Using technology to help manage the workload

Published:  05 January, 2012

Both local authorities and their stakeholders can benefit from significant service improvements when telematics are installed including more efficient use of resources and instant access to real-time information.

Nothing gets the public going more than the topic of waste collection. It's what they telephone the Council about frequently – usually to complain and rarely to pass on their gratitude for a job well done. Managing the waste collection process is complex and requires that everything works well in a coordinated manner. Councils across the UK are using technology to help manage the workload and improve efficiencies.

Vehicle tracking, for example, has provided a huge boost for managing waste collection. Being able to see vehicle movements live on screen is just one element of this. The historical information captured by the system also enables managers to prove whether a collection has been made to each property. Such systems help to maximise use of each vehicle – and therefore gain maximum value.

A good example of this is the shared waste collection and street scene service in place with Hambleton & Richmondshire District Councils. The service uses an innovative vehicle tracking and mapbased waste management solution from Masternaut to help with over 90,000 bin and recycling collections each week in an area covering 650,000 acres.

The system has simplified managing the complex shared service and has reduced management time. In addition, supervisors no longer have to make routine site visits as they can live track their crews as they work on screen.

The drivers are able to log problems they meet on site such as non-presentation of bins using in-cab terminals, contamination or bin damage using special in-vehicle data terminals that transmit the information back to the customer service centres. This helps to settle disputes over non-collections, with the historical reports providing evidence for investigating and refuting claims. The terminals also provide two-way communication, reducing the need to make voice calls to the office to make verbal reports that then need keying into the system.

We are very pleased with the results we are getting from the Masternaut system. It has given us visibility of our fleets across the two districts. We know precisely where our vehicles are at any time and where they have been thanks to its automatic reporting features. We have full information on driving behaviour such as speed and idling reports so that we can monitor vehicle use and fuel usage, said John Proud, Street Scene Manager, Hambleton & Richmondshire District Councils.

Funding the telematics investment

Efficiency savings can fund waste collection telematics. One Council that demonstrates this is North Lincolnshire Council. The system helps manage the Council's fleet of 66 refuse and highways vehicles and the investment is largely self-funded through operational cost savings. The Council and its stakeholders are benefiting from significant service improvements through more efficient use of resources and instant access to real-time information.

Masternaut is an excellent management tool. It helps us to maximise the use of our vehicles and people and it saves time by reducing administration. Our crews simply update the system using the in-vehicle terminals and our contact centre has real-time access to data, which helps when responding to customers. They no longer need to wait for or retrieve paper records as the information is available on screen at the touch of a button. This is important in helping us to achieve National Indicator 14. This Indicator aims to reduce avoidable contact – part of this is being able to give a first time response to customer queries and avoids any secondary contact, said Graham Sykes, Operations Manager.

Graham Sykes highlights that with the system providing full visibility of activities and resources, his department can extend its services.

The system shows exactly what each vehicle is doing, what it has done and whether there is capacity for doing more. We can see our vehicles are providing optimal service and if we need to bring in more resources we know what these extra vehicles and staff will be able to do. There is no guesswork as the system allows us precision management and an accurate way to monitor and measure performance, he said.

Managing the round

OK, so you have the fleet equipped with the latest telematics and now you want to make sure the waste collection service itself is efficient. Do you do this manually or go for an electronic system? In the drive for efficiency, the choice is obvious; you need a computer system.

For example, Mayrise Systems offers a system for trade waste management. This provides an easy to use solution for recording business customers, allocating waste containers and managing collection rounds.

Designed to work with a Council's centralised address database and Ordnance Survey mapping, the system can also be used to market waste collection services to other organisations. This again is an interesting area for Councils as they look to generate additional revenue from their waste collection resources.

Using Mayrise, we can manage the provision of an effective and efficient service to the business community, meeting a diverse range of waste and recycling needs, said Sue Daynes, Waste and Recycling Services Manager at North Lincolnshire Council. The system provides instant access to detailed service records which means we can easily deal with enquiries or requests from existing or prospective customers and produce management reports.

Vehicle maintenance and parts inventory

Fleet management software plays an important part in running an efficient waste collection fleet. It removes burdensome paperwork and the difficulty in identifying problems with specific vehicles, delivering rapid returns in efficiency and cost control. Traditional manual methods of scheduling maintenance and managing spare parts are hugely time consuming and do nothing in reducing the carbon footprint. Try drilling down through the vehicle histories to identify exactly what may be causing high running costs for a particular vehicle too. Is it the driver, the design of the vehicle, the routes or simply the spare parts not being up to the job? Then there is the need to control costs – the full cost of maintaining the fleet right down to individual parts. Intelligent software is the way forward for solving such issues.

Colin Homes is Fleet Procurement Manager at the London Borough of Sutton. He uses Freeway software to help to maintain necessary spares used by the 27-strong Dennis Eagle waste collection fleet as well as the rest of the Council's vehicles (136 in total). Each month he runs detailed financial reports from the system.

We can run a multitude of reports at a touch of a button, allowing full visibility of fleet running costs. We can quickly identify slow moving stock. The system also allows us to set up cost centres for specific items such as tyres. This means we get a clear picture of high value items, how many we have bought, vehicle usage and budget control. The slow moving stock reports are also useful in reducing overheads; the reports help us to decide which items we can eliminate from stock as we don't want money tied into unnecessary inventory, he said.

He also has the ability interrogate the Freeway system so that he can access vehicle details, parts issued to vehicles as well as see the stock of parts.

The system allows me to investigate parts fitted to vehicles whether from stock, non stock (one off purchases) or imprest stock. We set stock levels ensuring that we are notified when a stock item hits a low point and needs re-ordering. This is vital in maintaining continuity of stock and keeping vehicles on the road. We can quickly identify whether a particular part is in heavy demand, enabling us to investigate its use and determine whether there is a quality problem with it or if there is a problem with the vehicle. For example, we found that we were changing many beacon bulbs and the reason we determined was a quality issue. We simply changed the stock item for a better quality bulb and the problem was solved, he said.

The Council has been able to set up an additional store for their Streetscene section using the Freeway system. This store holds a huge range of items from tools to protective clothing used by the waste collection teams.

Freeway's flexibility means we can run detailed reports across our entire inventory - it even helps with managing imprest stock. The process is slightly different but still very easy to do thanks to the software.

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