Since its introduction in the early 1990s, innovative route optimization technology has been used throughout the U.S. by both private and municipal operations to streamline solid waste collection and monitor fleet performance. Saving on significant operating expenses like equipment costs, labor and fuel drives the need for waste collection operations to increase efficiency by reducing the number of routes, labor hours and mileage through route optimization technology.
But challenges exist in determining which software to choose and how it is utilized. Waste360 recently sat down with Marc Rogoff, national expert on solid waste rate studies for SCS Engineers, to discuss the best practices in choosing the correct route optimization software.
SCS Engineers, based in Long Beach, Calif., is an environmental consulting and contracting firm focused on solid and hazardous waste management, energy, remediation and environmental compliance.
Rogoff will be leading a panel at this year’s WasteExpo in New Orleans. The session on Route Optimization Management will take place on Monday 8 at 9:00 AM.
Waste360: What is the future or emerging trends in route optimization software?
Marc Rogoff: Integration with custom software applications to develop such things as bulk waste routes on the fly. Also integration with the newer electronics and tables now being implemented.
Waste360: What would you say are the top three benefits of using route optimization software for the waste and recycling industry?
Marc Rogoff: The three benefits of solid waste routing include improving efficiency, potentially reducing the number of vehicles out on the road and also future replacements, and improving morale through balancing routes across a solid waste collection system.
Waste360: What are the top three challenges?
Marc Rogoff: Three challenges include data and information availability, buy-in by staff to help implement the results, and decisions on the software to be used and whether it is a purchase or cloud based.
Waste360: Why is it difficult for municipalities and private operations to choose waste routing software?
Marc Rogoff: Waste routing software is typically complex to implement and has a high rate of failed implementations by municipalities. Typical complaints we have heard include that the software is too complicated to be adopted into daily operations; it is too expensive to purchase outright or procure through a monthly service fee, or the system maintenance requirements are too extensive.
Waste routing is complex and requires multiple types of routing algorithms to accomplish the routing solution, including high density for residential curbside collection, point-to-point routing for commercial collection or residential bulky items collection, or paired routing for roll-off box collection and delivery.
Waste360: In your experience, what is the best software?
Marc Rogoff: SCS's experience has been that there is not one application on the market that handles all types of waste routing effectively. Some of the more widely used routing software applications for typical residential solid waste collection fleets include Fleet Smart, Route Smart, WM Design, and WM Logistics.
Each program uses various routing techniques and algorithms, graphical information system (GIS) applications, automatic vehicle location technologies, and on-route mapping and monitoring. Multiple applications sometimes need to be implemented to service all types of waste collection routing required. Several software vendors have developed point-to-point routing software applications.
Waste360: What is point-to-point routing?
Marc Rogoff: Point-to-point routing is used when the daily delivery locations, or in the case of solid waste, daily collection of bulky waste, might vary. However, when the routes have more than 50 stops per route, the number of applications that can solve the problem properly is decreased to less than 10 worldwide. Two examples of point-to-point routing software include Roadnet and Route Solutions.
Waste360: How can a solid waste collection operation gauge its need for route optimization software?
Marc Rogoff: To assess whether a solid waste agency is a good candidate for implementing waste route optimization software, the following questions should be answered.
- Do the crews have assigned route boundaries?
- Do the crews have maps to use?
- Was the last re-route more than five years ago?
- Do you know how many stops and containers are included in each individual route?
- Are the current routes developed based on all of the factors of time, weight, number of dump trips, and the number of stops?
- Do you have current route statistics (e.g., time on route, time to first dump, time to second dump, travel time to dump site (landfill or transfer station), break time, check in and checkout time, and breakdown time?.
- Are total route times within an hour of the normal work-day hours?
If the answer is "no" to any of these questions, it is highly likely that the agency's operation is not efficient and would benefit from route optimization.