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How Automation and Artificial Intelligence Are Transforming E-Recycling

Article-How Automation and Artificial Intelligence Are Transforming E-Recycling

Skorzewiak / Alamy Stock Photo e-waste recycling
The e-recycling market is growing fast, with more small- and mid-sized companies, such as electronics repair shops and recyclers managing other commodities, moving into this niche. At the same time, veteran e-recyclers meet new demands as standards and policies evolve.

The e-recycling market is growing fast, with more small- and mid-sized companies, such as electronics repair shops and recyclers managing other commodities, moving into this niche.  

At the same time, veteran e-recyclers meet new demands as standards and policies evolve. These enterprises will have a lot to navigate, and software developer HyperOffice has created several tools designed to help them with tasks from preparing for certifications to tracking inventory as it moves along the supply chain.

Its first product is an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered self-assessment tool trained on the R2 standard (a global standard for managing end-of-life electronics) to explain what’s entailed in obtaining certification.

Another product walks end users through the R2 certification process and prepares them for audit, the ultimate step to becoming certified.

“You can go through the exercise yourself, which is time consuming and complex, or you can hire a consultant. We offer our R2 certification prep tool [which can be applied to other certification paths] as a third option,” says Farzin Arsanjani, president HyperOffice, who likens the app to TurboTax.

Users answer a series of questions, beginning with explaining the scope of their business, then continue with relevant questions that are based on their previous responses. If a question stumps them, AI capabilities provide examples and clarification.

'They can upload documents they will need to complete the process. And they can run a gap analysis to determine if there is more information they need to fill in.

After completing this exercise, they built their entire audit and certification book of records. Now they can hand over credentials to a consultant or auditor, having cut down on audit time and costs, Arsanjani says.

Digital solutions to complex requirements can help organizations prepare for and respond to audits, says Steve Mellings, founder of the ADISA Group. ADISA is a certification body and operates several programs, including The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) certification for companies that recover and data-sanitize digital assets.

"It is important to note that digital solutions are only as good as the information fed into them. So, it is essential that they are viewed as an integral part of the business itself rather than a bolt-on used once a year for audits," Mellings heeds.

Besides homing in on certification and audit support, HyperOffice has an electronics recycling business management suite that automates several parts of an e-recycler’s operations.

“These operators have very specific processes that have to happen during the day, and some are not standardized; rather they are unique to each operation.  So, we built solutions addressing specific business processes,” Arsanjani says.

Among them is compliance workflow automation to address tasks operators must do regularly, such as site inspections. In this scenario, end users can set up checklists of required protocols, have inspections done against the checklist, and they can document inspection results.

Other apps in the business suite automate downstream vendor management, management of training, and management and tracking of inventory—or chain of custody tracking.

Pausing on the latter process, now on industry players’ radar as stakeholders along the supply chain commit to ESG reporting, Arsanjani says, “If a client has a pallet, we can keep track of it from the minute you pick it up through each hop.

“Being able to see what pallets were picked up from which facilities, what happened to them as they moved, and who the downstream vendors are is especially valuable to [e-recyclers’] upstream clients,” he says.

The orders and inventory tracking function sold ITADLogic on the electronics business management suite.

The company previously used enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools for this process but proved overly complicated for the team’s requirements, says Joe Terrien, owner, ITADLogic.

“We like the fact that HyperOffice's solution has simple, modern interfaces and the ability to be personalized to our processes and requirements,” Terrien says.

“The [platform] is able to be personalized for our needs. We have worked closely with the HyperOffice professional services team to incorporate specific terminology, data labels, and workflows that are unique to our operations into the applications we use.”

As he pitches HyperOffice’s wares, Arsanjani shares this advice to potential clients: “Whatever automation tool e-recyclers use it has to be simple. It has to be very specific to what they need it to do. Multiple users must be able to collaborate across business operations from any mobile device anywhere, since employees are constantly moving around. And companies must be able to make it their own—to tweak it for their operations.”

Concerns around climate impact, reporting requirements and other tightening regulations demand more streamlined, efficient business processes and transparency. As e-recyclers and the recycling industry at large are called on to step up their game, Arsanjani anticipates automation will become increasingly important to them.

He sees AI especially playing a huge role in this line of work, as the technology can perform many functions that traditionally require human thinking.

There are interesting opportunities to leverage AI to manage the chain of custody with a more granular view. AI will likely play a role in determining inventory value as commodities prices fluctuate, helping to project revenue, Arsanjani says.

And there’s been exploration into using this intuitive technology to predict upstream clients’ consumption to help operators project waste volumes they will receive in a given timeframe.

It's all really exciting, and as the industry evolves, there will be even more to come on the digital technology front, Arsanjani says.

TAGS: E-Waste
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