Out in the cold with Saltworks Ltd
Name: Robert Burns
Organisation name: Saltworks Ltd
Describe your role:
I am the Commercial Director for Saltworks Ltd and a big part of my job is client liaison. Each morning we receive the daily MET office information from which the senior experienced team at Saltworks HQ determine if servicing is required and where, across Northern Ireland over the next 24 hours.
I email all clients personally with a colour coded summary including details as to whether we recommend servicing and why, in their area. Clients have the option to “opt out” of the service that night due to unforeseen site closure or they may have enough salt down already. Our clients appreciate our technical knowhow and openness in providing all the information and winter services they need.
After the emails are sent out, we contact all depots/drivers to let them know if they will be out servicing that night, and what time they can start at. Rain and run-off have to clear before salting can begin; otherwise the salt would wash away and would be ineffective.
We get regular reports from the MET office and are constantly reviewing the weather. In recent years Northern Ireland and the UK in general continues to experience a much colder climate and harsher winters and we want to ensure that places of work are safe and accessible for employees and the general public no matter what the winter weather brings.
The rest of my day is spent visiting clients and responding to the referrals they provide. Saltworks is a company built on high standards of customer care and value for money; with a service that makes a difference to business & people in Northern Ireland and it is extremely rewarding when customers return for further services or refer us to their colleagues or friends.
What is the best part of your job?
Helping businesses, hospitals and schools remain operational and safe for everyone on site through the worst winter weather. We have not had a single site closure since first offering our services throughout Northern Ireland.
What aspect of your job do you find the most challenging?
Explaining the genuine risk organisations take by not having a professional winter service provider protecting them through the winter months without sounding like a salesman. Companies, who have suffered in previous winters from loss of production or sales because of winter weather, jump at the opportunity to become a Saltworks client, let alone those organisations that have gone through the pain of a personal injury claim on their site due to no protection.
What are the key issues facing your sector at the moment?
As in many industries, if the service is done properly people think it is very easy, so everyone wants to “have a go” at providing the service only to fall (excuse the pun) at some of the many pitfalls.
How is your organisation responding to these issues?
With many years’ experience, the best equipment, well trained operatives, professional planning and communication, our own stock of salt, developing the latest technology, and expertise in interpreting MET office forecasts we can keep our clients protected whilst making the most efficient use of our resources.
What is the biggest goal on your agenda for the year ahead?
To maintain our good name in the industry by providing the service organisations need to help them through the worst winter weather and to build our client base both within Northern Ireland and further afield. We have been invited to provide our services outside Northern Ireland which is a sure sign that our services are in demand.
If you had to give one piece of business advice, what would it be?
Tell people not to accept poor service, instead demand genuine, friendly, professional service. It makes life so much more pleasant.
What work experience and qualifications helped you to get to your position?
I previously worked in the IT industry for almost 25 years before helping to set up Saltworks in 2011
Having lived in USA and Canada during a number of winters I saw how they managed with their weather conditions and I wanted to apply that experience with local knowledge. I knew organisations here did not have to suffer due to a little winter weather and I felt that a professional winter maintenance service was desperately needed.