In the waste and recycling industry, fleet management technology is often equated with monitoring driver behavior and tracking it to improve safety. However, there are other offerings that monitor engine performance, billing and fuel consumption, among other tasks.
For years, the industry used whiteboards, Excel spreadsheets or plain old pads of paper to track and monitor its fleets. Dispatchers used paper and whiteboards to handle scheduling and work-order assignment. Operations used Excel spreadsheets to track bin locations and to invoice customers. Truck maintenance was monitored on a mileage or calendar cycle. And some companies continue to use these methods even today.
But that's where a host of software providers have stepped in to try and streamline those tasks.
“We developed a solution that takes the anxiety out of deploying a software solution to an industry that today in a majority of companies, still uses whiteboards, paper, and 1980s technology to record, dispatch and bill their customers,” says Mike Edwards, vice president of sales and marketing for Sequim, Wash.-based CRO Software Solutions Inc.
According to Bob Hausler, vice president of marketing and technology for Dossier Systems in Burlington, N.J., these outdated methods provide little to no history or benchmarks.
“Older and entry-level systems provide ‘electronic file cabinet’ solutions, which include history but not analytics. Accounting typically had rolled-up cost data, however, that did not provide the level of detail to effect improvements,” he says.
The latest software solutions provide asset monitoring, truck maintenance, billing and invoicing, which can lead to improved safety, productivity and profitability for waste and recycling companies.
Dossier Fleet Maintenance Software captures maintenance data and tracks asset status. It provides alerts when maintenance, permits, certifications, and other items are due. It also can integrate—through the company’s Dossier Cloud Services—with telematics and on-board systems to capture eDVIR inspection failures, engine trouble codes (DTCs), and mileage or hour meter readings.
Additionally, the software can capture mechanic repair times, and benchmark them against company or industry standards, as well as comprehensive fuel analysis by driver and/or unit. Dossier also tracks and manages parts inventory, cost, and usage patterns including identification of overstocked and obsolete parts.
“Dossier has more than 200 standard reports that provide high-level, KPI-class analysis, operations and management guidance, detailed asset cost and repair history, and everything in-between,” says Hausler.
CRO’s offerings provide a cloud-based dispatching, asset and driver management solution for the waste and recycling industry.
“Our solution focuses on ease of use for all departments within an organization. We connect drivers and dispatchers through the use of an app that can be deployed on either an android or Apple smartphone or tablet,” says Edwards. “Our Dynamic Dispatching solution gives real time updates on driver activity back to operation staff, while also having the ability to auto-notify the customer that the work order or request has been completed. Our GPS tracking is today monitored through the location of the smartphone or tablet that is used by the driver.”
The biggest challenge these software solutions face is introducing technology into an industry that traditionally focuses on their fixed assets such as trucks, cranes, balers and onsite personnel.
“The deployment of software within the dispatch and bin management area is discussed, but never acted on, unless customers become impacted in a negative manner,” says Edwards. “Also the majority of software companies have taken the position that their solution has to be labelled as complicated, so they can justify a higher cost to the client, which is in my mind, the wrong approach, and one that CRO has definitely not taken in the development of our solution.”
Hausler says knowing how to manage the data collected is another challenge for the industry.
“Data is easy; information can be difficult, especially for larger fleets. The biggest challenge we see is the implementation of best practices when configuring your maintenance system, and giving your team adequate training to use it properly,” he says. “Solid planning will pay huge dividends. Also, as the industry adjusts to greater instrumentation and on-board data, another challenge can be an overwhelming amount of DTC data flowing in.”
The future of fleet management technology includes automation, more sensors, more powerful on-board systems, big data and the cloud.
“In maintenance, the big buzz word is ‘predictive’. The more information there is to analyze, the better and more accurate predictive maintenance can become,” says Hausler. “Especially for larger fleets, the amount of data which will be coming out of DTCs is going to increase dramatically, and better cloud services will be needed to get all of that data to the right place. On the back end, that big data will be leveraged by analysis engines and business intelligence software to identify trends and gain insights not visible today.”
According to Edwards, the book is wide open for not only fleet management, but overall operations management within the waste and recycling industry.
“Our imagination is the only barrier to advancing the way we deploy technology, and feedback from the users is what we all need to listen to,” he says. “It’s easy to sit in a room with a group of developers, discussing the next great idea to introduce to the industry. But the greatest ideas come from our clients, they are the ones using the solution each and every day, and have the most insight in what does, and doesn’t work.”