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The Advantage in the Waste Industry

Optimizing Collection Services: Electronic Tools Boost Your Bottom Line

Barry Grahek

With the knowledge of of recyclable commodities toward historic highs. As volume has grown in those commodities, so has the what components are readily available and the need for more automation and tracking that electronic tools and software provide. Many haulers in the waste ability to select those industry start out with a truck or two and high hopes, which makes sense for but rarely anticipate the need for a system designed specifically to manage their business as it grows, your business, there is no reason not adding assets and personnel as they evolve into a multi-line service company. to implement the right solution the first time Traditional Versus and add components Automated Operations A large portion of businesses in the waste and as the business recycling industry still operate using more traditional groWs. methods of managementusually a combination of
spreadsheets and an off-the-shelf accounting package. Using spreadsheets and accounting packages means double entry of every aspect of the companys service and billing information, and unfortunately, it also means the risk of potential errors is constant: missed service, a misplaced dispatch ticket, an incorrect invoice or even missing or stolen assets. Each inaccuracy costs the company revenue in one form or another and often goes undetected. Furthermore, the management and maintenance of all paper created in the collection service process, including the manpower to support it, comes with a tremendous cost and impact on the environment. Whether residential, commercial or industrial, there are many advantages to using software and technology in todays market, and that becomes apparent when an organization begins analyzing operational efficiencies, service objectives and environmental sustainability.

This economy has sTeadily pushed The value

Several key elements of any software package, if the business owner is aware of them, can aid in the decision-making process, lead to the implementation of the right solution and, ultimately, speed up cash flow. GPS tracking, online services and automation are not just for the big guys. Complete waste and recycling industry software packages include modules to manage your entire businessintegrated dispatching, routing, container tracking and billing featureswhich translates down to the single entry and centralized maintenance of all aspects of the customer and related service and billing information. Many also have the advanced capability to automate the capture of service verification or waste tonnages directly from the point of service or

With a ruggedized handheld, service speed and accuracy are improved as human error and duplication of efforts are eliminated at each point in the process: electronic scanning and confirming container numbers, pick-up verification and inventory tracking.
Images courtesy of DesertMicro.


WasteAdvantage Magazine December 2010

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and helps new drivers figure out the best way to complete their routes.

Asset Management

The Advantage in the Waste Industry

powerful new management tools

RFID technology integrated with route optimization and vehicle maintenance software is proven to enhance efficiency. Just this year, Wastequip, a North American manufacturer of waste handling and recycling equipment, installed radio frequency identification devices (RFID) into its Toter residential and commercial waste collection units. The RFID technology from Wastequip was integrated into automated vehicle locator software from DesertMicro, which includes Global Positioning System (GPS)-based vehicle tracking, computerized vehicle monitoring, as well as automated monitoring of vehicle performance sensors. The integrated system provides waste collection companies with powerful new management tools. This Smartway III RFID system has moved waste collection automation beyond route optimizationusers are servicing more customers, in less time, with greater accuracy. This low-cost RFID on each container improves efficiency by automating service verification while tracking these assets in the field. This combined with a route optimization system, GPS vehicle tracking and a customer management database, and you have measurable improvements across many areas including enhanced efficiency and improved customer service.

Installing a truck-mounted tablet with GPS and touch screen allows drivers and dispatchers to receive up-to-the-minute information on truck location along the route to handle any route sheet changes or on-call orders that may arise.

disposal site. Invoicing is reduced to a couple of keystrokes and can be delivered to customers electronically via e-mail or fax instead of the typical paper chase that can take days, weeks or even months to complete. Periodic accounting and productivity metrics are readily accessible with no more effort than selecting the report to print.

Asset tracking as part of your service module is increasingly becoming a must, including the inventory of every one of your containers or other equipment at any given moment past and present. Wireless communication and camera options are available to further increase transparency and documentation as well as provide a higher level of safety. Asset control is truly at your fingertips with the ability to electronically scan and confirm container numbers and track inventory. Furthermore, GPS capabilities provide instant visualization of drivers and trucks, giving the dispatch office the ability to manage more routes, stops and trucks without the additional labor costs. Knowing exactly where your trucks are also gives you the ability to redirect them on the fly to not only accommodate service needs, but also to decrease the labor hours required to prepare and service the routes.

