Like most industries coming out of the most recent recession, solid waste and recycling businesses are being bombarded with changes and new regulations. To manage these new and existing guidelines, companies are seeking new ways to streamline operations and reduce costs.
In the solid waste and recycling industry, this can include investing in route optimization software, which can reduce fuel costs and provide route planning options. As the software evolves, more haulers are looking toward the technology to provide efficiencies that will help manage their tightening budgets.
“Up until last year, we did not see a lot of private haulers utilizing route optimization software,” says Tony Esposito, president at C2Logix Inc. in Odessa, Fla., a developer of route optimization software. “I think that this is largely in part to the fact that many private haulers are older companies with long standing management that does not yet embrace technology to the fullest.”
Esposito says the significant increase in the use of the software in the industry is due to a new breed of management embracing the technology.
“The increase has not only been in waste route optimization but we have seen a large increase in municipalities that want two or more services, such as waste and snow plowing,” he says.
According to Bob Wallace, principal and vice president of Phoenix-based WIH Resource Group, route optimization begins with reducing route hours and miles driven by studying a company’s operations and driver habits.
“There are a variety of decisions to be made with respect to collection vehicle routing, customer service impacts, day of service changes, whether or not to purchase routing software, GPS, onboard systems … and more importantly, which professional experts to hire to assist in helping make the critical decisions and the implementation of the needed changes,” he says.
WIH Resource Group is an independent solutions provider of environmental, waste management, recycling, transportation, alternative fuels, financial and logistical matters. In February 2014, the firm partnered with C2Logix.
“Routing software has been around for a while now and is widely used, however a large portion of the industry still uses more traditional methods of physical maps and pins to improve collection vehicle routing,” Wallace says.
Don Ross, director of operations at Kessler Consulting, a solid waste planning firm in Tampa, Fla., says that over the past 10 years, more haulers are utilizing software to plan their routes for a variety of reasons.
“Technology is getting cheaper, and the use of consumer tools such as GPS and turn-by-turn directions has created a level of familiarization with these higher-tech optimizer tools,” he says.
Phoenix-based Republic Services is one company researching a potential switch to new route optimization software. The company just began a pilot with FleetMind to test the use of the software in several hundred vehicles.
The “benefits can include reduced miles traveled and pickup verification,” says Russ Knocke, director of field communications and public affairs at Republic Services. “We will first evaluate the pilot results.”
While many of the larger waste haulers are already using the software, some, like Houston-based Waste Management, created their own.
“They were not the first, but they were the biggest with the greatest impact,” says Knocke. “Today, all the major haulers utilize some type of software route planning tool.”
Waste Pro USA utilizes the RouteSmart software, which resides on the ESRI ArcGIS technology.
“The software allows for visualization of house counts, regions, zones, roads, and water features,” says Christopher Ciaccio, chief operating officer at Waste Pro in Longwood, Fla. These ‘layers’ are organized in an industry-wide file format, which can be transmitted to city and local governments in support of the routing project, he says.
“The technology is able to estimate travel speeds, personal /fuel costs, and estimated material volumes,” Ciaccio says. “Through various route modeling functions; fuel, personnel, and routes efficiencies can be evaluated with cost-effective as a focus.”
According to Esposito, the benefits of the software can range from reduced overtime and number of vehicles needed for the routes to less fuel used and less maintenance on the vehicles. He says there has been a shift in the approach to route optimization software over the past two years.
“In the last two years are seeing a shift in requests to actually acquire software and do the optimizations ‘in house’, to requests for a service to create the routes for them,” he says.
While technology is a key part of the solid waste and recycling industry today, Ross says it comes with some compromise.
“Years ago, a good driver with years of experience typically made an excellent route supervisor. They could re-route with a map and a pen based simply on experience. But today they also need software systems skills to make bigger operations run effectively,” he says.