The waste and recycling sector is experiencing a period of rapid technological innovation. Digitalisation, the Internet of Things and driverless vehicles are just a few of the developments causing businesses to think about how they should adapt their technology strategies to improve and grow.
The market continues to experience significant economic and commercial pressures. These challenges are likely to continue, and potentially intensify, ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU next year.
Companies therefore need to find new ways to improve their operating efficiency and preserve profit margins. Technology is increasingly recognised as one means of achieving this, while delivering a range of additional service improvements.
The use of intelligent optimisation systems to improve vehicle routing is one area that is realising genuine savings for users. These systems use algorithms to reduce fleet mileage by 12-20%. In doing so, they can also consider a range of other factors such as restricted access and disposal points.
As well as reducing fuel and emissions, the revenue-making potential of each truck can be increased by up to two hours a day.
There is also an increase in the need for ‘on demand’ services. These result in more dynamic routes where the operator needs 24/7 system availability, and the ability to fix and check margins in real-time. This level of availability enables the automation of call centre processes using chat and speech bots.
Another area that has witnessed great efficiency improvement is the management of subcontractors. This has become important as companies move towards an ‘asset light’ business model or one that sees greater sharing of bins and trucks.
Systems such as AMCS’s Digital Engagement are ideal for managing third-party service providers to support growth and give increased scale. They provide a digital and real-time exchange of information with the supply chain, automating each stage of the relationship from sourcing to job management and invoicing.
“The ability to provide customers with proof-of-service photographs and GPS time stamps virtually eliminates any instances of disputed service.”
This acceleration in the adoption of technology is not solely driven by economic conditions.
Coverage of waste-related issues in the mainstream media has seen consumers and customers call brands and suppliers to account. The risk of reputational damage to a brand from the irresponsible management of their waste has never been higher.
The move towards a circular economy has also been an important driver in the development of innovative technology. In order to better manage the waste we produce, we need to view it as a valuable secondary resource with both and economic and commercial value.
To do this effectively, we require visibility, measurement and the ability to intervene at any point in a material’s lifecycle.
Modern systems that support the accurate inbound and outbound grading of material, for example, help companies make better decisions as to the recycling and reprocessing technologies they choose. Again, route optimisation has an important role to play because the improved utilisation of resources further increase the number of logistical movements that are required.
Meanwhile, the drive for accurate data has seen significant uptake in the application of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, which supports a company’s commercial, operational and financial processes.
The ability to automate manual processes allows more time to be spent on revenue generation and improving service levels. Furthermore, ERP software allows synchronous and paperless workflow from initial inquiry to invoice and payment.
Supporting these systems is a change in the way we are collecting and interacting with data. The use of mobile devices allows businesses to digitise their frontline workforce and streamline communications in real-time.
This can significantly improve a company’s ability to respond to customer requests and reduce the costs associated with missed collections or wasted journeys. It can also eradicate double handling and multiple points of data entry.
The ability to provide customers with proof-of-service photographs and GPS time stamps virtually eliminates any instances of disputed service. Data, captured from integrated on-board weighing and radio frequency ID systems, facilitates overweight container billing and targeted price reviews.
The effective implementation of future-proof and easily compatible technologies will further harness the commercial, environmental and social benefits of improved materials management, and develop in companies a more sustainable business model.
Mark Abbas is group chief marketing officer at integrated software and vehicle technology provider AMCS