Innovation for Service Verification

RFID tracking, the use of radio frequency identification devices to track containers, has provided the ability to further automate asset tracking using scanners that are either hand-held or mounted in the vehicle. This feature allows real-time input of all activity on any container without anyone touching a keyboard. Big improvements are noticed in service speed and accuracy as human error and duplication efforts are eliminated. This solution helps when customers are billed on a pay for use basis or when it is required that carts be verified on a cart-by-cart basis. Each RFID tag is associated with a specific customer or account for whom this tool provides proof of service.

Route Optimization and Customer Billing

Typically, route sheets and dispatch tickets are created for drivers and invoices are sent to customers, but a lot of manpower is used to perform these actions with little visibility of how the company is really doing. About the time the company has grown to the point where there is more business than can be managed effectively, there comes a realization that more time, effort and resources are being spent on paperwork than on service. Now the challenge begins to find a solution before the business and the balance sheet suffer. Software solutions improve productivity by managing customer accounts and collection of receivables to provide an in-depth analysis of every aspect that contributes to your bottom line. Route optimization is another tool that gives the ability to sequence service routes and schedule stops using criteria such as the number of vehicles, capacity, number of stops and total service time. Route planning programs help identify the best route or truck to respond to a service request and analyze the best location for load delivery. Not only will the business operate at lower costs, especially when fuel prices increase, but one will also be able to make informed decisions on how often changes need to be made without having to go out and physically drive a route or rely on a drivers opinion. This helps companies provide better driving directions to drivers

Software and Hardware Have a Strong Impact

The trend of bringing computerization to the cab of the service or collection vehicle began about a decade ago, and industry players have gradually begun recognizing this key opportunity for improvement. On-board computers, AVL and RFID play a major role in solving customer service problems with real-time two-way communication between the dispatchers and trucks in the field. Routing information, both scheduled and on-call, can be sent to these onboard units, either handheld or truckmounted driver terminals, eliminating the paper printout route sheets. Route sheets, service details and customer information are displayed on the terminal screen, and drivers can easily record complete stops and update service information. Signatures can be captured and receipts either printed on the spot or e-mailed directly to the customer to expedite billing and collection.


WasteAdvantage Magazine December 2010

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Proven ROI: Efficiency Translates to Profitability

Software solutions and other technologies are available to any size business with immediate results for a minimal investment or equipment leasing. When the CEO begins asking how much each stop on a route costs, or if the customer is even on the right route, it might be time to begin looking into a software package that will help improve efficiency and profitability. Consistently, after the implementation of software, businesses experience increased service to customers at lower costs (reduction in fleet use, etc.) with fewer inaccuracies. Any business still needs to provide a quality relationship with its customers by giving them options to request or change service, receive, view or pay their bill or simply check a balance. This can be achieved by integrating a branded and secured Web site for a business with online bill pay and payment option services. How better to expedite your cash flow than to eliminate the time spent waiting on the postal service, banking or your own office hours, and the staff to handle it? At the same time, the transaction is handled quickly and more secure than the paper check. With the integrated processing, you can automatically charge customers credit cards and have the payment posted to their accounts without any extra steps in the invoice process.

DesertMicros WebManager helps companies better stay on top of billing and payments by managing, tracking and organizing their transactions online through their own branded and secured Web sites.

The Advantage in the Waste Industry

Quality of Service
Keep in mind that when evaluating the many available software options in the industry, it is important to consider the installation and technical support options that are offered to you along with your investment. In conclusion, the needs of any company are as diverse as the tools available,

and a number of technologies can improve your business. By no means is this a complete list of the features to consider, but with the knowledge of what components are readily available and the ability to select those which makes sense for your business, there is no reason not to implement the right solution the first time and add components as the business grows. | WA Barry Grahek is the CEO and President of DesertMicro (Jacksonville, FL). He has more than 20 years of experience in the waste and recycling industry and is a presenter at WasteExpo, ISRI and other industry conferences on the implementation and use of technology, such as GPS and wireless communication, to improve operational efficiencies and customer service levels. He can be reached at (904) 247-4285 or visit the Web site at

2010 Waste Advantage Magazine, All Rights Reserved. Reprinted from Waste Advantage Magazine. Contents cannot be reprinted without permission from the publisher.

WasteAdvantage Magazine December 2010