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07 Nov 2019

How Municipals can stop revenue leakage and improve recycling operations

5 Questions asked by Municipals

Entsorgung von Kommunalabfällen Technologie

In this article we sat down with Arun Ramaraj, Product Manager of AMCS Platform for Municipals, to learn his thoughts on 5 of the most commonly asked questions asked by municipal customers. 

1. What are the challenges facing Municipals?

Improving recycling rates while reducing contamination costs is high on municipals’ agendas, and if it’s not, it should be. The estimated cost of contamination in the UK is £51 million annually. That represents an average cost per tonne of £15.67.

It’s not a problem exclusive to UK municipals, either. Recycling in the U.S. was once a profitable business for cities and private hauliers, but it’s now become a money-sucking enterprise. Waste Management and other recyclers say that more than 2,000 municipals are paying to dispose of their recyclables instead of the other way around.

That’s problem one. Problem two that municipals are dealing with is missed collections. For the average UK County Council that carries out waste and recycling collections every week, the cost per year for servicing missed collections is estimated at £150,000.

Of course, while municipals are making extra collections, they’re not charging or recording the cost accurately. They’re not always tracking missed collections and certainly not customer behaviour. Added to that, they’re running inefficient fleets.

You spend $1 U.S. to print a residential route sheet. That route sheet costs you $6 U.S. in admin to handle and process. Every mile driven costs you around $1.65 U.S. in fuel, tyres and maintenance. On average, every truck drives 20,000 miles a year, based on 80 miles per day.

Furthermore, 68% of missed collections are invalid, while the cost of each pick up is $75. There’s also the cost of replacing stolen containers – of which 75% have been stolen – at $50 U.S. each to purchase and deliver.

Another challenge we’re seeing is with health & safety. In the US alone, waste/recycling collection workers have the fifth-highest fatality rate in the country. This is above police officers and firefighters. On average one US waste worker dies weekly on the job.  A challenge for municipals is ensuring the health & safety of their staff.

Training and continuous education supported through technology can help municipals. From optimised routes that avoid e.g. schools at opening/closing time to mobile devices ensuring breaks are taken, speed limit adhered to etc. These all play a vital role in protecting your greatest assets – your staff.  

2. How can we improve operational performance?

A long-term technology plan is essential. Technology will become obsolete, so it is vital to ensure the business keeps in step with up-to-date solutions. Persisting with antiquated technology only results in inefficient processes, inconsistent data and frustrated users and customers. Those are the users and customers who mentally check out due to poor service.

By deploying an integrated cloud solution with best-in-class industry processes, you can have 360 visibility into your operations. You can see what’s happening everywhere within your organisation, from pick-up to invoicing.

Providing a reliable network infrastructure increases operational performance, giving users instant access to data. Planners get real-time visibility of their fleets and can assign work immediately. Exceptions are handled as and when they occur, and operations become proactive instead of than reactive.

If you’re like most municipals, you lack a centralised software solution. You’re running multiple packages to manage operations. Many municipals also run an in-house developed back-office system that can no longer be scaled nor maintained. Legacy systems result in reactionary business processes. There’s no scope to improve service and track exceptions, nor have a proactive engagement with your customers.

Your SaaS platform should be designed for municipals. This can significantly increase operational efficiency. A good one supports Route Optimisation, which increases productivity and profitability of all routes that run across the organisation. This, in turn, ensures that drivers are working their routes in the most efficient way possible. It should also allow you to implement service guarantees to help minimise missed and skipped services and pickups, and track collections not completed within 24 hours of scheduling.

Your platform should take you further into digitalisation so that your organisation is not left behind.

By going paperless and instead implementing handheld devices, drivers can obtain their route electronically, allowing the back office to retrieve real-time data.  It should also enable you to track inventory by adding serial numbers and RFID tags to your assets and even know how crew are treating equipment. All of this allows you to stay on top of operational delays before the customer calls, or eliminates the need for those calls, to begin with.

Your SaaS platform should cover these critical issues:                                 

  • Customer and contract management and supporting complex pricing, such as pay per weight, PAYT (pay as you throw) and flat-fee charging
  • Asset management systems: vehicles, bins, containers
  • Transport processes: container management, route planning & execution, completion of one-trip, skip or compactor work
  • Weighing systems: PAYT, Pay by weight, Weighbridge Integration, transfer stations
  • Personnel administration: pay-roll, overtime
  • Recycling: MRF inbound/outbound, material grading, stock management
  • Material trading: supply and demand mapping, margin calculations, shipping documents
  • Billing and invoicing engine: facilitate digital invoices (e-billing) and automate reminders
  • Accounts payable: sub-contractors, external treatment, temporary personnel
  • Accounts receivable: direct debit, online credit card- payments, Auto Top Up, improve daily sales outstanding

3. How can we improve customer service?

There is a growing expectation from customers that the call centre must be available 24/7. Add to that the fact that call centres are historically expensive to run and most have poor first-call resolution rates. Providing the public with alternatives to a call centre is proven to increase productivity and reduce manual errors. Another enhancement is the ability to handle a large volume of calls simultaneously.

Digital transformation is a key part of the digital strategy of many organisations. One of their main aims is to address the fragmentation of infrastructure across the organisation to allow instant sharing of standardised information to its users. Providing users and public alike access to real-time relevant information leads to delivering more efficient and effective customer service. 

Your digital customer engagement strategy should automate customer processes. Integrated systems provide real-time service updates, which increase first-call resolution rates. That’s what your digital platform should do.

Your strategy should include Automated Query Resolution, which a good platform supports, and a customer portal with Interactive Voice Response (IVR). AT AMCS, we’ve found that these factors can reduce call volumes by 30% while increasing customer satisfaction. 

4. How do we tackle revenue leakage?

We can’t stress enough how important complete visibility is into your operations. The ability to capture value-add analytics enables you to identify where revenue leakage is occurring. This enables you to assign the corrective actions to owners. This is only achievable when you can access the right information with ease.

One of the areas in which service providers leak revenue is by performing work free of charge. This happens with additional lifts of customer bins, customers with additional bins not recognised by your system, servicing customers who are on stop and collection of unknown containers.

By using a mobile solution that provides real-time data to the back office, you have the means to track and log all aspects of your operation, enabling a constant overview and control of your fleet. You want your platform to support Photo Capture, which enables real-time service information and verification with photo and signature capture. GPS Tracking guides your fleet through the most efficient routes. Drivers use digital route sheets instead of paper. Just an example – by using the AMCS Platform for municipals, one customer saved $20,000 a year from digital route sheets alone.

With municipals under the strain of budget cuts, choosing a SaaS platform specific to municipals is all the more important. It not only stops revenue leakage but can save you money. 

5. How can we improve recycling rates?

If you’re to improve recycling rates, you need to educate the community and engage new homeowners. If you’re a commercial company, consider incentivising. If customers won’t recycle, then charging more to dispose of materials in landfill waste systems is not unreasonable.

Here again, a good platform designed for municipals gives you the accurate information you need to know who is recycling and who is not. (This is another way that a mobile solution with Photo Capture can help.)

You can focus on efficiency, and even include businesses on your routes. Your digital platform should evaluate current operations and adjust your collection techniques. This is another critical point in stopping revenue leakage.

It should also enable you to capture and carry out a contamination rate analysis. Through one centralised system, you can monitor a route, vehicle or even region. You can introduce a Collection Audit process, proactively examining the contents of the presented containers prior to collection with spot checks and a smart camera in Hopper.