Thursday, February 9, 2017

There is only one ice company that can wear the Alberta crest!

I have gotten over the fact that for the past five years American owned Arctic Glacier has misrepresented Polar Ice, a company it bought years ago as Alberta owned.  If American owned Arctic Glacier owns a company in Canada such Polar Ice, Polar Ice is American owned.
Polar ice is NOT Alberta owned!
Sure it made me angry because being Alberta owned is our big marketing feature at Columbia Ice.  It is all the small Alberta business has going for it when competing against big, faceless American owned corporations.  You might think it would be illegal to mislead consumers about the location of the owners but our competition bureau is useless.  Rules are just words without enforcement.  I wrote a blog post, got angry and then got over it as there isn't any recourse for leaving a website up advertising something that isn't true.

I have also accepted that Columbia Ice will likely never be able to do the Western Canadian ice contracts of big grocery and gas chains who use buying power to get a better price.  Just after we built our ice factory in Acheson we got a call from PetroCanada wanting to buy all our ice at 45 cents a bag which is below what it costs us to make the ice.  Sometimes the dream, big contracts are too big.  Sure it makes me grumpy seeing these gas stations and grocery stores selling competing products from a US supplier instead of a Canadian but we don't have ice factories across Western Canada to offer another option.  

Today I was hungry so I went to Save-on-foods to get a sandwich and some milk.  I never bought the sandwich and milk I had in my basket after seeing a freezer full of  American owned  Arctic Glacier with a picture of the province of Alberta with the Alberta crest on their freezer.  

Even though Arctic Glacier makes it's ice for Alberta in Calgary it isn't even remotely Alberta owned.  Arctic Glacier use to be Canadian owned until it got hit with a massive 12.5 million dollar fine for alleged price fixing in the US , an issue it is still dealing with today.  When Save-On-Foods or Arctic Glacier puts an Alberta crest on an outline of the Alberta province on it's freezer full of ice from the American owned ice company, it is misleading to the consumer.  A lot of people in Alberta will go out of their way to buy products from Alberta owned companies.  It makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside when you support local. When you see a company like Save-On-Foods and Arctic Glacier put a Alberta crest on their freezers it could make a person think Arctic Glacier is an Alberta owned company.

I know I am biased working for the competition to Arctic Glacier if a flea is competition to an elephant. It is just frustrating seeing our competition try to be like Columbia Ice and be an Alberta owned company.  So sad, too bad but there is only one ice company in Alberta that can wear the Alberta crest.  The same crest it's Master Iceman wore in 2000 as he traveled across Canada in the Canadian Naval Gunrun representing the great people of Alberta.  Columbia Ice, a proudly Alberta owned ice company.  Owners live in St. Albert.

Master Iceman

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

iSocket will text me if power goes out or freezer gets too warm.

Being the only full-time year round employee at Columbia Ice, a small ice company in Alberta I don't get to take too many vacations. The owners are older and have reduced mobility so it is a big ask to get them to handle deliveries while I am off.  It was early in the new year of 2016 when I hopped a flight to visit my brother in Vancouver for 3 days over a weekend.  In January I sit in the office waiting for the phone to ring collecting dust competing with the Maytag repairman to see who moves the least.  Nobody wants ice when it is minus 20 out.  It was the best time of year to have a vacation.  I had done all the deliveries beforehand and the owners only had to deal with the "my ice maker broke" business.

Power out melts ice
I went on my trip, had an interesting time and came into the ice factory the following Monday afternoon.  As part of my routine I check the freezer out and this is what I found.

image of melted ice due to power going out.
Power outage melts ice
 According to our Oscar, the refrigeration tech the condenser unit had a small leak, meaning the 404 coolant.  The leak was so small it must of been there for awhile Oscar told me.  It was dumb luck that it happened when I went on a 3 day vacation.  To us at Columbia Ice it was par for course with our ice factory.  More than once things had been wired wrong or not worked as they should of.  Ice bin wired backwards, new conveyor motor blew when we plugged in, first condenser unit was warped when it arrived.  A slow leak, that happened to reach the point where it tripped the freezer when I went on vacation, just fit with the pattern that we were cursed at Columbia Ice.


