the middle of the night, it is not unusual for our teams to come across suspicious or illegal activity. In these situations, our operators will contact the police in the first instance, followed by site security contractors (if we are provided their details) and then notify clients so that they are aware of the issue as soon as they arrive in the morning.
Winter gritting web portal
As previously detailed, all customers are provided access to contract data and information via our online web portal for historic and scheduled services. Showing all completed service data with weather information as well as details of any issues reported on site during service, NIMBUS allows the user to get a full picture of all service on the sites they manage. The ability to export data to Excel and download copies of service plans are other useful features.
Contact us today for winter gritting
The extremes of recent years have demonstrated the unpredictability of winter weather in the UK. If you're responsible for a portfolio of buildings, facilities, business or retail parks, this can make it challenging to budget for the costs of winter services. At GRITIT™, we offer a breadth of commercial arrangements with the flexibility to meet the needs of your business. Pay for gritting and/or snow clearance only when needed with a cost per visit (CPV) arrangement that ensures you only pay when the weather conditions trigger a visit. For more cost predictability, fixed price deals for the winter are ideal and ensure peace of mind that no matter how harsh the winter, you will only pay the agreed price.
This covers all visits for winter gritting and/or snow clearance when the agreed weather condition trigger is reached. For clients seeking a hybrid model that combines elements of both arrangements we can create a tailored commercial plan. We can also work with you to customise the triggers for visits according to the exact temperature or snow conditions that meet your requirements – and advise on best practice for doing so while keeping your sites safe.