Mobile Technology Faces Hurdles in Waste Industry

Mobile Technology Faces Hurdles in Waste Industry

Last month, FieldAware, a made-for-mobile, cloud-based software company based in Plano, Texas, launched a mobile platform for the waste and recycling industry. That technology was demonstrated at WasteExpo in Las Vegas in June.

The tool connects workers in the field with back office systems in an aim to reduce paper-based and administrative processes and improve accuracy. The system includes Business Intelligence (BI) Dashboards. The system includes 15 pre-packaged dashboards with easy-to-use filters for customization. Predesigned dashboards contain business indicators including job profitability, employee utilization and more. Drill down capability provides access to the raw data.

Waste360 sat down with Lynn Jones, vice president of marketing for FieldAware, to discuss how mobile tools can benefit the industry and what hurdles this new technology has faced.

Waste360: How can mobile technologies like FieldAware benefit the waste and recycling industry?

Lynn Jones: Mobile technologies like FieldAware bring value to companies in the waste and recycling industry with easy-to-use mobile technology that connects headquarters and systems in the back office (scheduling, accounting/ERP/CRM/Inventory, etc.) with all activity in the field. The FieldAware solution extends operations all the way out to the customer via field workers running the mobile applications on smartphones and tablets. Field workers have easy access to information in the back office.

Headquarters has real-time customer/job information from the field. Paper-based processes are automated. Integrating all of the activities at a customer site in real-time with the entire organization brings incredible efficiencies and productivity improvements.

Waste360: Can you provide an example?

Lynn Jones: Let’s use compactors as a practical application in waste management. Companies that have large trash compactors can’t afford any down-time on that piece of equipment. Manufacturers (or dealers) need to maintain and service this equipment, under warranty or not, to keep it running properly.

With mobile technology like FieldAware in this environment, regular maintenance can be scheduled in the system. When the scheduled time arrives, the job is pushed to the worker’s mobile device—along with equipment history, manuals on that specific product and a list of tasks that need to be completed for that service.

When the worker arrives, they start the time clock and as they complete tasks, they’re checked them on his device—some could require sign off, for example, if for safety reasons the power might need to be turned off before proceeding. Photos and videos can be taken to document the service and to confirm a properly working compactor. Customer sign-off can be completed by electronic signature capture.

All the information from the job site flows back into the business—when the job is completed and entered on the mobile device, the next service can automatically be scheduled and an invoice can be generated. Equipment history is updated and any parts that were used are taken out of inventory.

By automating all of these tasks, moving from a paper-based system, the business is streamlined and errors can be virtually non-existent. This saves steps, and time, enabling the company to be much more effective and efficient.

This same service model can also work for other waste management business models like roll-off bins.

Waste360: How can mobile improve businesses?

Lynn Jones: Mobile can improve business a few ways.

Mobility enables companies to react faster and be more flexible. In addition, the field worker has everything needed at his or her fingertips to service the equipment right, on the first visit.

Automating processes saves time and money. Routes can be optimized. More jobs can be completed in a day. Increases in accuracy and first time fixes. Steps are saved.

One example here: in the paper-based world, the signed completed work order would be brought back to the office where another person would input the information, create an invoice and send it out—and there could be errors on the form, parts used not billed for, etc. With FieldAware, it’s just the click of a button on the worker’s mobile phone. There are many other examples.

FieldAware can also be custom configured for any type of business. Where safety and compliance are issues, check lists with sign off can be part of the workflow—this can include photos and videos for further documentation. PDF checklists can be edited and saved to the history.

Waste360: What are some of the roadblocks or challenges?

Lynn Jones: There’s an education gap in technology that needs to be filled in the industry. Most of the companies we work with in waste management are using some form of fleet tracking technology, but have started to realize that they need much more than that. They recognize that it is less about knowing where your truck is and more about knowing everything that the worker is doing at the customer site.

What they are not aware of, is that there are new technologies that can enable this. Typically, once we start talking with prospective customers about how this technology could fit into their business, and the benefits the company would receive, their eyes kind of glaze over like this could be the solution to all of their problems.

Waste360: How does it work? Is it an app?

Lynn Jones: Yes, this is a native mobile app. This is vastly different than accessing a web application on a mobile device because a native mobile app can leverage all the functionality (i.e. Siri, maps, time stamp, bar code readers) of standard mobile devices, operate when no cellular network coverage is available and integrate with back office systems from anywhere.

​Jobs are scheduled in the main office and are automatically pushed out to the mobile worker’s device. Information for each job is included on the device as well, from location (with turn-by-turn directions) to signature capture at the completion of a job. The bi-directional flow of information enables new capabilities: i.e. automatic invoicing from the field, updating inventory when a part is used on-site, providing equipment history and specific information for servicing that equipment, right on the device.

Waste360: Are any waste and recycling companies using this? 

Lynn Jones: Yes. We have several large customers in waste management but are not at liberty to disclose names. Dilden Brothers Well Drilling is one company that we can mention that is using our platform in an oil well waste management application. 

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