Lucky for us we only had 20 pallets of ice in our freezer to melt.  Unlucky for us it was 20 pallets of half melted ice in the middle winter.  My first thought was to put the pallets in the walk ways and either let the ice melt or break the bags open.  Problem with this was what to do with the water from all the ice.  It was apparent pretty quickly my plan was flawed leaving me with the only option to fill up our small back area outside, in minus 20 weather with 20 pallets of half melted ice.  I wasn't going to get rid of the ice till spring.  It would sit there frozen, causing everyone who came buy to ask what is that ice doing out there and for me to to explain what had happened.  A stupid leak while I had gone on vacation had cost us ~7000.00 worth of ice.

ice in hallway

I know how to google so I got on google and started looking for a sensor to monitor our freezer remotely.   I found a few options so I fired out a few emails.  I don't like talking on the phone so I send emails to see who really wants my business.  You would be surprised how many companies all over the world have not figured out how to email and the business they lose.  Luckily a gentleman at isocket responded to my email.

They had a product which not only would send me a text when the freezer went above a certain temperature but also if the power went out in the building.  This was a double bonus for us as in the summer during peak season we will run our ice makers 23 hours a day.  At times we get lightening storms which will shut the power off in the factory, shutting our ice makers off.  When the temperature is hot, ice flying out the door, the 6 pallets of ice ~2000.00 lost by ice makers not running due to an electrical storm can make us short of ice.  It means having to push client orders back another day, paying extra to get ice out of cold storage on short notice if possible or giving a little now and the rest later doubling our delivery costs.

It was a no brainer from a cost perspective.  For a couple hundred dollars isocket, a tool created in Europe by some really smart folk who will respond to email inquiries, will answer questions we had a simple, easy to install tool which saves us 1000's of dollars with a simple text. Best of all the isocket is extremely affordable.

isocket in action
How cool is that?

If you have an industrial freezer and need a remote temperature monitoring sensor I recommend isocket.

In my set up I use an extension cord because putting an outlet on the freezer requires me to pay an electrician and money is tight.  That said it would be trivial for any electrician to do.  Drill a hole in freezer, push sensor through, fill with spray insulation.

Of course with my luck when I went to help my brother move this year the freezer did not trip, no ice melted and thus isocket did not send me text telling me the freezer has stopped working.  Finally some good luck but I keep waiting for isocket to save the day.  I feel better knowing that now I can leave the ice plant and still be connected.  Best of all I didn't need to install a distributed control system or PLC or some complicated crap to make this happen.  isocket, a stupid simple solution to a costly problem.


The Master Iceman
http://columbiaice.ca
@ernieiceman

Friday, January 13, 2017

Bad reviews ONLINE will kill your Edmonton business

I am done offering unasked for advice to our clients about the web.  Small business owners tend to be sensitive and think you are telling them how to run their business instead helping them succeed online.  They see a poorly dressed iceman who can't match his colors, not someone who because he prefers dogs to people and spends too much time online.  They don't see the guy who once got over 3 million views on youtube doing vlog videos.  Who observed and then built 13 social cobwebs using the techniques of top tubers who make millions doing silly little videos.  The guy who got pissed off at Yellowpages and learned to code to build website so he could say goodbye to the pages.  Utilized time tested techniques recommended by multiple SEO blogs to do better in search.  I have installed software in powerplants, trained engineers on how to use, even guided the development of a facebook app back in the day. When you are uncomfortable around people and in sales you have to figure out how to get those people to call you instead of you calling them.

A website without SEO is like a billboard in the Arctic. Don't matter how nice that website is, nobody is going to see it.  Reviews are a HUGE part of search engine optimization.  When you look for a hotel to stay at, it is the bad reviews you read.  They cost hotels and businesses alike in potential customers they push away.  Even more costly is that google looks at them when determining where your website should show up in search.  Good reviews push your website up in search giving you more sales leads and bad reviews push your reviews down meaning less sales leads.  This isn't me making it up.  Do some research and you will see I am right.  I don't care if you don't want to hear about it.  I don't care if it hurts your feelings or you don't like it.  Reviews are so powerful online that you cannot afford to get bad ones and when you do RESPOND, RESPOND, RESPOND and do whatever you can to make things right.  You swallow your pride, you suck it up and you kiss ass because every bad review costs MONEY, MONEY, MONEY.

Social media is a HUGE part of search engine optimization.  Don't outsource this if you are a small business.  People like people. Show them pictures and videos of the people beneath the logo who make the business great.  You are small, your logo doesn't mean anything, it is those who work at the businesses who have to be the stars.  It is so easy to do now with smartphones that there is no excuse for not doing it.

AHHHH.. this is why I could never handle working in the whole web design, SEO world.  Big businesses know about this stuff as they hire the right people.  Small business owners are too sensitive, too busy, think their opinion matters when it comes to the ways search engine work.  Too often it is we want sales but only sales that happen in ways we are comfortable with like the phone.
Bad reviews and no real social media presence cost you sales.  Take it seriously.

If you like money, want more of it, then you will need to care about search.  If not, then don't and keep pushing potential clients away.

Master Iceman