The challenging markets experienced by the waste and recycling sector in recent years has meant that the need for operational efficiency and high-quality management data has never been more important.
Its capability to meet these needs has resulted in software and vehicle technology becoming one of the sector’s highest growth areas.
The development of mobile solutions with their real-time capability has seen particularly rapid development. Mobile solutions provide a range of benefits including driver support such as mapping; real-time data transfer and communication between the vehicle and office; greater efficiency through improved routing and scheduling; vehicle maintenance; and safety functionality.
The ability to reschedule work ‘live’ and to send ad hoc jobs direct into a vehicle’s route have obvious efficiency benefits by minimising the distances travelled between lifts, reducing fuel usage and increasing route capacity.
Missed lifts also present a significant cost-saving opportunity. If you think that, on average, every missed lift could cost £14, this represents a significant cost. The ability to reduce this number through improved routing or, further still, being able to charge for an additional service presents a real opportunity for operators.
While mobile technology has been available in the UK market for some time, the rapid development in hardware means it is no longer solely the domain of the ‘big players’.
Understandably, many operators have found the setup costs of fixed solutions too high, and have started to demand more flexible products capable of delivering the same functionality.
The rapid development of handheld tablet devices now presents a cost-effective alternative to fixed in-cab solutions.
Manufacturers of Android tablets have had to look for an alternative to the domestic market, where Apple has such a strong hold, and their investment and development has improved the performance of such devices and also helped to drive down costs.
This has provided an opportunity for companies such as AMCS to develop software for devices as part of an ongoing roadmap to enhance in-cab mobile offerings. The use of Android tablets has a number of benefits.
It presents a far lower cost of entry. An industrial Android tablet such as Samsung’s ruggedised Galaxy Tab Active, which has both IP67 rating and a 4ft drop spec can be brought for £350-£400. A tablet is also far more practical for some modes of collection such as skip or roll-on-off where the driver spends a lot of time out of the cab.
It also enables devices to be shared, used on hire vehicles or for apps to be installed by third parties. Tablets facilitate photos and signatures to be captured and transmitted in real-time to offices.
The mobile technology market for the waste and recycling sector looks like an exciting space. There are a number of developments in the pipeline: greater integration with engine management systems, camera systems, tracking solutions and so on.
We are also likely to see greater consolidation of systems, with the drive towards a single application that takes information from several systems and reports these to one enterprise resource planning solution. This will cut costs, improve efficiency and provide greater realtime visibility of operations.
Probably the most exciting opportunity is presented by the falling cost of entry. This will increase the affordability and uptake, especially among small- to medium-sized operators which, until now, have often been priced out of realising the benefits that mobile technology has to offer.
Ken Tierney is product manager at AMCS Group