Experts Weigh-in on Trends in Software and Scales Systems

Software and scales systems are becoming increasingly important management tools for the solid waste industry. In the following poll, developers and manufacturers of these systems weigh in on the biggest developments of the past year and discuss new ways the technology might be used in the future. Responses are listed alphabetically by manufacturer or developer.

Peter Powell, Air-Weigh, Eugene, Ore: Scales today are being made more sophisticated and with advanced manufacturing techniques that lower costs dramatically.

Charles Arsenault, Arsenault Associates, Atco, N.J.: The Y2K issue is driving many companies to reinvest in modern software. Also, across the nation, many businesses are deploying data warehousing and enterprise-wide applications through Internet and Intranet access. Windows/NT Terminal Server and Citrix's Metaframe are allowing deployment of 32-bit technology without having to replace all computer infrastructure completely. Maintenance software also will become a more integrated part of system-wide solutions.

Stephen Cole, Cardinal Scale Manufacturing Co., Webb City, Mo.: One trend is that more scales now are connected to a computer. The need for information is the key that will call for scales to become more intelligent in collecting and sending data.

Philip Snyder, Delta Equipment Systems Inc., Fishers, Ind.: Even small hauling companies will expand their computer systems into network versions and remote access. These systems help speed up the turnover of receivables and reduce costs due to ineffective routing. Also, software systems are being expanded to include additional features and comprehensive reports.

David Lucas, First-Weigh Manufacturing Co., Sanford, Fla.: Due to the rapid advances in software, it is impossible to predict the future. You must invest in systems that meet your immediate needs and those future needs you can only predict. Then, you can upgrade continually as innovative developments occur.

George Pierce, Ivy Computer, Waterbury, Vt: Like most industries that are using computers today, the emphasis has been on distributing the work load and reducing the need for expensive computers, support staffs and communication equipment. The waste industry continues to grow using inexpensive PCs. Only recently did it become possible to link these computers in inexpensive ways. Using direct communication and the Internet, even small haulers can send information from work to home and back again. Just like most things you can buy, software systems keep getting better. The best practice is to check what's out there once a year or so. Grab a trade magazine, browse the Internet, call or write the vendors and ask for information.

Barry Cohen, MASS Corp., Scarborough, Ontario, Canada: As the industry continues to experience mergers and acquisitions, managers must find a way to support their field operations with powerful management tools. These tools ensure that all divisions can maximize profitability. An accurate, reliable low-maintenance scale system is a management tool that can be used to audit customer and route profitability.

Bill McConkey, Mobile Computing Corp., Mississauga, Ontario, Canada: As takeovers slow down, major haulers will look to technology to increase productivity and, hence, profitability. Since landfill rates are beginning to increase again, you should be prepared by having a history on each customer and each industry type. Over the past year, new links have been built connecting the vehicle system to the office via various digital networks. Touch-screen displays help to extend the office concept out to the truck.

Phil Leadore, Paradigm Software, Peoria, Ill: The trend in software for the solid waste industry is movement to Windows systems. This gives the facility the ability to network the software between scale houses and offices.

Don Tefft, PC Scale Inc., Oxford, Pa.: Conversion to Windows is the biggest advancement in software systems. There still are a large number of DOS systems that provide customers exactly what they need. Windows products will continue growing in the next two to three years. Software systems are essential to the competitiveness of a business.

Thomas Kendall, Precision Loads Inc., Seattle: The increased use of on-board scales for data on accounts and for prevention of overloading is one trend. Data collection for commercial weights is becoming more universal. In the past year, scales have been made that are easier to install, and the focus is on dynamic rather than static weighing techniques.

Frank Mehlmann, Scale Systems Inc., Chester Heights, Pa: Data collection accuracy continues to improve due to advancements such as the computer-generated ticket.

Roger Suttle, Southwestern Scale Company Inc., Phoenix: Currently, many scale companies are deeply involved with Y2K compliance, and much of their energy and efforts are being spent to assure proper operation of indicators, printers and programs during the millennium change. Unrelated to the Y2K problem, different computer programs are being developed for billing, weight capture and weight ticket information.

Wayne Zwolinski, SuperSource, Phoenix: Over the past year, the waste management software industry has been dominated by the Y2K issue. As system users scramble to ensure they are prepared come Dec. 31, 1999, the software providers have been creating new programs to meet requirements or modifying existing products to be Y2K compatible. The weary consumer would be well advised to do his homework when exploring the options to meet the deadline. Often the move to a new system can be more problematic - and expensive - than modifying or upgrading an existing system.

Rick Talbot, Vulcan On-Board Scales, Kent, Wash.: On-board scale purchases will continue to grow due to increasing weight regulation enforcement, increased tipping fees, improved operations efficiencies, competitive advantages and reduced maintenance costs. Buyers are becoming more knowledgeable about the true costs of operating on-board scales and what is required for a successful program.

Lori Dohrman, Weigh-Right Inc., South Hutchinson, Kan.: Customers are becoming more knowledgeable about what software and/or scales can and cannot do for them. Issues of product reliability and durability have created an environment of skepticism on the part of buyers. The introduction of front-axle scales has afforded the opportunity to know each individual axle weight.